Las Vegas

Trip Start Nov 01, 2009
Trip End Nov 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Friday, June 4, 2010

DAY 1 - We arrived at Las Vegas airport around 1 pm. We walked off the plane to the departure/arrival lounge to a mini casino, which had loads of slot machines and flashing lights enticing people to start spending their money straight away. All the different theatre shows were being advertised everywhere with big posters on the walls…we had arrived!

After collecting our back packs from the baggage reclaim (the only back packs on the belt) we made our way to the taxi rank, getting a few stares as we went - I don’t think you get many backpackers going to Vegas! As we walked out we saw that you could get a limo to your hotel for $50. We opted for the shuttle bus at $12 return. I had to say the name of our motel ‘Super 8’ about 5 times before the guy understood what I was saying…I really don’t understand why English accents are so hard to understand, its not that different!

Everyone else on our bus seemed to be staying in really nice hotels and I felt a little embarrassed (and poor) when we were the first to get off the bus at our motel, one block off the main strip. Saying that, it really wasn’t far away from all the main action and our room was nice enough - TV, tea making facilities, ensuite…and a view over-looking the car park.

The first thing we did after we checked in was make arrangements to meet up with our uni friend, Ian. He said that we would be able to gate crash a Maxim pool party at the MGM Grand, which he was at as part of a stag party weekend. Doog and I were a little doubtful about whether this was really our scene as Doog had managed to lose weight over our travels (it was now my mission to feed him up again), he only had $3 swimming shorts (after his were stolen), one Havaiana flip flop (he lost the other at a rover crossing on a Colombian trek) and he had a good T shirt tan. I was definitely not looking my best after 6 months of travel in South America…unlike Doog I hadn’t lost any weight and the gym beckoned. We decided we should just go for it anyway, to get an insight into how some people ‘do’ Vegas.

To get to MGM Grand, we walked along the Strip, which has all the main hotels and casinos, and had our first taste of the glitz (and tack) of Las Vegas. Ian, sporting a beard (his new Las Vegas look) met us in the MGM Grand lobby and walked us to the pool, which took about 15 minutes as the hotel was massive. Ian got us through security as VIPs so that we didn’t have to queue, saying that we part of the stag party.

Once at the pool there was so much to take in, Doog and I just stood there for the few minute open-mouthed. We had arrived just in time to see the winners of a bikini contest and 10 girls were parading up ad down the pool side in tiny bikinis and high heels. They were all very tanned, had a full face of makeup, and had big boobs (mostly fake)…but admittedly they did look good! The pool itself was heaving with more gorgeous guys and girls, dancing and drinking as the DJ played out music. Ian bought us a drink and we drank them at the side of the pool (a safe distance away from the rest of the stag party so that we didn’t interfere) and caught up on each other’s news over the past 6 months. We also chatted to Adam, another uni friend who had proposed to his girlfriend in the time we had been away so congratulations were in order. It really didn’t feel that strange seeing friends from home in Vegas after such a long time, which in itself was a bit odd.

It was so hot, so after I got myself another drink (a frozen pink lemonade with a splash of vodka) and Doog a beer, we got in the pool to cool off. We soon relaxed and enjoyed the atmosphere while soaking up the rays.

At 6 pm Doog and I thought we should make a move - it was actually 8 pm Houston time and we hadn’t had any lunch so we were starving. Ian came with us and after convincing him that he could walk to his hotel, the Belagio, rather than take a taxi, Doog and I tagged along to see his hotel and casino. As we went through the casino Ian explained what all the games were about, which was all a bit over my head but I think I picked up a few things. We went up to see his room, which was really nice but with 4 boys sharing the 2 double beds we were pleased to discover we had more space in our motel. We were also slightly smug that our WiFi was free whereas the Belagio charges a fortune to use it - good old Super 8!

After saying goodbye to Ian, we made a loose arrangement to meet him the following day at the Belagio pool. It was then time for food! We thought that we would try ‘Wendy’s’ - one of the great American food chains, but we got tempted by a Chinese counter at a food court - partly because the portion sizes looked huge and also because it was cheap. As we ate our noodles we looked out of the 2nd floor window to see a guy dressed up as Freddy Krueger chatting to another dressed as the Mad Hatter along with people having their photos taken with the blue people from Avatar - only in Vegas! Doog also counted the number of limos that drove past - 8 in 5 minutes!

