Twelve and a half years. That’s long how it took me to visit the city that most tourists visit in their first trip to the U.S. The lure of Las Vegas never attracted me much. I don’t gamble, I don’t smoke, and I don’t even drink much so Vegas would’ve little to offer me. Well, I was partly right. As part of my new job, I travelled to Las Vegas last week for a ‘capacity building’ workshop. I say workshop, but it was a 1500-people strong conference with concurrent sessions and plenary breakfast and lunch sessions. We landed in Vegas on Super Bowl sunday so you can imagine the crowds especially in all the hotels on the strip with their Jumbotron screens and betting consoles.
Our conference was hosted at the Caesar’s Palace where we also stayed. Although it was not as tacky as I had envisioned it, subtlety is not the Vegas way. Huge faux Corinthian columns, Greek statues , and even a copy actual-size statue of David sculpted in apparently the same type of marble . Luckily for me, my colleagues were not anymore enamored by Vegas so our first detour as soon as we landed was Red Rock Canyon State Park. It turned out to be a revelation with the evening light changing hues on red sandstone cliffs and wind-swept arid landscapes for miles; Las Vegas appeared on the distant horizon as a shimmering sea of lights. Perhaps we didn’t feel the way weary travelers on horseback felt after setting their eyes on a city after days of travel but nevertheless a great sight. We reluctantly headed to Vegas and two and half days of ‘workshopping’
I may not be the target demographic for Las Vegas since I didn’t end up gambling even one cent  but that doesn’t mean that there was nothing for me. Las Vegas has an embarrassingly rich array of food choices. Albeit expensive, you can’t beat Vegas for the sheer variety and exquisiteness of culinary delights; all in walking distance from any hotel you live on the strip. And this is excluding the plethora of buffet options that do not scrimp on quality. My boss treated our team one evening to a great meal at Bouchon at the Venetian; a French Bistro
that is one of the three-Michelin star restaurants owned by Chef Thomas Keller. It was my first meal at a Michelin-star restaurant and with the company, it was a great experience. I had the roast leg of lamb which was good but ended up regretting not getting the steak which others raved about.
There are other sights in Las Vegas which may interest type of people like me. The fountains at Bellagio, although a cliched sight, was an audio-visual treat. I spent an evening just walking along on the strip after the rest retired to their rooms. The air was crisp and cool and much better than the smoke-filled casinos. EVen if you don’t smoke, you can come away by having smoked at least a pack of cigarettes if you just walk through the casinos. I’m told they have to pump in fresh oxygen to prevent people from passing out. You can walk around in the bright lights avoiding the people passing you little cards with discounts for peep shows. I didn’t get a chance to catch any of the shows but I have heard great things about Cirque de Soleil. Even performers like Cher, Celine Dion, and other entertainers are a treat in Vegas. Nowhere else will you get a plethora of choices for entertainment and food.
As much as I enjoyed my brief time in Vegas, perhaps I enjoyed it because it was brief. Looking at Google Maps, Vegas also seems like a perfect gateway for several state and national parks ; Red Rock Canyon wasn’t even on my radar before I visited. Next time, we might just fly to Vegas, enjoy a meal, catch a show, and get away as soon as possible to one of the several parks within driving distance.