*I split this into 3 parts as it was WAY too long!!*
We got to Las Vegas on a $25 Chinatown bus instead of the Greyhound which was almost twice the price, but it left at 7.15am and of course the bus from Sunset Boulevard didn't arrive on time. Luckilly when we arrived in Chinatown, the bus pick up point was a 10min downhill walk rather than uphill or we probably wouldn't have made it at all.
Excalibur hotel casino!!
As it was, we arrived approximatley 3 minutes before the bus which was also the last bus of the day! Our hotel was at the top of the strip, meaning we got to drive down the strip and orientate ourselves a little first. It is no exaggeration to say we stared out of the window in stunned silence. Las Vegas strip is the most bizzare outrageous road I have ever and will ever see.
At the south end, the first strange hotel is the Luxor, an Egyptian themed hotel and casino in the shape of a pyramid with a huge sphinx outside. Then we move onto Excalibar which was actually my favourite hotel, in the design of a fairytale castle with multi coloured turrets, it really has to be seen to be believed! Across from Excalibar the main strip springs out of the desert on both sides, with some themed, some just really expensive looking hotel casinos.
That's right, our hotel has a rollercoaster!
New York New York was another good one, with the hotel in the form of the New York skyline, and a mini (well quite huge actually!) Statue of Liberty in front. Similarly Paris had a scaled down Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumphe, Treasure Island had a huge prate ship out at the front and the Venetian was encircled by winding canals complete with gondolas! Our hotel the Sahara had a desert theme, complete with camel statues at the front. The strangest thing of all was the rollercoaster which came shooting out of the casino and across the front of the hotel!!
As soon as we got off the bus we were hit by the heat, this wasn't helped by the hour long queue to check in. We investigated the place, it was HUGE, 3 restaurants, a buffet (every hoetl in Vegas has a buffet), arcade games, the large casino area, 4 hotel towers blocks, gift shops, drinks shops, several bars, a wedding chapel (of course!), 2 or 3 theatres, and much more that I can't even think of!
After resting for a short time, we ventured out to see the strip as the lights began to come on.
The fountains at Bellagio
Being so poor we took advantage of everything free we could lay our hands on, the first being the fountains at Bellagio, The Bellagio is one of the most expensive hotels on the strip, and every night the fountains in the lake at the front 'perform' to different styles of music for a short show. I thought it was amazing, seeing the water moving around in time with different shapes and colours. I don't think Lisa was quite as impressed, describing it as 'weird'. The rest of the evening we walked up then back down the strip, stopping to take photos and try and avoid the extremely pushy casino hosts outside their hotels. We had limited ourselves to $5 a day for slot machines, so we went back to our hotel and sat down ready to lose it straight away! Almost as soon as we sat down a waitress came over and asked us what we would like to drink, I quite fancied a beer and decided that one wouldn't hurt the budget too much.
As she came back about 20 mins later, tray loaded with drinks I noticed people were just handing her a couple of dollars as she gave them drinks, in some cases only coins. I thought I'd try it and YES, it really is true, you only have to tip, the beer is FREE!!! Lady luck was clearly on our side that night as I walked away with $20 as well!
Sunbathing by the pool
The next day we went and investigated the swimming pool before deciding that it was the best place to spend the morning while it was still really hot. So after 4 hours of sunbathing, swimming, sunbathing, swimming (and repeat) we thought we had better leave the hotel! Circus Circus casino was only a couple of minutes walk away so we went up there and watched one of the free circus performances. It was very very strange and kind of rubbish but in a good way! A youngish Russian woman did some balancing on a couple of posts while twirling a stocking (it really was a stocking, she took it off her leg) round her head.
Circus circus, does exactly what it says on the tin
We also walked down to Stratosphere, but couldn't go up the tower for free so decided to leave it! Back at the hotel we had noticed signs for the $6.99 buffet but only if you were a casino member, otherwise it was $13. So of course we signed up, and are now proud members of the Sahara Casino, with membership cards with our names on and everything!