Leave behind all touchstones of normality.
"WHAT happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," the airport security official laughed after she had done the honours of checking me out in a la Jesus Christ style. As often as you might have seen it on TV or in the movies, there is nothing that prepares you for the first sight of Vegas. If I were to close my eyes to recapture my first response to the proverbial sin city, the list would go something like this: a dreamscape of visual consumption; an example of hyperspace; a global pleasure zone; literal consumerism; the world's largest and most spectacular carnival; a glittering, neon-lit universe; a city that never sleeps (and makes sure you don't either). In other cities, hotels are built around the major attractions. Here, the hotels are the major attraction. For, which other city has a skyline made up almost entirely of buildings from other cities' skylines? Sensory overloadThe skyline is a hyper-reality - a melange of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, a pyramid and a Sphinx, a giant lion and a volcano that erupts. You could be suffering from a sensory overload, where the shouts from Crap tables, the jingling crash of coins from the slot machines and the general roar combine to give you the greatest adrenalin rush of your life. Vegas "re-creates" the world's historical, cultural, fashion capitals together on just a three-and-a-half mile strip. Paris impressed me with its Louis XVI architecture, it's cobbled streets and roadside cafes. A ride up the Eiffel Tower gives an overwhelming view of the city. The musical extravaganza of Bellagio's fountains spring into a breathtaking performance. The visual water symphony with the waters playfully dancing in sync with classical, romantic music, spanning a 1000 ft, shooting up to 240 ft in the air can leave you ecstatic. Bellagio stands, like an elegant lady in all her sophisticated finery, with a casino that lures, the world class restaurants that dish out food to die for, "O", a show that's "forever", and an exquisitely landscaped conservatory. Caeser's Palace replicates Rome - from David to Zeus, the pantheon of Roman Gods and Goddesses look upon you, replete with Corinthian pillars and finely detailed, carved structures. Here history fuses with the super-modern with suave ease. To see haute couture outlets of Armani, Dior, Valentino elegantly nestled in the pillared Forum shops, the blue skies above, towers, plazas and fountains gushing at every turn, you are already tipsy with the heady sights. Each hotel is a veritable city, functioning on a gargantuan scale that requires a government to run them, offering employment to thousands.Vegas is differentVegas makes you leave all touchstones of reality behind. You watch your money grow or (more likely) shrink, see pirates fight the sexy sirens outside Treasure Island, spend hours jiving to soul-throbbing music at Coyote Ugly (an all-girls bar at New York-New York), or rock to live music at Cleopatra's Barge (Ceaser's), Studio 59 (MGM). And when it lights up at night, "It still takes my breath away," says a long time resident. Everything is dressed in lights - stand still long enough, and they'll probably cover you in neon. If you are a non-gambler and travelling with kids like I was, Vegas makes a perfect holiday destination. With Atlantic City and 31 other states legalising gambling, Vegas companies were forced to evaluate their strategic position. Circus-Circus, Ceaser's, Mirage, MGM Grand, Luxor, Paris, New York-New York, Venetian chose an expansion strategy adding resort-style entertainment to the casinos. Entertainment has gone beyond Hollywood-style shows; it is now based on themed amusement parks. Themed parksAn exotic plants filled lobby at the MGM Grand is - grand. They have wildlife areas with white tigers, lions, and dolphins on show. Flamingo has its gardens spotted with flamingos, penguins and ducks where kids can frolic among them. The Excalibur takes you back to medieval times, the Luxor with its pyramid and the Sphinx transports you to Egypt. It is a hub for families looking for entertainment for kids with virtual reality, simulator rides and a museum based on their boy-king Tutankhamun.
It is not without reason 35 million tourists visit Vegas every year. It is not just the beauty and plush surroundings of the hotels, the lure of money at the casinos, the gastronomic pampering of the taste buds; it is the magic of the Vegas shows. With "O" reigning supreme, Celine Dion rocks. For the modern taste, "We Will Rock You" is a throbbing musical. "Les Folies Bergere" and "Jubilee" can leave you speechless with their phantasmagorical stage sets, and stunning choreography. Comedy shows are popular as also the variety shows that pack in magic, acrobatics, hypnosis and jugglery. George Wallace and Danny Gans are the reigning stand-up comedians. Once you strip away the outer skin of Vegas, you find a very interesting anatomy. At the epicentre is found the person's egocentric self, covered with a self-indulging epidermis, whose 11th Commandment for the time he is in Vegas is "bigger the better". But remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! MITA KAPUR