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Las Vegas unplugged (part 1)

Here are some snapshots live from Las Vegas, the city I’ve been in for the last week. This post may be a bit disorderly, but I’ve got the ring of slot machines in my ears. It’s a sound that follows you everywhere in this city.

Every hotel and its resident casino has a gimmick to lure the masses. MGM Grand has a glass cage with lions, the Bellagio has a dancing fountain display which, at night, is choreographed to Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas. The Mirage has an erupting volcano and at Caesar’s Palace, a huge shopping mall is styled along Roman lines with attention to the most opulent detail, including a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s David.

I wandered into the hotel guests section by mistake and went to check out their impressive Roman fountains in the back garden. The toilets had showers in them with Roman touches.

The skyline inside the mall is uncannily like actual daylight, with one difference: the day only lasts three hours. Soon the skyline becomes dark and the fountains are lit with classy ambient lighting.

The gimmick in Caesar’s Palace is a bit lame, though. Statues in two wings of the mall come to life once an hour and act out mythological scenes with narration. Huge heads swivel around and lips move but then things quickly get boring.

Nearby, in the Fashion-Show Mall I went to a gallery which had 350 Picasso’s for sale. The starting price was $8 000 and one print that the artist gave to his daughter was going for $240 000. I pretended to be an interested buyer and the shop owner really handled me most courteously, saying I could pay the balance over six months. DHL would have it at my doorstep in three days.

At a shop in Planet Hollywood a guitar owned by Jimi Hendrix was going for $250 000. The shop also had a dollar bill signed by John F Kennedy and microphones signed by Elvis. I also saw on sale the costume worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman III, which was going for $3 000.

Everywhere along the Strip neon signs flash. Outside the Fashion Show Mall a four-screen display loops a segment lasting a minute. It features Mary J Blige and a bit from the Venetian and plays all day and all night, it’s soundtrack blasting on to the street.

At the Venetian, lamp posts have little speakers in them so the music follows you as you walk.

There’s more. A whole lot more. Fancy going to Egypt? The Luxor Hotel and Casino has you covered. Here is the world’s only pyramid inside a pyramid.

Vegas re-invents time and place with a zeal that’s almost intoxicating.

To give you some idea of what it costs to build these hotels (which, incidentally, the Strip has very little room left for), here’s the figure for the Wynn Hotel, which opened in 2005 and is Vegas’s grandest hotel. Apparently a birthday present from Steve Wynn to his wife, it cost $1.5-billion.

And it took only 18 months for the hotel to make it’s money back.

No wonder he’s already building an add-on to the property.

There’s a new hotel complex in the pipeline which is apparently going to be the most expensive yet: $8-billion.

It just doesn’t stop.

But I think it’s best I stop this blog here. I have some more things to tell you in the next post, and it involves me almost getting married.