Artificial Worlds and Natural Wonders  

The Las Vegas strip on a Sunday morning was beautiful. I had not felt happy or good about myself in a long while. The high-rollers had emptied their coffers. The revelers were hung-over in bed. The hookers were no longer in bed. And the bright lights gave way to the brilliant blue of the early day sky. A stark contrast from the previous night.

We never succumbed to the warm buzz and cha-chiing sounds of winning returns and jackpot payouts. Many access routes to the hotel reception areas were through the vast halls of slot machines and poker tables. We were somewhat deterred by the cigarette odour or whatever incense they filtered through the galleries to disguise the obscure smells. Apathetic players wagered and elderly people surrendered their limitless pension money to the houses. I didn’t know whether to be envious of them or feel sorry for those folks.


Many of the hotels along and close to the boulevard were european-themed.. with flashing signs revealing The Bellagio, The Venetian and Caesar’s Palace. Adjectives of ‘kitsch' and ‘gaudy' come to mind, but these establishments that totally outdid their original landmarks could be excused for the sheer scale and detailed workmanship. The MGM, a green-lit eyesore on the strip is known to be one of the world’s biggest hotels with over 5,000 rooms.

A day tour crossing the Arizona border was where we discovered the West-Rim of the Grand Canyon. Up to 1,800 meters deep, stretching for more than 450 kilometres in length and up to 30 km wide, the canyon was breathtakingly beautiful.. and frightening. Horizontal lines along the cliff walls were evidence of the millions of years the earth had been witness to environmental change, and proof that the world was not created in only six days. The Colorado River that snaked through the gorges would have been an artery for creatures long extinct, and still evolving. Standing ten meters from the cliff edge, I felt intimidated that barriers were never installed throughout the canyons rim. I wondered if they kept a record of the visitors that have overstepped the boundaries at these points of inspiration. No, I am not suicidal.. just afraid of heights.


I will not be crossing this one off my bucket-list just yet. I intend to be back.. in a helicopter darting within the canyons.. and possibly rafting the winding river, flanked by overhanging cliffs.

A shorter trip from the Vegas strip is the Red Rock Canyon Conservation area. Part of the Mojave Desert, it is a mecca for rock-climbers, day-hikers and the occasional mountain-goat seekers. My wife Dee and I were there for the off-road jeep experience. The vehicles may have been pink, but there was nothing dainty about the rough ride through rocky trails in the open-air 4X4. Our driver Jeff skillfully maneuvered past boulders and skidded through tight crevices with the slightest concern for our lives.


A highlight of our stay in LV was to attend the Cirque du Soleil production of LOVE.. the Beatles inspired show of the Montreal-based artists and acrobat troupe. They say "you’ve seen one Cirque show, you’ve seen them all”. Not true. I had been waiting to see this spectacle since it took up residence at The Mirage in 2006. It caters for the most casual followers of the “Fab-Four”, like myself, and I would say it was an ultimate delight to the senses. Stunning. Heart-stopping. Sinister. Tragic. Joyful. Words that describe my take on the many different scenes in the production. For an hour and a half, I could escape reality and be immersed in wonder-world.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. I am waiting for the red-eye flight back home at the time of this writing. I will most likely be headed straight to the office from the airport upon arrival. I didn't have high expectations approaching this trip, but after four days on the road, I could say that I rediscovered my "happy". Whether it took the simulated world of Vegas or the awe-inspiring scenery of the Grand Canyons, the break in routine was what I needed. Tomorrow is another day. Reality will kick in.

Meanwhile, on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, the fantasy continues…

November 2015

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012