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>>>Best Las Vegas Selection – Jan 2005

Here are the shots from the second part of my winter vacation in the US (the shots from the first part can be found at As with California, the weather in Las Vegas was poor (I missed the snow on the Strip by a day), again limiting the number of photos I could take. Since most of the Las Vegas experience can be sampled without ever having to venture outdoors for very long however, the weather wasn’t such a problem and I enjoyed my time there.

Surprisingly it was actually a bit of an anticlimax to the rest of the trip though, as the Strip is uniquely amazing and boring (to non-gamblers like me anyway) at the same time so my excitement was soon replaced by disappointment. I don’t know what kind of atmosphere I expected, but I didn’t think being a non-gambler would be an issue and went there intending to take full advantage of cheap food and alcohol and quality nightlife; Unfortunately, despite reading about Las Vegas’ reinvention as ‘gambling destination with top nightlife venues’, I saw no real evidence of any revelry there.

Rather than experiencing a ‘party city’, I mostly remember the crowds of tourists shuffling between tacky souvenir shops and slot machines so, as with a lot of American culture, I was left with the notion that I was being sold the dream rather than the reality. Then again, this visit to the ultimate Capitalist utopia certainly provided an interesting counterpoint to my trip to Pyongyang, the ultimate Communist utopia, last year (

Anyway, enough of my rambling – let’s get on to the photos. I’ve divided these into six sections: Las Vegas Casinos, Out And About In Las Vegas, The AVN Adult Expo, Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour, Vegas Aerial Shots and The Stratosphere Tower. Enjoy.

Before we get started, here are a couple of shots I took on the way across the Mojave Desert. The guide book said it would be an 8-hour drive from LA to Vegas, but keeping the trusty Oldsmobile Alero at 80-100mph ensured that the journey from Venice Beach to Vegas was completed in 4½ hours, with enough time to make a couple of stops. You really have to wonder about the people who write these travel guides…

Heading into Nevada from California, the terrain is quite different to that which I saw on the first leg of the trip (San Fran to LA)

Off the beaten track. This was my first time to see a desert in real life so it was interesting to witness sandstorms and tumbleweeds blowing around.

Las Vegas Casinos

Designed by popular casino architect Veldon Simpson and built in 1993, the MGM Grand is the world’s largest hotel with 5000 rooms and a 15,000 seat arena for boxing events and concerts. This intersection (the Strip and Tropicana Ave) apparently has a larger volume of traffic passing through it than any other in the US.

Next up, The Luxor. Another Veldon Simpson-designed casino, it opened in 1999 and is the world’s largest atrium as well as being home to the world’s most powerful artificial light beam, which is projected from the apex of the pyramid.

The Luxor’s Neighbor, the Mandalay Bay, which opened in 1999. Strip casinos can be divided into three categories, which relate to the type of customer they hope to attract – some go for value for money, some go for novelty and some go for style. With its exterior gold-plating and trefoil design (also features of some of its rivals on the strip), the Mandalay Bay falls into the latter category. It certainly looks beautiful at sunset, but there’s no reason for non-gamblers to go there, especially since it’s located way down at the bottom of the strip.

Yet another Veldon Simpson-designed casino, the Disneyland-esque Excalibur was the world’s largest hotel when it opened in 1990 until the MGM Grand opened in 1993. Simpson’s latest Las Vegas project is the design of the world’s largest observation wheel (following the success of the British Airways London Eye, no doubt) which describes as:

‘…an observation ride/attraction that resembles a giant wheel. The 560 foot tall Voyager, which the Company has dubbed a “Vertically Rotating Vehicle,” has a capacity of 7,000,000 guests per year. The project includes retail space, numerous restaurants and features a 22,000 square foot Night Club in the ``EYE of the Wheel’’.’

