Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vegas baby!

Vegas, the Sin City! I did not find it so sinful though:). But it was an interesting experience nonetheless.This summer, we stayed a couple of days in Vegas before going off to the National Parks in Utah and Arizona, and to be frank, I did feel a bit letdown by Vegas. It wasn't really as good or out of this world as I had always imagined, especially given that we have been hearing and seeing and reading about this city for ages!

Venetian at night
When in Vegas, we stayed in the Venetian, which was on the strip itself. It was a good hotel, with well done up and huge rooms but the decor did feel a little garish with all the Venice based paintings and lighting everywhere in the hotel (but isn't that what Vegas stands for?).

Gondola on Grand Canal
The first day, we did some sightseeing within the Venetian itself which was grand. There is the canal with the gondolas and the gondoliers singing while rowing passengers along the canal (within the hotel itself!). There is a St Marks square and many other eating, shopping and sitting places just next to the canals, all covered with a fake blue roof.

Masks at the Venetian
There are performers everywhere around in the hotel and lot of people wearing Venetian masks, entertaining tourists and clicking pictures with them. The hotel was decorated with waterfalls and flower arrangements and stuff all over. There were lot of events also happening within the hotel, given that it was Carnevale time. In fact there is enough to see within the hotel itself for a couple of hours.

Grand Canal
St Marks Square at Venetian
Venetian from outside
Ceilings at Venetian

The Strip
The Venetian was at one end of the Strip, which is kind of the high street of Vegas. All the major hotels are located on this Strip itself and its the place to stay if you really want to explore the area. For a budget traveller, you can easily stay just off the strip too in very cheap places but if you can, do stay here. Its easy to get out and see the sights this way.

We walked a lot along the Strip to check out all the interesting hotels and sights it had to offer. Each hotel had some interesting architecture and characteristics based on its theme and was interesting to just walk around taking in the feel (and clicking pictures).

Mirage volcano
The Mirage has a fake volcano erupting regularly in the evenings. Bellagio has the famous musical fountains in front, going off every 15 minutes.

Paris is based on Paris; New York New York on (you guessed it!) New York, with a roller coaster taking you up and down its sights; Ceasars Palace is based on the Roman empire, with statues of their Gods and a Fontana de Trevi copy; Monte Carlo on its namesake; Hotel Luxor on Egypt and so on. You get to see all these famous places of the world without having to even go there! How American:). The MGM and the Wynn have a more sober look, not based on any city or theme. Then there are the low-end Flamingo and Ballys hotels and casinos.

Vegas at night
Its just fun to walk along the strip and see all these garish images. There are multiple performers in various costumes all along the road, dressed up in all characters you can imagine. At nights the whole area is lighted up brightly. Its fun to see it all actually, but somehow I did not find it warm or inviting at all!

And all along the road, there are all these high-end shops. In fact each of the hotels also have their own shopping arcades. I found that weird, who would shop on a vacation? But in fact that iss the standard template for all the big hotels. There is a hotel theme which defines its decor, and then loads of shops and eating places, casinos, gardens, bars, pools and clubs within each hotel. And the hotel rooms are relatively cheap given their quality. The hotels make all their money from gambling rather than room rent. Also, even though all the hotel themes are different but on the inside, they start looking the same after a point!

Flower garden at the Wynn
In terms of eating, Vegas is a haven. Each hotel has some 20-30 restaurants within; any cuisine you want, any rate you want it at and its all there! We went to a couple of places which were good. Most of the time though we ate at the Venetian, Sushi Samba was tasty as was Aria on Tao Beach, the restaurant next to the Venetian pool. Pearl at the MGM was a nice Chinese place and the Terrace Garden Cafe at the Wynn good for a nice breakfast. My favorite though was Jasmine, which was in the Bellagio next to the musical fountains. It was a Chinese food place but I loved it just for the view of the musical fountains outside! Other than that, apparently the breakfast buffet at Bellagio is supposed to be great, though we could not eat there. But a definite must try I would say!

Vegas at night
Of course there is gambling in Vegas (of course!), but to be honest, I did not feel as interested in that and we spent very less time in the casinos. But each of the hotels have casinos and even off the Strip, there are multiple other smaller casinos to lose your money in:).

If gambling is not your hobby, there are loads of other activities in Vegas to keep you busy . During the day lot of organised trips leave for Powell Dam, Grand Canyon etc, which are quite interesting places all located nearby. You can also take a trip to the Vegas downtown which apparently has lot of places playing good music in the evening, and a fun slightly non-Vegas place to go. We did not go there but have heard the experience is different.

One thing anyone going to Vegas must definitely do is check out one of the many stage shows that happen there. There are a couple which are popular, La rev, O etc. but the one we saw was 'Love', by Cirque de Soleil based on the Beatles at the Mirage and it was amazing. It was a well choreographed show, with many performers on the stage at once, beautifully choreographed and riveting and performing to Beatles music. Loved it!

After a day and a half in Vegas we had left for the National Parks and when we drove back, I got the feeling of an oasis looking at the city. It is surrounded by miles and miles of desert wastelands all around, and then suddenly you see this collection of high rise brightly lit high rises in the middle of the desert. Whoever thought of making Vegas must have been quite a visionary, thinking of creating such a world in the middle of nowhere is quite a brilliant idea!!

On the whole though, I found Vegas very weird. There are loads of tourists just walking around doing the same stuff in every hotel. The feel of Vegas wasnt as 'fun' as i thought it would be. It just felt too standard, the same everywhere.

Bellagio fountains
The one thing about Vegas which I just loved were the Bellagio fountains! They were the best part of the trip for me. Very well designed and executed, the huge streams of water flowing in tune with the music, and to a different song everytime. Just amazing to sit by it and take it all in. Its a definite multiple times must-do.

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