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gardkarlsen Las Vegas - A travel report by Gard
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Las Vegas,  United States - flag United States -  Nevada
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gardkarlsen's travel reports

Las Vegas trip - COMDEX

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Las Vegas travelogue picture
I went to Las Vegas in November 1996 to attend the annual COMDEX happening. Before going there I tried to check out what the main attractions of Las Vegas was. People said the hotels and I could understand how a hotel could be an attractions (thinking about the boring hotels we have back home). But I soon found out what people was thinking about.

Favourite spots:
Las Vegas travelogue picture
Well, it is hard to miss the Strip (or Las Vegas Boulevard as it is called). The neon lights from all the hotels light up the night.

What's really great:
Las Vegas travelogue picture
We were blown away when we tried the Big Shot on top of Stratosphere Tower at dusk. There we found a view of the city that was just amazing :-)

Red Rock Canyon, Big Shot, Grand Canyon, all the major hotels

Las Vegas travelogue picture
Well, I wish that I could say that we stayed at Cesar’s Palace or something like that but we stayed at some Holiday inn in the downtown area.

Other recommendations:
Las Vegas travelogue picture
This travelogue was written during my stay in Las Vegas in November 1996. I went there with some colleagues to attend the annual COMDEX exhibition and these are the thoughts that I had during the stay there.

The journey begins
Our journey didn't exactly start the way I wanted it to start. When we came to Sola airport (the airport here in Stavanger), we found out that our plane to Amsterdam had been canceled. Because of the cancellation we had to go to Oslo first, then Amsterdam, New York and then to Las Vegas. We ended up traveling for about 24 hours and we arrived in Las Vegas at 3 am in the morning. I sat down a bit at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to watch the people go by. It so funny to see all the different characters that walk around. You got your old Japanese male who looks a bit worried while he is smoking his cigarettes (maybe he is afraid of flying), the experienced business man who sits and read a book and between his legs are a bag of duty free things, a young couple: she's got rasta hair and is dressed up like a hippie; he's got shoulder length hair with blue stripes in it and the guitar on his shoulder. It's great to travel to a new destination. Even if the trip is long you endure it because you know that something new awaits you. Well anyway, we reached our hotel, which is located about 10 minute walk from downtown Las Vegas. We were all hungry so we went straight out to get something to eat. All the casinos where open and downtown is full of lights just like the Strip (the strip is the main street in Las Vegas where all the big hotels are located). We ended up staying up till about 5 am.

From the plains to the Strip
It was a bit hard getting up the next morning and I was not very awake when I got up at 9 am after only four hours of sleep. We decided to rent a car so we could move around a bit to see things (hey, it's an American city; it's impossible to get around without a car *grin*). The weather was strange because it was hot in the sun but there was a chilly wind. In daylight it is easy to see the Las Vegas surroundings. It reminds me of back home in Norway because mountains surround it. Well, the first thing we decided to do was to drive into the mountains, into something called Red Rock Canyon. The landscape around Las Vegas is so cool. It looks just like what you see in the classical cowboy/Indian movies: Great Plains with just low bushes everywhere. A part of the mountain had a pure red color (guess why the canyon got its name *grin*), which really stood out in the rest of the sort of gray scenery. We went back to the city to check out the Strip (real name Las Vegas boulevard) where all the hotels are located (you know, Cesar’s Palace, MGM, Luxor, Mirage and so on). The size of the hotels are amazing, they are so big, I have never seen anything like it. And the Strip is amazing by night when all the lights turn on. We ended up going to Cesar’s Palace and we went to eat at Planet Hollywood. The food was OK and I bought a T-shirt. You know the story about Planet Hollywood. There where all lot of movie gadgets there like the T2 skeleton and I took some pictures that I hope will turn out well. Well the place was no place for dated because there were big TV’s everywhere and it was kinda hard to keep the eyes away from the movie clips. The casinos are filled with all sorts of people, old and young. The slots machines are located side-by-side, row-by-row and the sound from all the machines are incredible. In the restaurant I had spareribs and as a European I tend to eat my meal in a pretty polite way with a fork and knife. Our waitress walked by and she looked at us and said: “Come on guys, dig in, use your hands” J

Big Shot
Before we went to Las Vegas I tried to get some information on the Internet about the city. I thought it was odd that every site had the hotels listed as attractions. When I think of the hotels back home I don't understand how a hotel can be an attraction. But the days in Las Vegas made me realize how that can be. Cesar’s Palace that we visited was amazing and very exclusive with special dedicated stores for Versace and Eeste Lauder. The people working there where all dressed up in roman outfits. Everything inside was built using a roman theme. Outside Treasure Island we saw a big show, which included pirates, two ships in full size, where one end up sinking in the end. We also went to the Excalibur to eat. Everything there was built on a medieval theme. And there were lots of shopping possibility. I'm not much of a shopper and I only like to go out and buy stuff when I need something not to just go around to see if there may be something that will fit me. Anyway, I bought a Levi's shirt that was pretty cheap.

But the best of all of the action is the Stratosphere Tower. Stratosphere Tower is an 1150 ft tower located on the strip. On the top of this tower one can find restaurants and rides!!!. There is actually a roller coaster on the top. We went up to take it. The thrill is of course being 300 meters above Las Vegas. And the other ride was called Big Shot. This is hard to explain but I’ll try to make it visual. We were strapped down on seats (legs dangling in the open) on a frame that was on a small tower on top of the Stratosphere Tower. Then we were catapulted up this tower about 50 meters and then the frame dropped like in a free fall. What a ride. When we were falling down my but wasn't touching the seat. It's hard to explain who this was but it was quite a thrill.

