My first visit to Las Vegas was in June 1997. With two kids in tow, my hubby and I took a flight from Dallas and landed during ‘Fight Week.’ It was not just any fight but THE fight – the legendary one between Mike Tyson and Holyfield, when Tyson in a fit of fury, bit his opponents ear and got banned for a time from professional boxing.
Vegas was very crowded and noisy and everything we did seems a bit of a blur now. But, I do remember doing all the stuff tourists do – spending time on the strip, doing the casino rounds, staying at the Excalibur, visiting the Bellagio, the MGM Grand, Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood etc.
It was a lot of fun and the sense of freedom was exhilarating. But Vegas is a city of excesses and on a first visit can be pretty overwhelming.
My next visit was in 2012, fifteen years later. Vegas had evolved – faithfully keeping allegiance to its title of ‘Sin City.’
It was New Year’s Eve and the streets were crowded with reveling people from all over the world. Most of them were inebriated to the point of exhaustion. Even the little dogs on leashes were dressed up wearing sequined jackets and jeweled collars. The cops looked harassed and stood in groups as if seeking protection themselves.
Though the older parts of the strip retained their magnetism to tourists, sleek new contemporary hotels like The Wynn, The Palazzo and Delano had come up and they attracted an equal number of visitors.
We revisited some old places and revived some old memories. When it was almost time for the clock to strike twelve, we hopped on to the monorail and watched the beautifully choreographed fireworks as the rail whizzed at a steady pace round the strip.
Later, we drank a toast to 2013 at the Stratosphere Tower Air Bar which is located on the 108th level. I believe this is the highest bar in Vegas.
My third visit to the City that never sleeps was in 2014. This time we drove from Fresno (where my daughter lived at that time). We were visiting family on the outskirts of Vegas and so spent a relaxing day and night there.
Next morning we drove to the Red Rock Canyon, which is a national conservation area and definitely worth going to. I think most tourists get so preoccupied with the sights on the Vegas Strip that they bypass this place.
So glad we were introduced to this place by our hosts. The landscape is beautifully raw with red canyons and rock formations starkly imposing against a brilliant blue sky. We saw hikers and mountain climbers doing their stuff. For anyone who has had an overload of late nights at the strip, this is the best way to reconnect with nature.
Later, we drove through the strip and stopped to take some pictures. I believe the strip is now less of a gambling place and more of a center for business conventions, luxury hotels and grand live shows. We stopped for a drink at the stratosphere Air Bar (our favorite) and watched a few brave souls sky jumping from the tower top. The panoramic view of Las Vegas from this bar was as gorgeous as ever.
Impressions that lasted
I’m a little unsure of what to make of Las Vegas. It’s one of those places I always wanted to visit, perhaps out of a sheer sense of defiance for all the unwanted conservatism I had encountered in life. This was ‘Sin City’ with an image that had been deliberately fashioned to lure people from all over the world.
The touristy tagline ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ builds up a sense of anticipation and freedom that few can resist. The casinos, the shows, the people, the overall glitz and glamour of the entertainment capital of the world can be shockingly attractive at first, but soon the attraction wears off.
Stay longer and you have the risk of feeling stifled. The pleasure and the pain is all here – the sad clowns, the slot machine zombies, the young with the eerily old eyes, living in a city that breathes no more.
Next time, I want to find the soul of this city, leave the glimmering lights behind and drive to the outskirts. Will find a mountain, climb it (at least halfway up) and take a breath of fresh air. Then will close my eyes and try to hear the music of a bubbling stream nearby.
The soul song of Vegas…yet to be heard… by me.