Las Vegas

I’m currently in Las Vegas, being blinded by the overabundent flashing neon lights.

This place looks expensive. Indeed, it’s hard to believe just how much money is wasted here, let alone spent. One flashy casino has a half-hourly water show out the front of it – this is in a desert, mind. And while the water is probably recycled, I’m told that a good amount of it would probably evaporate while being sprayed into the air. Another casino has built a mountain, replete with waterfall on its front boundary. And yet another has a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower (along with a number of other Parisian replicas) at its entrance. All of which don’t really serve any purpose other than to show off their wealth.

Clearly many visitors here have too much disposable cash: if the ipod vending machines (yes, those are machines which dispense ipods. And digital cameras) weren’t a clear enough indication of that, the sight of the blue-rinse set pouring their retirement savings into a sea of slot machines at 4am certainly is.

And the thing that is really difficult to grasp is that for every five-star themed uber-casino up and down The Strip, there’s probably half a dozen crappy no-name casinos elsewhere in the city. Or more. Each with their own hotel attached. Which all adds up to a sea of rooms that aren’t filled because of the effects of GFC – and thus some can be very, very cheap. My room is costing me US$30 per night, and I was amused to look at the rate card on the door to find that in peak times, it is $501 per night.

The casinos aren’t limited to Vegas either; one merely has to cross the border on the road from Los Angeles into Nevada and the first tiny rathole encountered is spruiking its casino and insanely cheap food. As does every town that follows.

The traffic here is insane. To the city’s credit, there’s a cheap and frequent shuttle bus up and down The Strip, but due to the heavy traffic along there, it’s almost useless. It takes almost an hour to travel the length of it, and it’s really only about 2km or so long. I wonder why they’ve never heard of bus lanes.

All said however, there’s more to Las Vegas than merely throwing money away and setting oneself on the road to heart disease from five dollar steaks. The nightlife is pretty amazing, and Vegas puts on a huge number of shows. There’s at least six different Cirque du Soleil shows, countless caberet acts, as well as comedy. And then there’s the various sex shows too.

I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O” at the Bellagio – their aquatic show, which was nothing short of stunning, and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Vegas.

Interestingly, though, for all of Las Vegas’ glitz and bright lights, it’s fascinating how quickly it peters out – taking a walk just five minutes down the east side of Fremont Street led me straight into one of the dodgiest places I’ve seen. Run down buildings, motels with that rooms-sold-by-the-hour look, aimless loiterers. Evidentally, the wealth doesn’t get redistributed too well.

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