Working day
On our first working day in Las Vegas we went to see Andy Grove from Intel speak. It was not that useful but still very interesting. And it was nice to see his predictions when it comes to processors. They were very optimistic. The slogan is faster, smaller, cheaper and that sounds good to me. We drove around for ages to find a parking lot. There are like 225000 visitors to COMDEX so I guess you can imagine how the traffic is like. After a day at the exhibition the things that stuck to my mind was DVD players and LCD flat screens.

Bill Gates
It was another beautiful day in Las Vegas: Sunny and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. We got up early to see the big man himself: Mr. Bill Gates. Again it was not that useful but still very interesting. We walked around on the exhibition until 5 p.m. and my feet were so warm from all the walking. We went down to Luxor that night. It's built just like a big pyramid with a big obelix and a sphinx on the outside. There is a light on top of the pyramid pointed into the skies. And wherever you are in Las Vegas you can see the beam and the light reflecting on the clouds. They say that from time to time it is possible to see it all the way from Los Angeles. The hotel is very impressive from the inside as well. It is open all the way to the top and everything is built in an Egyptian theme. There is even an IMAX theater inside. It is cool to be in the USA but it is strange how I notice the little things that are different from home. I guess it is the little things that matter.

Horse race
We started the day by listening to Jim Barksdale speak. He is the main man in Netscape and believe me: Netscape is not dead yet despite Microsoft's attempts to finish them off. Their new product line looks really good. The rest of the day was spent walking around on COMDEX. We had Chinese food today in China town and the food turned out to be really hot and spicy. It was so hot that we had to cool down with ice cream at Dairy Queen after that J. I've been eating way too much during the visit to Las Vegas. We have had burgers and fries for lunch almost everyday. I'm used to a couple of pieces of bread. I guess I have to take it easy on the food when I come home. We stopped by Circus Circus (which is another hotel and casino) this evening. They had a big circus show on the inside (trapeze, jugglers and so on). I won the unofficial PRIDE horse race and won a little Teddy bear.

On stage in Las Vegas
The most exciting thing during this day was the test of Microsoft NetMeeting. It's an application that is free and where people can talk if they have a microphone and speakers, chat, use the whiteboard or share applications. The sharing of applications is pretty cool. I could actually run an excel sheet and I could give you the right to take over. It is a cool technology. We're all getting a bit tired of all the walking that we have done in the last few days. When we left to go back to the hotel today it was pouring down with rain. And believe me, this city is not ready for rain. We had to walk for like 10 minutes to get to our car and by then we were all soaked. And the trip back to the hotel took forever cause there were flooding everywhere and the traffic just stopped.

When I go to a new place I always try to read about the place, a bit about history, looking at maps and so on to try to picture the place before I go there. I don't know why I bother because I'm never able to picture the place before I have been there for a few days. I guess it depends on ones ability to visualize maps.

In the evening we went to see a show today at a hotel called Harrahs. The show was called Spellbound and the main attraction of the show was of course the magician. I have always wondered when I see people like David Copperfield on TV if what they do is real or just a camera trick but know I know that one see the same on TV that you see live. Some of the things are just unexplainable. We were located about 1 meter from the scene so we got a close look. Apart from the magician there were dancers and a funny comedian multi artist guy. Well, guess who got picked when he needed a volunteer *lol*. Yes, that's right. He picked me. He dragged me up on the stage and made a total fool out of me (to the audience great amusement) while he did a pretty good card trick. And on top of it all he was able to steal my watch without me noticing it. I can't understand how he did it. My colleague Grethe had to get up on stage as well. He stole her watch too by the way (we got them back after he was done). So now I have been in the limelight in Las Vegas *grin*

I forgot to mention a group of acrobats that did some slow performance showing strength and balance. I often wonder what goes through their mind when they act.

Slow day
My colleague Olav left today to go to a friend in Iowa and we went shopping. I just sat down on the outside of the mall and I thought about life, love and everything. I guess it is called philosophizing. We went shopping on a mall located right on the strip so the prices were pretty steep. I bought a Calvin Klein short-sleeved shirt. It was very comfy.

Grand Canyon
We got up early today and the reason for this was a trip to Grand Canyon. My friend Olav said that the trip wasn't to bad so we drove of in good spirits. But again we met the endless roads of the dry, desert landscape. I drove the car and I pushed it all the way up till 160 km/h and still it felt like we were getting nowhere. Well we finally got there and the landscape is so strange. It is pretty flat (just small, wavy hills) but then suddenly it cracks open and there it is: Grand Canyon. The whole thing was so big that is hard to comprehend. It is 13 km from the south brim to the north brim. We only stayed there for half an hour (it was getting dark and it was freezing). When we got there I was walking together with my colleague Grethe and suddenly I heard someone call out my name. It was weird because it was an American pronunciation of my name and I started thinking of who I knew around there…the number of people I know in this area is about 0 *grin*. Well, I turned around and a couple came up to me. The female says we saw you on stage the other day. How small can the world be? We had driven for hours and then I'm recognized at the Grand Canyon for being on stage during the Spellbound show. Well it was a good laugh. I'm a celebrity.

The return
We handed in the car and went to the airport to wait. We teamed up with Olav in Minneapolis and we headed back to Stavanger via Amsterdam. As always the trip back is the longest and it is boring to sit on a plain for hours. But as always: it was worth it :-)

Las Vegas conclusion
Everything is big in the USA and it is kinda strange to see how it varies from the big COMDEX exhibition with all its technical gadgets to little truck stop where the people lives in their little world. The hotels and the casinos amazed me and the Americans can really put on a show. I said earlier in this note that I noticed the little things that makes it different from home. But it is not really that different than back home and that is why I prefer to travel to other destinations like Asia or Africa.

Published on Friday January 3th, 2003

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