After living in Australia for less than a month, I've just this week got back from a trip to the US to go to the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas. Four of us from work went along to see the latest and greatest developments in Broadcasting and it's associated industries.
This was my first ever trip to the US and I was very excited about experiencing the country first hand. The fact that most of our time was going to be spent in Vegas (which is hardly representative of the rest of the US) was a bonus as I really wanted to experience the extravagance of the place.
GETTING TO VEGAS
Four of us from work were going, Andrew, Don, Chris and myself. However Don had to go via Hong Kong, Chris was already in the US for vacation and Andrew flew to LA with me, but stopped over a few extra hours for some shopping, so I flew on to Las Vegas to establish the beach head at the Las Vegas Hilton.
I hope the American Airlines plane from LA to Las Vegas isn't representative of the other planes in the AA fleet cause it sure wasn't up to much! Especially compared to the Air New Zealand and Qantas planes I'm used to.
As soon as you enter the Las Vegas terminal, one of the first things you'll see is row upon row of gambling machines. In the airport! It made me think of gambling starved people running off the plane to get their fix like a smoker does after a long period of going without.
Eventually, at some stage, your luggage will come out and it's time to get
a taxi. Here I witnessed the longest taxi line known to man. There would have
been well over 700 people waiting in line for the taxi!
One of my concerns about going to the States was how to handle the American custom of 'tipping'. I had no idea who you're supposed to tip and how much you're supposed to tip, so I warily asked the Air Traffic Controller in the front seat of the taxi what the deal was. The Controller immediately responded by saying 25% of the fare was appropriate for taxis. 25%! I was immediately suspicious, but tipped the 25% once I got to the hotel just to be on the safe side. However some guy at the hotel opened the taxi door for me. Do I tip him? How much? Has everyone got their hand out? What will happen if I don't tip? Will I be marked as a tightass?
For a long time I have always considered that I don't have an accent of any type, it's everyone else that talks funny. Living in Australia for a few weeks and having people pick me immediately as a New Zealander has made me think that maybe I might have just a slight accent of some type. Things were really brought home for me when I tried to check in at the hotel and tried to convey my address details three times to the guy at the counter who finally said "You know what? I'm sure we'll find you if we need you" and that was it.
Don, who is the most seasoned traveler of our group had given lessons on jet
lag management using some herbal pills called Melatonin. Andrew and I had been
popping these things like Tic Tacs all the way over as I was determined not
to be jet lagged. I was also determined not to sleep until night time even though
we'd been awake 24 hours and it was still only lunchtime. This would have worked
out fine had I not sat on the bed for 'five minutes', only to wake up 5 hours
The Bellagio has a massive man-made lake also, however they have a large water fountain that does a display to music. It's highly impressive, but once again, when we went back to see it in full, it wasn't going
We went inside the numerous hotels on The Strip. I had thought that it would be much like any hotel you would visit anywhere else. Hell no was I wrong! These things are not so much hotels as they are small distinct towns! Infact places like Paris and the Bellagio have small villages built inside them and you go from shop to shop.
The sports centers inside these places are amazing. This is where you go to see a game, place some bets etc. In true style though, these places are extravagant. MASSIVE TV screens cover the walls with coverage of everything from Hockey to tennis to motorsports to just about anything. Ofcourse, slot machines are never far away
Caesars Palace is widely known as a place you get lost in and for good reason. There are no exit signs are there are no clocks. The architect has deliberately designed the place so that you get lost and they've been very successful in this respect. If you follow an exit sign it leads you to a fire escape, not the actual exit doors. Infact even the staff when asked seem reluctant to tell you how to get out. You either make a concerted effort to get out, or you give up and go to a bar which is what we did on the first night there.
All the bars dress their waitresses up in the most skimpy of outfits which in most cases just looked really cheap and tacky and not in any way sexy at all. It was amusing though.
While walking down the sidewalks I often noticed guys handing out cards to passersby. Coming from the sheltered existence of New Zealand I immediately thought they were handing out discount cards or something like that so I took some. Surprised is somewhat of an understatement when I found out they were actually advertisements for $49 hookers. You would see these cards everywhere, in toilets, on the ground, in construction fences, everywhere. The 'distributor' guys were not shy in handing them out either, doing it right in front of policemen perched on horses.