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Las Vegas – sin city?


Las Vegas – sin city?

Dirk Weeber Arayatumsopon and Wuttipong Arayatumsopon
visit the white Tigers of Rick Thomas.

Story and Photos by Dirk Weeber Arayatumsopon

The sometimes bad and often naughty reputation of Las Vegas – is it only a legend? This was what I set out to discover when I left Thailand and the answer is both Yes and No!

Coloured neon lights, gigantic hotels with up to 9.000 beds, as seen in the popular t.v. show C.S.I. - Las Vegas. The beautiful scenery of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Hoover dam, the Joshua tree forests and all the beautiful scenery of the area has been used in many movies.

The Liberace museum features costumes, pianos and more memorabilia of the great entertainer, Liberace.

Las Vegas is famous as the city of gambling. Even at McCarren airport one cannot overlook the many slot machines. Today everything is electronic, even if you are lucky enough to win, you’ll get a ticket instead of coins which you can use all over town with the same Casino group again or, perhaps a smarter move, pick the money up at the cashier.

There are thousands of these machines as well as Roulette, Poker, Black Jack, lucky wheels and much more. Everybody here believes he will win the ‘big money’ – yet the big money is always made by the casinos. Out of 10,000 gamblers only a tiny fraction win each day.

Gala shows offer superstars like Cher, ZZ Top, Elton John, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Petula Clark, Rolling Stones and many more. Barry Manilow, one of the great stars of the 70’s and 80’s, has had a long running show in Vegas, he remarked cynically, “.Las Vegas is where Stars go to die”.

At the Las Vegas Strip are copies of the most famous buildings and places of the world. Like the ‘Paris Las Vegas’, in the ‚Bellagio Hotel’ one finds the Lago Maggiore in Italy with the world famous Las Vegas fountains, the Venetian’ looks like Venice in Italy, the ‘Luxor’ has copies of antiques in Egypt, the Caesar Palace’ looks like Rome’s Colosseum, everyone knows what ‚New York New York’ is and there is even the pirate ship at‘Treasure Island’.

Las Vegas was definitely sculptured by persons: Mafia boss Bugsy Siegel, who build the Flamingo Hotel at the Las Vegas Strip, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Lawford, or Walter Liberac้.

Today Las Vegas is suffering from the worldwide economic crisis. Five years ago it was the city with the biggest growth rate, now buildings are empty – people are moving out, At its peak, there were about three million residents – today not even two million and the downward trend continues.

Yet Las Vegas is still worth a visit. The shows, the scenic beauty of the surrounding countryside, the buildings and museums, and not to forget the shopping paradise that is Las Vegas.

We saw and we did it all. We went to shows with the magicians Criss Angel and David Copperfield and saw Rick Thomas with his white tigers. We saw shows with Cher, Barry Manilow, and with the last great singer; Petula Clark, who told also stories about Fred Astaire, Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin. And, lucky me, I was sitting next to Siegfried, the great magician who was watching her show as well. George Wallace, the fastest juggler in the world and The Chippendales were all interesting. At night we flew in a helicopter over Las Vegas, the spectacular view of the many lights of Freemont Street , we flew to the Grand Canyon West Rim in Arizona another day, but we ran into a hailstorm and had the exciting opportunity of an emergency landing in a helicopter.

We also went to Siegfried’s and Roy’s Secret Garden and took part in the television show ‘The Price is Right’, where I won a tidy sum of money. Naturally we went also to visit the Las Vegas Gay Pride, climbed the Eiffel Tower (the fake one, obviously!), shopping centers and a trip out to the desert.

A special treat for me was the Liberace Museum which celebrates the life of this popular entertainer, where I met pianist, producer and composer Keith Thompson. I bought a piece of Liberace’s Star from the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

The trip from Bangkok is long, 21 hours via Tokyo and Los Angeles. So be prepared for a long trip! Hotels in Las Vegas are affordable, with prices starting at 1,500 baht a night but those are without breakfast. Las Vegas is worth the effort to visit.