Wednesday, December 12, 2007

DAY 9 & 10 - Las Vegas - 9-10th Dec

We got woken up at 6am and piled into an 8 seater Chevrolet, dragging behind pillows, backpacks and newly bought ski jackets. It was freezing it was dark and we were delirious from the lack of sleep. Packed like sardines into the last row of seats we proceeded to sleep until daylight flooded the car...and then continued to sleep some more.

I woke up somewhere after the we passed the outskirts of LA. The first thing I realised was the striking landscape. Barren, yet mountainous, covered in power transformers stretching lines to far flung towns and 3 lane dual carriage-ways snaking their way across the plains. It was beautiful and the first time I realised, hey I'm in the USA. There is no bush, no eucalyptus, instead the replacements were cactii and lots of it, at times stretching as far as the eye can see.

Snow capped mountain ranges dot both sides of the highway. A rare sight in Australia unless you actually find yourself in the snowy mountains, but here they are ubiquitous, yet again, tall, but utterly barren, like the heavens cast them down as protectors of the dry arid landscape.

The highways in the US are also very different, large, multilaned mostly dual carriages. However the most remarkable aspect is the straightness. Like ruled lines they stretch into the horizon. Our 4-5 hour trip to vegas felt like a standard 3 hour trip to Canberra. Minimal stops were made which obviously contravened the whole "Stop, Revive, Survive" campaign back home, but the comfort of the roads reduced the fatigue remarkably. I can't imagine the 6 hour trip to Perisher being as easy.

I think the next time I come to the US I'll make an extra effort to really explore it's landscape. I didn't get to see the Grand Canyon this time, but that's a definite for the next trip. America's culture takes it's cue from it's landscape, at times arid, barren and f but always big and the vastness is immense. It's a wonder why this country can foster so much in the elite of human endeavour yet still lag behind in social welfare. It's not a country for the faint hearted, and undoubtedly it is the place where people chase their dreams.

On the way to Vegas at our last pit stop I had my first taste of American Maccas. 1 double cheeseburger for 1 dollar. Sounded good at the time but boy did it do a lot of damage to my stomach.

Las Vegas itself is everything that I expected to be, shallow and fake with a dash of kitsch, vast amounts of seediness in the daylight and neon coolness in the night. But through television and movies you still can't comprehend the true immensity of the casinos. Yet although the facades are themed differently from each other, castles, pyramids, pirate ships, an entire Roman Forum, inside they are almost carbon copies bar the intracacies of the decorations. In fact most of them have a similar floor plane. Casino here, lobby there, theatre there. Some felt slightly more swish than others but overall Vegas exist for the sole reason of the public throwing their money at rich moguls and the government tax department. And boy do they.

We checked into the Monte Carlo which was directly opposite the much famed MGM casino complex on Las Vegas Blvd (also know as the strip). We had a lacklustre buffet lunch at the hotel. I managed to stay away from all the seafood, but still somehow it didn't sit right in my stomach. I've learnt that buffets never really do.

Megan's parents were interested in seeing Mamma Mia so we took the tram (like yeah there's a monorail linking 3 casinos) to Mandalay Bay to purchase tickets for that nights performance. Before we got to the tram on the large advertising screens we spied that the Spice Girls would be performing at the Mandalay that night as well. Tracey expressed her disgust whilst Megan and I deliberated whether we should give into our trashiness or not.

At the box office Mamma Mia tickets were $50 and the only Spice Girls tickets left were $110 and so thinking about are already much shrunk bank accounts, we decided to forego the Spicey Girls (as Megan's aunt referred to them as) and settled for a night of ABBA (which are equally as trashy and annoying.

Little did we know our mistake, but more of that later. We went on a rough walk down the strip, Megan's dad was accosted by many migrant workers handing out cards for ladies who will get to your room within 20min (guaranteed I suppose) funny how they only give cards to the men on the street. Wouldn't you feel discriminated if you were a lesbian?

We got to the Bellagio (featured in the Oceans 11 series of movies) and stayed for the 5min fountain show at the front. This casino has an entire man-made lake out front. Then we made our way through the joint walkway to Caesar's Palace, which was built like a Roman forum, it was insane. This was the hotel which signed Celine Dion for 3 years and BUILT, yes BUILT her a theatre in the shape of the Colosseum and actually called it that. Okay so many Celine Dion jokes were made whilst Megan's other aunt inquired about tickets to one of her 5 last ever shows. Walking away from the box office I squealed when I spied a certain poster.

Maybe it was the long car trip, the fatigue or just the lack of pizzazz in the Vegas production but my god Mamma Mia sucked to the heavens. I'll disregard the Australian character who couldn't hold an Australian accent for more than 2 words at a time and then reverted back to a cross between a New York/southern accent whenever he could. But overall there was a serious lack of something in the production. The set was gorgeous and hydraulics of the stage were fantastic but I wished the cast and the audience ingested some amphetimines or something before it all started. The jokes were flat, there were no wogs even though the entire thing was set on the Greek Islands. 15min in I was asking for death and asking Megan if we could skip over to the Spice Girls and scalp some much needed tickets. At intermission I was considering running out and obtaining the most potent cocktail I could get because I seriously needed some alcohol to survive. Thankfully the 2nd half was a lot better and the 3 song ABBA tribute encore after the show left me on a happy note at least. I guess ever trip has a regretful step, this might be my one, picking a (surprisingly sucky) ABBA musical over the Spice Girls.

Hungry and tired we headed back to the Monte Carlo for a night of fast food and bad TV, I had $10 italian and Megan got jipped with a $10 subway footlong. At about 2am one of Megan's aunts came back from the casino for a much-needed 30min nap before skipping back. This lady actually waddled to a casino whilst we were on a toilet stop 1hr from Vegas itself. We only saw her in the car both days. Funny stuff.

This morning we woke up, took way too long to get ready and checked out of the Monte Carlo. Packing my things back into the car, I checked my wrist for the time but realising I didn't have my watch I freaked out and made everyone go back and get another room key and go up and search. But in the end the watch was in my black day pack, yeah stupid me.

Ended up at a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch and then off, back to LA we went. We all waved goodbye to Vegas on the freeway, except for me who will see it again in 1.5 weeks for Jacky Cheung... Oh YEAH!!!!

Surprisingly I find Vegas kinda alright, because it doesn't purport to be more than it is. A kitsch, fake and money hungry town in the middle of the desert. In all the furor of traveling I didn't even get a chance to gamble. Maybe I'll finally get to that important step in 1.5 weeks. HA!


Lam said...

All that talk about landscape ... reminds me of Hamish. I hope it inspires you Lin Jie! The world and the land is so much older and greater than humanity ... we should get perspective and inspiration from it.

LJ said...

nature is more beautiful than humanity can dream