As we walked back to our motel, we past a few Michael Jackson look-a-likes and Elvis driving a pink Cadillac towards the Strip. Back at the motel we both felt exhausted. Our first day in Vegas had been great and although we wanted to see it by night we just needed sleep more. Vegas by night would just have to wait.

DAY 2 - Our mission for the day was to make our way to the other end of the Strip looking around all the different hotel casinos along the way. We texted Ian to say we would meet him at 5.30 pm, when hopefully our tour of the Strip would be over.

After walking past the Eiffel Tower at The Paris Hotel we walked through the ‘Miracle Mile’ which has loads of shops, bars and restaurants. We stopped to watch an indoor storm outside one of restaurants, where the ‘sky’ darkened, you could hear thunder and lights flashed as rain came down - it was actually very effective! As we hadn’t had breakfast, we decided it was time for an early lunch before heading back to the MGM Grand to see the lions as we had missed them the day before. The lions we out in their enclosure and one was lying over at glass tunnel which you could walk under and get a good look at him.

We then got the overhead tram from MGM to Mandalay Bay hotel. As we got off the tram we got a strong smell of coconut as we entered the hotel and casino. Once again the casino was huge but Doog and I were a bit disappointed by the lack of a theme - not a single coconut tree in sight! The entertainment included 2 girls dancing on the casino tables trying to keep men distracted as they placed their bets.

We had seen pictures of the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign and we wanted to try and find it to get a photo. We thought it was at the end of the Strip near Mandalay Bay but we just couldn’t find it. However we did find a McDonalds where I had a Reese’s peanut butter cup McFlurry, yummy!

Our next stop was hotel Luxor, which had an Egyptian theme. There was a huge sphinx and other various Egyptian statues to walk past on the way into the hotel - Doog and I were much more impressed by the efforts made for the theme! The casino layout was pretty much standard and of course there were the obligatory dancers on the tables.

We continued our tour down the hotels on the Strip stopping at Excalibar and New York New York, one of my favourites with the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Chrysler Building making up the hotel fašade complete with an outdoor roller coaster. Finally we made it to the Belagio hotel at 6 pm to meet Ian. Despite the fairly intensive stag events Ian was dutifully taking part in, he was in remarkably good form - although a little tired. We met in the Belagio lobby, which has a ceiling full of coloured glass flowers and in the atrium there was a garden with giant sunflowers, toad stalls and other flowers accompanied by bumble bees. In the centre was glass globe water fountain.

We left the Belagio and walked through Caesar’s Palace (complete with Trevi Fountain and Colloseum) and had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant, which Ian kindly paid more than his fair share - thanks Hoops!. Doog and I decided to use the money we had saved on a little gambling - how could we leave Vegas without it!

With Ian’s help we found a Roulette table with just a $5 minimum bet in The Flamingo. After a little explanation from Ian of how it all worked we all sat down to play. Just sitting at the table entitled us to a free drink from the waitresses who were making their rounds. After a shakey start I slowly built up my winnings and after 30 minutes I had $60 from my initial $20, whereas Doog and Ian had nothing to show for their $20. Feeling very chuffed, I decided to call it quits - at this stage in our travels $60 seems like a fortune, especially as the US was proving to be so expensive! Ian had another stag evening to go to so we said our final goodbye to him, the next time we will see him will be in London.

It was getting dark at this point and so it seemed like a good time to watch the fountain show at the Belagio as the display is all lit up. We had heard it was a good fountain display but what we saw totally exceeded our expectations. The fountains shot up in time to a song which was very patriotic. We now know it is called 'God Bless the USA' and included lines such as 'the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away' and 'I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free'. When it got to the chorus the fountains went berserk…it was brilliant! It was so good that we decided to wait 15 minutes to see the next show. This time the song sounded like something from a Russian ballet and the fountain jets swayed and danced in time with the music before the big finale explosion. Although we could have stayed for another, we decided to have a look at the Venetian hotel, with the idea that we could back again later!

The Venetian was fantastic - it had canals with gondolas you could take a ride in and a whole plaza set under a blue sky roof, which it made it feel like lunch time rather than 11.30 pm. After walking around the canals, we went back to the fountains for one more display before calling it a night. This time the song was Frank Sinatra’s ‘Luck be a Lady Tonight’ and I think it was the best show of the three we had seen.

Exhausted from walking all day we went back to our motel for our last night’s sleep in Vegas.
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