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Tag Archives: las vegas

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each photo a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember).

#11 –  the sky  –  Madeira


#12 –  complexities  – Milano


#13 –  creature  – Boston


#14 –  stormy  – Christchurch, UK


#15 –  “Meet our Graduate Students”  – Las Vegas

meet our graduate students

The Wynn casino hotel in Las Vegas has one of the most visually rich interior environment. This bar – Parasol Down – is a fantastically colored space – feels fun, somewhat luxurious, and without being (too) garish.

If you look up from the bar, you will see the multicolor parasols.  In fact, most visitors will see these parasols when they are coming down a curved escalator.

Parasol Down faces a terrace (where they have an outdoor cafe), a small lake, and a large grey slab of stone on which a sheet of water slides down quietly. The contrast of the somewhat monochromatic exterior with the technicolor interior is stunning.

To us, the pièce de resistance in the casino hotel is the floral design created with mosaic tiles set in the marble floor, which are scattered around the public areas. Wynn’s fields of flowers.

The color scheme was apparently inspired by Henri Matisse’s paintings.

Each tile was cut to fit and the mosaics are constantly being maintained and the tiles replaced by a small dedicated team.

There is an article about the mosaic florals in the Wynn’s newsletter – The Glass Menagerie.

A signature style of this chain of hotels.

It was fun walking around to discover new patterns.

Amazingly bright, uncompromisingly bold, incredibly cheerful, and joyously playful.

Matching floral designs also appear in their carpets throughout the public areas. See the carpet in Parasol Down.

The red lanterns for the Lunar New Year festivities “blended” in with the rest of the brightly colored hanging decorations.

I bet they can use the same glass tiles and create a sea-creature themed design.

Colors are some things that most of us take for granted. The richness here makes me feel bad for my friends and others who are color-blind.

At the visitor center, the ranger looked at us and recommended the Calico Tanks trail. The trailhead is about 3-4 miles from the visitor center located near a sandstone quarry.

As you can see, the sky was grey. We had blue cloudless sky every day except the day we chose to visit the canyon.  So all the photos look a bit dull. The upside was that we were not sun burnt. Apparently, temperatures in the area exceed 105 °F (41 °C)  routinely in the summer. Nevertheless, we were urged by the ranger to bring water. So we bought ice cold bottled water from a vending machine in the desert.

The rocks are layered and very weathered.

After we passed the sandstone quarry and the washbed which is filled with gravels, we started climbing. Looking back towards the washbed.

It is fascinating to see how abruptly the rock color changes from red to yellow and vice versa.

We remarked that since we left LA, the palette of everything along the way is overwhelmingly yellowish brown – the desert and even the homes in the area, they are all in shades of yellow, brown, and reddish brown.

There must have been water in the geologic past.

This is the first time I have seen a group of cactus in nature. Usually I see them planted individually in a small red plastic pot in a supermarket.

The trail is rated medium, as you have to scramble, and hop from rock to rock.

On the smooth surface of the flat rock, there was a fine layer of sand making it slippery – and to prove it, I slipped and fell.

Look! Water in the desert. These seasonal pools are called Tinaja or Tanks – we were told these are the places to watch animals (bighorn sheep, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, rabbit) as they come for a drink. Not this one though, since it is frequented by humans.

Sue climbed into one of the larger dried-up tanks. To her left is the bottom where you can see a brown layer of vegetation.

At the end of the trail, we were rewarded by a view of Las Vegas. There are some homes just below the canyon – Calico Springs. What a place to live!

In the picture below, our hotel – Red Rock Station is standing prominently in the foreground (left, just above the rock). In a distance, the Stratosphere (white tower) and the Wynn towers (two bronze colored buildings on the right) are clearly visible. This second picture was taken with zoom from the same spot – I just want to point out that the strip and even our hotel is not as close as it looks.

The view of Vegas from here at dusk must be phenomenal and a vantage points (4930 ft) for taking night pictures of the city for the tourist brochures.

The whole walk took 2-3 hours round trip (2.5 miles) and gained 450 ft (140 m) – not strenuous, a must-see for any hikers visiting Vegas. At the end, we each drank a liter of water.

One reason we did not stay at the strip in Las Vegas is because we want to be closer to nature. Our hotel Red Rock Station (earlier post) takes it name from the Red Rock Canyon national conservation area, which is a small corner of the Mojave Desert. There is a very modern visitor center at 3720 ft (1127m).

The conservation area has one highway (Nevada state 159) and only one other paved road, and it is aptly named, the Scenic Drive – a one-way loop of 13-mile at a max speed of 35 mph.

You can drive right up to the red rocks and see the banding. The red coloration is oxidized iron minerals in a layer of rock- rust essentially.

It is a very popular place for rock climbing. Can you see the curve in the road in the photo below ?

The sky was grey. I thought it was going to rain (in the desert !) – but it did not happen.

Tortoise is a native here in the desert – it is somehow hard to imagine. We did not see any as it was winter and they were hibernating.

The openness of the space was breathtaking, especially for us city-dwellers.