Check out this pic from the Veldon Simpson website:

New York New York. With its replica ½ size New York skyline (curiously minus the World Trade Center, despite being built in 1997), it set the novelty casino fake city trend that was later exploited by Paris and the Venetian. The rollercoaster you can see here is the Manhattan Express, the best rollercoaster in Vegas (and actually one of the best I’ve been on anywhere), with enough thrills to make you go on more than once. For the most terrifying amusement attractions in Vegas though, you’ll have to wait until later in this thread for the Stratosphere Tower.

The Aladdin and Paris. The Aladdin was built in 2000 and is noteworthy for two things, the fake video-projector sky inside (which, like the one in the Venetian, has clouds floating around and looks pretty realistic) and the fact that it’s the only casino where you can gain access to all the shops, concert hall and hotel rooms without being forced to trek across the gaming area; as a result, it’s the only Strip casino in financial difficulty.

More profitable is Paris, which attracts visitors with its ½ size Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Montgolfier balloon exterior. Paris opened in 1999 and was designed by the same people who designed New York New York so it shares the same attention to detail inside and out.

The Bellagio, home of the fantastic water fountain show and the best gourmet buffet in town. It opened in 1998 and was the setting for George Clooney movie Ocean’s 11. The Bellagio is widely regarded as the most stylish Vegas casino, though it faces stiff competition from the Venetian, which opened in 1999.

The Imperial Palace, where I stayed during my time in Vegas. The casino/hotel isn’t especially noteworthy (except perhaps for the exhibition of 200-300 vintage cars from the owner’s collection), but offers reasonably-priced rooms and is located in the middle of the Strip. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to take photos of any more of the Strip further north apart from the Stratosphere. Without my camera I did manage to check out Caesar’s Palace and the Venetian (two high class casinos) and the pleasantly seedy Westward Ho, which was proof of what people say about the quality of casino décor and clientele progressively deteriorating as you head further up the Strip.

Out And About In Las Vegas

The Excalibur is a rare example of a casino where you can take photos on ‘the floor’. It’s a fairly typical example of a Vegas casino gaming area – utterly tedious for non-gamblers and a far cry from Hollywood movie depictions. One of the biggest fallacies in movies is the casting of attractive young women in the roles of Vegas waitresses; in fact I was surprised I didn’t see many young people in the casino service industry, mostly washed-up middle-aged waitresses (a lot of whom had invested in silicone-enhanced tip enhancers)

The amount of waste ground behind, and indeed sometimes actually on, the Strip is surprising.

Americans seem to love these penny stretching machines, and I saw them at most major tour attractions (though sadly not at Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo…) I visited on the West Coast. Amusingly, they all come with notices assuring concerned citizens that by using the machine they are not in fact vandalizing Federal property and that the act of stretching pennies is entirely legal.

“Use a gun, go to jail.” Not in my case...

“Use a gun, have fun” should be the motto of The Gun Store on Tropican Blvd.

Me firing an AK-47. As fans of Quentin Tarantino know, “When you absolutely, positively have to kill every last motherf*cker in the room, accept no substitute.” I guess I’ll just have to take Samuel L Jackson’s word for it.

Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden targets. The ******* instructor supervising me enquired “Which of these Muslim f*cks do you wanna shoot first”, before instructing me to hang my target upside down because he apparently likes to imagine them hanging from a lamppost.

In-N-Out Burger. I’ve seen people discussing this place on this forum before and heard rave reviews from a friend so I had to check it out. In-N-Out surprisingly has only three types of meal on the menu (presumably to speed up the ordering process, thus living up to its name) but the food is damn tasty! I certainly share the sentiments of other forumers who wonder why the chain is only found in three states and not nationwide.

I thought I’d freak Jack (the friendly In-N-Out server) out with some bizarre stalker behavior, but he was happy to pose for a shot. The hardest thing for me to get used to on my trip to the States was the automatic tipping culture, especially since it paradoxically doesn’t apply to fast food chain workers. These guys are getting the same low wages as workers in other areas of the service industry, yet I can’t tip Jack but am expected to tip bar staff in the San Francisco Hilton. What a joke.

