using my inside voice

Day 24 & 25 - VIVA Las Vegas!

North American Travel | June 27, 2009

Lamps at the Wynn Hotel

I had heard lots of things about Las Vegas, most of them negative. I'm not a big gambler. As most people know, I've never been willing to live my life on a roll of the dice. In actual fact, I'm the complete opposite of that, organising my life to the nth degree (and sometimes the lives of anyone who happens to be in the vicinity). So, I was definitely not in Vegas for a quick hand of black jack.

All other reports had been of ostentatious architecture, obnoxious crowds of revelers with drinks in glasses resembling the Eiffel Tower, a guitar, a pineapple, or any one of a multitude of over-sized, brightly-coloured plastic shapes, gambling, pokies, bad buffets and bad dress sense.

So, needless to say, my expectations were low.

But, as I hiked from the Greyhound Station in the stifling 40 degree weather, that was so dry my eyelids started sticking to my eyeballs, I had high hopes. Sure, my tongue was as dry as a dessert in the noonday sun, and sure, there was a backpack-shaped sweat mark on my back, but I was not going to be deterred, surely Vegas couldn't be as bad as all that?

We got to the hotel, and after a 30 minute wait in the check-in line, got the keys to our room. It was a palatial suite, two queen beds, a sink, bath, toilet, TV, table and chairs, and even a modestly sized window. I shouldn't really jest, because compared to most of the hostels we'd been staying in, it was paradise. We dumped our bags and went in search of food. We'd been told there was a $20 all-you-can-eat-all-day buffet, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. For the time being we just needed a quick bite of dinner.

Cruising through the retail section of the Stratosphere hotel we were bombarded with tacky tourist souveniers, over-priced handbags and clothes, tacky jewellery and a foodcourt that included Micky D's - all class. We opted for more Mexican - you really can't beat it for value, even in Vegas.

The next day we arose and plunged headlong into the all-you-can-eat-all-day buffet. For $20 it really can't be beat (our meal the night before had cost $20). So, we took our table, had a sip of the ridiculously large juices we were served, and perused our options. I settled on some French Toast, and biscuits (scones for the Aussies) with jam. The French Toast was passable, but since it had been sitting in a bain marie for quite some time, it was also cold. The biscuits were actually delicious, and with a cup of coffee, set my morning off to a good start.

We were both pleasantly surprised with the quality and selection at the buffet, and left overly full (an unavoidable outcome for me when I dabble in the finer arts of buffet dining).

We then hit the streets, and boy oh boy, it was HOT! Once again, my eyes and mouth dried out in an instant, but I soldiered on, reapplied suncream, and made sure to drink lots of water (which was difficult given that water in Vegas tastes a little like baking sode mixed with saline solution).

Stratosphere is a little way down the strip, so we had to walk for about 30 minutes before we encountered anything of note. We were so hot, we decided to seek solace in the Wynn Hotel, and boy did we pick a doosey. The Wynn is magnificent, I was amazed at the granduer of the interior, especially when the exterior appears so plain. It's like something from a movie (and probably does feature in many a movie) and Luke and I revelled in wandering around. I could only imagine being able to afford to stay somewhere so luxurious, but for the time being, the glory of soaking it in as a visitor was enough. One thing I had to do was use the ladies room, I just HAD to see what it felt like to pee in style. And let me say, it felt good. I had never seen a washroom so beautiful, until the next day, when I went to the sister hotel, Encore, and amazingly it's facilities were even more impressive.

After that, we wandered through the Venetian, and I couldn't help but ogle and smile when we entered their replica of Venice. It kinda even felt like Venice (in a really perfected, dark, and air-conditioned kind of way). We wandered all the way up the strip to MGM Grand, and were amazed to see real live lions in an enclosure inside. It seemed a bit cruel to keep those wild animals in a "climate controlled", glass cage, INSIDE. They say the enclosure cost $9 million, but I find that hard to believe, it looked pretty cruddy.

By the time we had finished at MGM we were both knackered, and decided to get the bus back to our hotel. Right about then, a giant storm set in, and gargantuan drops of rain hammered the pavement and us. Everyone was ducking for cover, which I found almost unbelievable given the stifling heat. The rain drops were cool and fresh, and given that Vegas water tasted so bad I was tempted to open my mouth and have a drink. As the water steamed and fizzed on the hot road the smell was unmistakable, transporting me back to hot childhood summers when afternoon storms galloped in unexpectedly to relieve the heat. So, Luke and I stood and got wet, and it felt great.

