Las Vegas, NV

The last—and only other—time I was here, I didn’t exactly have the most complimentary things to say about Sin City, Glitter Gulch, the city of Lost Wages. This could explain why I only spent a day there during my Great American Road Trip. But perhaps my perspectives have changed a little bit during the last eight years because this time I was actually looking forward to visiting Vegas.

No, I still don’t care for casinos. Hookers have also never been my thing. I have, however, gained an appreciation for posh hotels and even the bright lights and the hustle and bustle of the big city (on occasion). It also helped that my friends Bandy and Sara were going to be here to hang out with. Or that Bandy, my bud from high school, and I were going to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon.

First item on our agenda—aside from picking up race bibs and registration materials from the Las Vegas Convention Center—was to fuel up. So for each meal before the 26.2-miler, we hit the buffets. We even had champagne at one of them. Never mind that usually the time to celebrate is after, not before, a marathon.

After being “buffet’d out” and also having the legs of an invalid due to running a distance usually traversed in a car, we went to see a show: Zarkana by the famed Canadian theatrical company Cirque du Soleil. The precision and faultlessness of the acrobatics were mind-blowing, if not extremely dangerous-looking. Made running over 26 miles look completely sane by comparison.

During other times, we made some rounds through hotels. Zarkana was at Aria, also the site where we had some beers. The Venetian was home to Little Venice and its gondolas, the Grand Canal Shoppes and ceiling murals. Caesar’s Palace had lots of Michelangelo-inspired sculpture and Rome-inspired architecture. Mandalay Bay is where many world-class boxing events are held.

My favorite hotel was the Bellagio. Inside are the beautiful Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (and also a “living,” talking tree), but the chef d’oeuvre are the Fountains of Bellagio which are choreographed to music like Faith Hill’s This Kiss every 15 minutes during the night. I got to enjoy this spectacle after the marathon while waiting for Bandy to complete his race, and it sure helped distract me from the soreness of my legs.

Walking further down the Strip past the Elvis and Star Wars impersonators, we glanced at Little Paris (complete with faux Eiffel Tower) and New York-New York but did not venture inside them. We did, however, stay in a four-star hotel—the Tropicana—right across from the faux Statue of Liberty.

There’s only so much of Vegas one can take in at once, so we made a side trip to the Grand Canyon. That was well worth it even if the driving distance was nearly five hours one way.

We also had met up with some other friends from high school, Hien and Thao and their families. They were also here for the marathon (or half-marathon, in the case of the husbands). Amazing how neither Hien nor Thao looked like they had aged at all during the last twenty years.

All in all, it was a great trip. I’d go back again, with the Wynn, Trump Tower, Treasure Island, New York-New York, Mount Rushmore and Little Paris being on the itinerary. Cheesiness may abound in the City of Lights, but so is fun.

Felix Wong at Tropicana across from New York-New York.Sara and Bandy in front of a Chevy Bel Air in front of the Tropicana, the hotel we stayed at off the Strip. (November 16, 2013)The Fountains of Bellagio, which were choreographed to music every 15 minutes. (November 17, 2013)Felix Wong in front of the Coca-Cola store. (November 17, 2013)Gigantic, real mushrooms inside the Bellagio. (November 18, 2013)Flowers at the at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. (November 18, 2013)The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. (November 18, 2013)An "alive" tree at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (November 18, 2013)Felix Wong and Bandy enjoying a Stella beer at Deuce inside the Aria Hotel before Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana show. (November 18, 2013)Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana. (November 18, 2013)A holiday display inside Palazzo. (November 19, 2013)The ceiling inside Palazzo. (November 19, 2013)Gondolas and Canals outside the Venetian. (November 19, 2013)Felix Wong inside the Venetian. (November 19, 2013)The Michelangelo-inspired ceilings of the Venetian. (November 19, 2013)Harrah's. (November 19, 2013)A fountain outside Caesar's Palace. (November 19, 2013)The faux Eiffel Tower in the Strip at night. (November 19, 2013)Caesar's Palace. (November 19, 2013)A Michelangelo-inspired statue at Caesar's Palace. (November 19, 2013)Fountains outside Caesar's Palace. (November 19, 2013)Sara with Muhammed Ali inside Mandalay Bay.Sara and some boobies.C6 Corvette inside the casino at Mandalay Bay.The ceiling inside the Luxor.Titanic Artifact Exhibition inside the Luxor.The faux Statue of Liberty overlooking the Strip.The Statue of Liberty with New York-New York as the backdrop.Star Wars characters were roaming the Strip.The M&M's Store.Gucci, the Cosmopolitan, and Aria Hotel on the Strip.The Eiffel Tower at Little Paris.A faux Arc du Triomphe.Sara and Bandy at Mizuya inside Mandalay Bay, where we had a sushi lunch.

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