I actually found the service of fast food chain workers to be more genuine when compared to some of the excessive over-familiarity I experienced in other types of restaurant.
Maybe I’m just over-reacting because in Britain and Japan good service is based on politeness and speed rather than on how well someone can pretend to be your friend, so when servers in the US want me to call them by their name and attempt to engage me in superficial chat despite looking uninterested, it just seems inane and intrusive rather than a sign of good service.

It was also interesting to note that whereas the service style in San Francisco (ie friendly but genuine) left me feeling that the idea of automatic tipping was strange but acceptable, as I headed further south to LA I came across more and more superficial tip whores. By the time I got to Vegas it seemed like everybody wanted a tip for something (checking me into the hotel, making the beds, opening cab doors unnecessarily etc) and restaurant servers where obviously extremely ‘tip-hungry’, so the idea of automatic tipping just seemed like unnecessary extra expenditure.

The AVN Adult Expo

Because there are so many hotel rooms in Vegas and it has numerous large venues, the city hosts thousands of conventions every year. While we were there there were chiropractic, ice cream and consumer electronics conventions being held, but the AVN Adult Expo sounded way more interesting. Surprisingly (in light of the full title of AVN magazine – Adult Video News), most of the punters at the Expo were just people who wandered in off the street (like me) or people interested in alternative lifestyles (also like me), and the type of grubby individuals (not like me) who make up the stereotypical porn shop ‘dirty raincoat brigade’ were few and far between.

“Meet the Girls.” Try to picture an aircraft hangar-size venue full of pornography and porn stars, and you get an idea of the nature of the 2005 AVN Adult Expo, the world’s largest porn convention.

Me with porn legend Ron Jeremy. The former high school teacher has been in ‘the industry’ since the 70s and is regularly featured in mainstream media on account of his articulate and humorous interviews. As well as being in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Appearances in Adult Films" (1750 flicks), Jeremy has had small roles in Hollywood movies such as Killing Zoe, 54, Detroit Rock City, The Boondock Saints and Reindeer Games. I found this great quote from him on

"I still have a valid teaching license. But if parents see me with a kid, they'll want to call 911."

Sylivia Saint is also quite famous and is regularly featured in mainstream media, though obviously for different reasons than Ron Jeremy.

During the course of the day, there were opportunities to watch (and of course take photos of) numerous ‘performances.’

There were also plenty of opportunities to have photos taken with various ‘starlets’, as you can see the cheeky punter nestled in between these two women taking full advantage of.

Well, when in Rome…

My favorite shot from the second part of my trip, one of LVPD’s finest demonstrating how he pats down suspects.

Some guy getting a seedy video label’s logo tattooed on his arm. Possibly one to wake up and regret the next morning.

Anyone familiar with the first season of top British TV comedy I’m Alan Partridge will remember the mysterious drawer of ‘goodies’ in Alan’s hotel room. Inspired by this, and finding ourselves in possession of large quantities of free smut after the convention, we decided to leave a nice surprise for the next occupants of room 15139 at the Imperial Palace.

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

Here are the pics from my trip to the Grand Canyon by helicopter, which I booked through Grand Canyon Tours. The tour was great, although it ended on a sour note when the helicopter pilot turned into a tip *****, demanding ‘gratuities’ before throwing a tantrum like a cry baby when nobody had any cash to give him as we’d all shelled out $350 each on the tour. Somehow I doubt you’re on minimum wage if you’re flying a helicopter for a living…

Leaving Las Vegas on the way to the desert.

In the desert.

The first glimpse of Lake Mead. says:

‘This began filling in 1935 following the completion of Boulder Dam, later designated the Hoover Dam after the 31st president, across the river at Black Canyon, 25 miles from Las Vegas. Indeed, it was the construction of the dam and the arrival of thousands of workers which prompted the legalisation of gambling in Nevada and the consequent growth of the city.’

The Hoover Dam.

A town on the shore of Lake Mead where lots of rich people live, but I forgot the name. Does anyone know what it’s called?

What every desert-dweller needs, an 18 hole golf course. I would imagine the place has a huge water bill.

These airstrips appear in The Aviator.

