Less than two hours after we left San Francisco, we landed in Las Vegas and there was no mistaking which city we were in. At the airport, we were surrounded by posters advertising Cirque du Soleil, strip shows, Celine Dion concerts and many more. There was even a glass room filled with slot machines.
We could immediately feel the desert heat seeping into the airport upon landing and it wasn’t long before I started perspiring while waiting in the taxi queue. A huge taxi that could accommodate all five of us and our bags brought us to Casino Royale, our hotel. It is located along the strip but it’s not immediately visible because it isn’t one of those famous ones like Ballagio or the Wynn. In any case, it was quite a funny sight to see us lugging our bags through the casino because the hotel reception and entrance is hidden inside the casino itself.
Before coming to Vegas, one’s only experience with the city is through television or movies but it is almost exactly the same. The strip is lined with casino hotels, food joints, arcades and little more. There are also the ten-minute wedding chapels. The people inside the casinos are also like in the movies – jaded, bored hillbillies looking for a means to escape their life.
This was my first time in a desert and boy, it sure was hot. Just walking, even walking slowly, induces torrents of perspiration. Sure it was the middle of summer but after spending four winter months in Ithaca, it takes quite a bit of getting used to desert temperatures. It didn’t help that the air was dry and the warm wind carried dust and sand around.
First impressions of Las Vegas didn’t really set in till we strolled along the strip. The entire city is just one huge entertainment complex that has been planted in the middle of nowhere. Palm trees in the desert, replicas of New York, Paris, Venice in the form of themed hotels… I don’t really know what’s real in this city. It’s extravagance and artificiality at its peak.
Okay, so we walked along the strip and took in all the sights and sounds of the city. All the bright lights and energy of the city made for nice night photography. The five of us guys were not into gambling, though we did discuss buying tickets to one of the Cirque du Soleil shows. The guys were more into photographing the sights, which got pretty interesting because they liked taking posed group shots and there was one we took in front of Caesar’s Palace.
We didn’t really do much in Vegas, except walk and stare in wide-eyed wonder at all we’ve only seen in movies come to life before our eyes. It was an interesting experience definitely. One that you can do once in your lifetime and not have to go through again unless you’re into gambling and other frivolous entertainment.
The next day, Faith, Shannon and Yi Hern drove up from LA to join us for a day in Vegas. Luana, May, Erwin and Mel were still in LA but were either going back to Singapore or continuing their trip separately. We met at the Las Vegas premium outlets that we were shopping at and later on that evening, met for dinner and did the same thing – walking along the strip and also watching the Bellagio fountain performance.
Seems like the Singaporeaness in us doesn’t go away even though we were thousands of miles away from home. The next day, we went for a hotel buffet, now I can’t recall which hotel it was but it was one that was within our budget. You can’t believe how expensive some of those buffets can get.
That night, Faith and I were supposed to catch the Greyhound to San Diego while the six guys were driving to Grand Canyon. A little oversight on our part, or rather, the tickets were sold out, I can’t remember the reason but we didn’t manage to get on the bus, so we spent another night in Vegas before catching the early bus to San Diego.