I wonder how old is this tree. Apparently, due to the dryness, plants grow very slowly in the desert.

Here is a video I borrowed from the official Red Rock Canyon web site. Doesn’t the music reminds you of U2 from their Joshua Tree album ?

We stopped at one of several parking areas and went for a hike to Calico Tanks – see next post.

We arrived in Vegas a week after the Lunar New Year, so the crowds had died down a bit but the decorations were still up.

As many Asians enjoy gambling and even more indulge in shopping, Las Vegas has been rolling out the red carpet for them. Chinese new year was lavishly celebrated in a number of Vegas casino hotels. The hall decorated with red lanterns and twin smoke-breathing dragons (in a distance) was Bellagio’s attempt to create a celebratory atmosphere. Bellagio had a few dragons snaking along on the ground too. Of course, there were throngs of people standing in front of it taking pictures.

The Wynn had their dragons too.

We sometimes wonder what made our culture worship extinct giant lizards.

In addition to Asian Americans arriving from LA, more are flying in directly from Asia. To make the non-English speakers feel more welcomed, Chinese language signs were prominently displayed.

Curiously, they were both written with traditional characters (used in Hong Kong and Taiwan) but not the simplified characters used in mainland China.

Caesar’s palace has a skinny, legless (but flying) dragon inside.

Fake ionic columns and red lanterns – 21st century commercial interior design.

In 2011, the majority of growth of the gambling industry happened offshore in Macau. We visited Macau at the same period last year and created a few posts about how Chinese new year was celebrated over there: MGM Grand, Mermaid vs Jellyfish and Grand Lisboa vs Wynn.

I have been to Vegas a number of times and stayed at the strip every time.  In search of something different, we decided to find a hotel that is off the strip and has the feel of a resort. We found Red Rock Station. The above photo is not mine but borrowed from the hotel’s web site.

It is miles from the strip and located at the very edge of the city.  All the rooms on one side of the building command a direct view of the Red Rock Canyon. Our room window frames a perfect view of the canyon. Rooms on the other side of the hotel have a view of the city.

The pools were lit at night but the water was too cold to swim in (even during the day). But I can imagine the scene here in the summer.

How often does one watch TV in the bathtub ? The decor is modern.

But the minibar is too modern – we were warned by the little card –

“Items that are removed for longer than 45 seconds will be charged directly to your guest account.

Placing other items in the mini-bar may also incur other charges to your account”.

 The items are either tagged electronically (RFID?) or there is a weighing platform underneath. What if I don’t read English ? 45 seconds !

The deco of the steak house is overdone in my view –  the yellow stripy floor-to-ceiling backdrop looks rather alien.

The main entrance is rather dramatic due to the red glass doors.

Of course, the hotel has a big casino, albeit a lot quieter than those on the strip. The last time I was in Vegas, there were hardly any penny machines. Now they all are, with the difference being that one can now bet on up 15 to 20 lines per play using 1 to 10 or more credits (pennies).  In other words, you can bet as little as one penny and up to several bucks per play, it is very flexible but even more confusing (how does it matter anyway?).

Palm trees are a must in these parts of the world.

We had a nice stay – spa treatment was quite expensive. Overall, Red Rock Station is recommendable.

While we were in LA, we took a  road trip to Las Vegas – a four hour drive on Interstate 15 North.  Vegas baby !

On the way, we saw signs to Route 66.  It would have been an interesting detour but would take at least half a day to explore – so we skipped it but promised to return.  And this is my favorite cover version of the song – (Get your kicks on) Route 66 by Depeche mode.

” You’ll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico;
Flagstaff, Arizona don’t forget Winona;
 Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino

Out of the urban sprawl and onto the Mojave Desert. We climbed and gained some altitude, at some point, we passed 4000 feet (photo below). There were lanes for slow moving vehicles going uphill (trailers and trucks), and lanes for runaway trucks on the downhill sections.

We stopped by Barstow for lunch and took at a look at their only other commercial activity, beside gas and fast food, i.e, the Tangier outlet mall. It was being invaded by several busloads of Chinese tourists, busy shopping, keeping the stores in the desert open.

Exit 23 to Zzyzx! What ? And Exit 191 to Ghost Town ? Area 51 is somewhere nearby.

The Mojave desert is not quite the kind of desert I had in mind – endless yellow sand dunes. Instead, it is rather rocky and covered by patches of weeds.

The longest train I have ever seen, crawling slowly under the sun. I only caught maybe one third of it in this picture.

In late afternoon, the sun seemed to set quickly. The trucks looked like wagons for a second.

As we got closer to Vegas,  small clusters of casino/hotel/amusement park/service stations started to pop up in the middle of nowhere by the roadside, like Vegas I imagine many years ago.

Sue volunteered to drive, so I had the chance to snap these pictures at 1/1600th second with my new little camera.

You know Vegas cannot be far when one of the roadside hotels looks like it is made of gold.

South Point. This is where the lights of Vegas (on Interstate 15 North) start. It was dusk when we reach the outskirts of the city. We avoided the strip and got on the ring road to our hotel on the eastern edge of the city – Red Rock Station (next post).