In Arizona and almost at the Grand Canyon now…

Here it is, the Grand Canyon.

Check out the color of the Colorado River from all the heavy rain.

A close-up of the Paleozoic era rock that makes up the canyon walls.

Touch down on the west rim of the canyon.

The horse-drawn wagon that took us to our lunchtime destination, the West Ranch.

The West Ranch, an attempt to recreate an authentic Wild West experience for mostly non-American tourists.

The Stars and Stripes and Arizona state flag, with some wigwams in the background.

The horse barn, just before I got ready to saddle up for a bit of Grand Canyon horse riding.

Hmmm. Not exactly the cowboy look I’m sporting here, is it?

Just before take off. Looks like a scene out of OJ Simpson movie Capricorn One.

Lake Mead again. Like Las Vegas itself, the lake is impressive but artificial.

A volcanic rift in the desert.

Vegas Aerial Shots

Unfortunately I was sitting on the right side of the copter on the way back so I couldn’t take advantage of the great view of the Strip from the left-side windows.

Vegas from the air. Check out all those swimming pools.

Despite the nondescript nature of the city away from the Strip it’s hard not to be impressed by the size of Vegas when you consider it was all desert a century ago and now has over a million residents (to get that into perspective, that’s the same number as Kyoto, which was Japan’s capital for a thousand years)

The only shot I could get of the Strip.

The Stratosphere Tower

A close-up of the top of the Stratosphere Tower, which is home to the world’s highest rollercoaster, the High Roller, as well as two insane attractions, the Big Shot and the X-Scream. Most tourists at the top of the 350m (1,149 ft) tower were there for the view only and were too terrified to try out the rides, but they really missed out on the rare opportunity to feel intense terror without getting injured. Here are four photos I found on the internet which give a good idea about these two attractions:

In case you haven’t gathered from the photos, the Big Shot shoots 16 people to the top of a smaller 160ft tower at 45mph, suspending them on the descent at zero gravity for around 5 seconds, while the X-Scream shoots people over the edge of the tower on a length of rollercoaster track so they dangle over the Strip. Madness. For a review of the X-Scream and some more nice pics, check out

One last shot of the Stratosphere before landing at McCarran International Airport.

19,018 Posts
this is an awesome thread. i love your desert pictures. i have wondered myself what a desert looks like. i was in las vegas once, last mrach, and have several pictures of the city. i am going back in exactly two weeks, and i'll have more pictures. i don't think mine will be as good as yours though.

81 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
xzmattzx said:
this is an awesome thread. i love your desert pictures. i have wondered myself what a desert looks like.
Cheers. To quote Brian Cox in Edward Norton/Spike Lee movie 'The 25th Hour':

"Every man, woman and child should see the desert one time before they die. Nothing at all but sand and rocks and cactus and blue sky. Not a soul in sight. No sirens. No car alarms. Nobody honking at you. No madmen cursing or p*ssing on the street. You find the silence out there. You find the peace. You find God."

Dunno if it's true but I thought it sounded good.

81 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Slammed0 said:
Damn, nice shots!! How were you so lucky to get into a Adult Convention?
I think the convention is held in Vegas every January. If you're there when it's on, just turn up at the Sands Convention Centre. Easy as that. It's actually quite an interesting experience, as you can probably gather from the pics.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
POLA said:
^ I think its held at the same time with the CES (consumer elecronics trade show)
That's right. Apparently they used to be held in the same place but the AVN Expo has now outgrown its big brother/sister. It's also a pretty interesting fact when you consider that pornography has always been a driving force for cutting-edge technology, from photography to movies, videos and on to the 3G mobile phones and multi-angle DVDs of today's consumer electronics.

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
xzmattzx said:

i wanted to see these great pictures again. i'm going to vegas in 9 days and this will psyche me up.
Hope you have as much fun there as I did. Probably the most memorable parts of my trip to Vegas were the Stratosphere Tower attractions, shooting guns at the Gun Store and the Grand Canyon helicopter tour so I highly recommend those if you have the time, inclination and money.
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