For those that are unaware, Stratosphere has a giant tower as part of the complex. You can ride a lift 109 stories up and partake in amusement park rides that teeter over the edge of the structure for a mere $12 a piece. I can't think of a better way to spend $12 than to put my life at risk by dangling precariously over the side of a building 900 feet in the air. But, this time around, I gave it a miss. Instead, we watched the sun set over Vegas and the lights of the strip brighten the night sky, reflecting off the clouds, and illuminating the partygoers as if it were day.

The next day was spent in a far more leisurely fashion, relaxing by the pool and doing laundry. What more could you want from a trip to Vegas I ask you? We got suckered in to doing laundry because the machines were free. But, 5 hours, two attempts at washing my clothes, and three attempts at drying them later, I realised that the reason the machines were free was because they sucked. In the end I did come out with clean clothes, but also lost 5 hours of my day trying to complete the task.

We also realised on our second day that the all-you-can-eat-all-day buffet isn't really all it's cracked up to be. After stuffing ourselves silly on the first day, in the excitement of unlimited, already-prepared food, the lustre had somewhat worn off. We began to realise after a while that everything on offer tasted a little the same. The fajitas resembled the pasta, which tasted a little like the roast beef, and somewhat akin to the fried chicken. By the time it came to heading down for dinner it was almost too much to bear. But, I stuffed in one more serving of the lasagne and made my peace with the chocolate brownies.

That night we ventured onto the strip to check out the real Las Vegas, when people come out to party and the scene truly comes to life. Our first stop was to watch the fountain show, giant spurts of wavering water lit up and set to music, in front of the Bellagio. This was one of those times when, even though I knew it was totally uncool, and even though I wanted so badly not to like it, I couldn't keep the cheesy grin off my face. And, given that they chose "Singing in the rain" - a musical classic - as the first song of the evening, I as well and truly sucked in.

Next on the agenda was stopping at one of the dodgy 'convenience'-type stores for a little drinky drink, just because we could. As it turns out, it's not as much fun as you would think being able to drink legally on the street, but we just had to give it a whirl.

By the time we fell into bed at 11.30pm we were absolutely exhausted.

Did I have fun in Vegas? Yes. Would I go back to Vegas? No.

There is just too much waste. The buffet alone would go through enough food to feed at least three times the number of patrons it serves each day. Combine this with the tacky plastic guitar-shaped glasses that get used and thrown out 1000 times a day, all the towels, bathmats, and half-empty mini shampoos that get washed or ditched, and the air-conditioning that is pumped out 24/7 and we really were dealing with a small environmental disaster.

On top of that, there is the gambling, and the tricks and 'deals' the hotels offer to get you to spend, spend, spend. Luke and I were each given $5 free money to use at the slot machines in our hotel (for giving them our email addresses of course - note to self, mark as spam). We did use the money, but the joke's on them, because Luke won $27.34 which we took and ran!

The next morning, as we headed downstairs at 6.15am to get our shuttle to the airport, and I saw the remaining stragglers from last night's gambling efforts, ordering drinks in plastic cups, and smoking their ciggies at the slot machines, I realised that Vegas is actually a really sad place, where more dreams are likely torn to shreds than made come true.

More soon...


1. Bella on June 28, 2009

Wow, you scored with "Singing in the Rain". We had to try to separate the visual pleasure of an obviously impressive lights show from the audio pain of Celine's "My Heart Will Go On."

2. lottiemae on August 16, 2009

I lived in Vegas for 15 months in 1981. And I tell you it took me a while just to get used to the heat there. My cousin from Chicago moved out there, that's who I stayed with, and I was only 19 years old then. When I got off the plane it looked like the airport was sitting in the middle of the desert. The lights there hypnotize me, I wandered how much there electric bill was. I will go and visit again but, like you I would never live there.

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About Bay Oliver

Bay's career has been many and varied due to a penchant for traveling the world. After completing a double degree in Business Management and Journalism at the University of Queensland in 2002 she was lucky enough to land herself a job at Brisbane's Quest Community Newspapers. A year of roving reporting brought the epiphany that journalism and Bay didn't jive.
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Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And thatʼs exactly whatʼs been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

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Categories of Published Work

Day 3 - Traveling in Relative Discomfort

Published: June 3, 2009

Vancouver, Seattle, Portland - it's amazing what adventures (or should I say misadventures) you can get into on just the first 3 days of a trip.

Day 7 - Waiting for the Bus...

Published: June 7, 2009

Waiting for the bus... a really long wait before a really long trip south.