Why I Love Vegas

I don’t gamble and seldom drink, yet I love Las Vegas. I know a lot of seasoned travelers who loathe visiting Vegas. I understand their apprehension, but despite all the places I’ve been I still get a rush when I drive down the strip at night.

It has been two and a half years since I was last in Las Vegas. It was actually the place where I started my trip. As I drove down Las Vegas Boulevard last night I passed the Luxor and I thought to myself “hey, I was at the real Luxor in Egypt”. I repeated the same thing over and over as I passed other hotels: Monte Carlo, Paris, New York, Venice, and the Riviera. I had even been to the location of Caesar’s real palace in Rome! Despite having been to the actual locations of the places these casinos were modeled after, I don’t turn my nose up at the faux versions of it which line the strip. It is a totally different experience and is something which needs to be experienced for its own sake.

Vegas is a city of contradictions. It is at once the cheapest and most expensive tourist destination in America. On my last trip to Vegas, I had a meal at Picasso’s in the Bellagio. It is a five-star restaurant with original Picasso paintings on the walls. A meal for two people with wine was over $500. Today I’m writing this at the buffet at Circus Circus. You can eat all day long, every meal and between meals for a total of $20. There are suites here which run over $10,000/night and places off the strip which you can get for about $25/night, and if you just use a reward program card consistently at a casino, you can probably get most of your meals and rooms comped for free.

You can walk down the street and mingle with the rich and the poor. The ultra high-end casinos are open to the public so it is not uncommon to see people wearing “I’m with stupid” t-shirts walking past a Gucci store. In fact, there is a law in Nevada that all gaming tables must be open to the public, so no matter how rich you are you can’t hide in a private room to gamble were the hoi poli can’t see you.

As I noted above I don’t like gambling. I have no ethical issues with it, but as a someone with a degree in mathematics, I have a deep-seated understanding of odds. If the odds are against you, the more you play, the greater your chances of losing. What I enjoy doing in Vegas is just observing how the whole thing operates. Casinos are some of the most fascinating business operations in the world. Everything from the position and sounds of the slot machines to the colors of the carpet, everything is designed to make you part with the maximum amount of money.

The streets are also great for people watching. You’ll find families, businessmen here for conventions, guys out for a weekend, and girls out for a bachelorette party. You also can’t forget the people who hold the lowest position in the employment ladder: the guys who hand out the fliers for escorts. (Is there any job in the world which requires less skill?)

The energy you can experience at night in Las Vegas is probably greater than in any other city in the world. The only places which come close are Times Square, Hong Kong harbor, Ginza district in Tokyo and maybe Piccadilly Circus in London. Even Macau, which has overtaken Vegas as the biggest gambling destination in the world, can’t compete. Macau’s gambling is all business whereas Vegas is all about fun.

If you have been to Vegas tell me what you think of it, and if you haven’t let me know if it is someplace you’d want to visit. I’m curious to hear what other people think about it.

Mill Network at Kinderdijk

World Heritage Site #82: Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout
Mill Network at Kinderdijk: My 83rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Mill Network at Kinderdijk:

The outstanding contribution made by the people of the Netherlands to the technology of handling water is admirably demonstrated by the installations in the Kinderdijk-Elshout area. Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and have continued uninterruptedly to the present day. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dikes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.

When people say they are visiting the Netherlands, this would be the #1 thing I’d recommend they go see outside of Amsterdam. Kinderdjik is a stereotype of what people think of as the Netherlands and is actually a great historical lesson on how the Netherlands was created.

Overview

Mill Network at Kinderdijk

The Mill Network at Kinderdijk is composed of 19 monumental windmills located in the Netherlands’ South Holland province. These mills are part of the Kinderdijk village that were built during the early to mid-18th century. The main purpose of building these windmills is the keep water out of the polder. These windmills are the largest collection of windmills that you will ever find in the country. Since it was named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands in 1997, it has since become one of the top tourist attractions in the country.

Aside from being named as a UNESCO site, the mill network at Kinderdijk is also considered a national monument. In fact, the entire area (including the windmills and its surrounding village) are protected since 1993.

History of the Mill Network at Kinderdijk

Mill Network at Kinderdijk

The main purpose of building the windmills in Kinderdijk was to improve the entire drainage system in the village. The location of the windmills is in a part of Netherlands that lies below the sea level. They were designed to protect the village from overflowing water and to get rid of any excess water in the polder.

By the 13th century, it was becoming apparent the water level rising has become an issue in the area. Large canals were initially dug in order to keep water at bay. But when the soil started to set, it only enabled the water to rise above the sand deposits.

Over the years, new methods were tried out in order to keep water out of the polder. This is when a series of windmills were constructed by the 1700s. These windmills were responsible for pumping water into a reservoir, which could then be pumped back out into the river once the water level is low enough. There are seasonal and tidal variations that could impact the level of the water in the river. Hence, these were taken into account when managing the water level using the hydraulic pumping technology that was introduced with the construction of these windmills.

Use of Windmills Today

Mill Network at Kinderdijk

In 1927, a new diesel pumping station was developed on site that does the real job of managing the water level in the village. The last time that the windmills were operational was during the World War II. However, due to the fuel shortage experienced after the war, the windmills could no longer be used.

However, these windmills are operated during summer months wherein the amount of tourist visits to the site is at its peak. One of the 19 windmills have been turned into a museum. There exhibits within this museum that showcases how the millers and families in the 18th century lived. There are also walking or cycling tours available along the canals. This will enable tourists to take photos of or experience the landscape surrounding this extensive mill network at Kinderdijk.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in The Netherlands.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 9:46 pm