Friday, January 16, 2015

8 Things That Blew A Lagosian's Mind In Las Vegas

By Femi Falodun

I visited Las Vegas for Consumer Electronics Show, between January 5 &11, 2015 courtesy BHM and being an Ibadan-born, Abeokuta-raised, Lagos-based, Ekiti indigene, a few things shocked, surprised and impressed me about the American city.

1. The City Never Sleeps: In Vegas, especially on the Strip, most businesses are open round the clock and day time traffic is usually less than night with a constant stream of cabs, limos, planes and pedestrians going back and forth all through the night. Restaurants, bars, casinos, clubs, theatres, shopping malls and high-end designer stores stay open without fear and the city heart never really stops beating.
Interestingly, most of the great stories of Vegas night life may never be told outside of Hollywood movies, for a wise man once said, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

2. Branding & Outdoor Advertisement: Las Vegas is a well planned city, full of beautiful streets and world class architectural designs. However, the beauty of the city is best appreciated between sunset and sunrise when colourful neon lights and amazing display screens turn the city into one massive digital ad platform showcasing some of the world’s biggest brands, resorts, parties, shows and so on.

Speaking of branding, one wonders if there’s a better branded city anywhere else in the world. Shops selling souvenirs and Vegas-branded gift items are available on every corner. Items ranging from t-shirts, key chains, condoms and all kinds of kinky sex toys are available for sale.

3. The Party Life: Think of the 3 biggest clubs in Lagos on Friday night…
Add them all up...
Now amplify their cumulative ‘turn up’ by 1,000%…
There... now you have a Vegas party!

No jokes.

The organization and premium packaging of a Vegas club event is evident from pre-show marketing which follow you around on billboards, mobile phones, cabs, digital displays on buildings etc.

Also very impressive are the tuxedo-wearing, slick-haired Latino bouncers at the door who are always very courteous and nice, the orderly queues of well dressed cool people waiting to be admitted and the cashiers that check you in. They even check IDs to ensure you’re of the right age.

(Hello Lagos night clubs!)

Music from the speakers (mostly EDM & Hip Hop) never hurt the ears. Disco lights, fog machines, ribbons and LED foam sticks get you feeling like you’re a part of the show. Superstar performers like DJs Mustard, Diplo, Calvin Harris and so on lead the charge with deft mixes while creative forces like Cirque du Soleil embed a dramatic mix of circus arts and street dance into the show.

It’s like a movie!

Many Vegas clubs like Light, Hakkasan, House of Blues, 1OAK and TAO come with exclusively built performance elements and visuals like video mapping, costumed dancers and unique choreography which offer the ultimate theatrical nightlife experience.

Truly, you’ve not partied until you party in Vegas!

4. The Luxury - All the major luxury designers have stores in Vegas; Prada, Gucci, DKNY, etc all have at least one outlet on the strip. And please be warned, prices are not really the same as other parts of the US. It is wise to check the price tag, do a quick mental conversion to our beloved Naira and decide whether you’re not better off buying that wedding suit on Allen Avenue or Balogun Market.

Vegas is a luxurious city and only the rich can fully explore its pleasures. Everything looks new and fresh; exotic buildings, the resorts, lavish hotel rooms, limos littering the roads, clean cars and cabs, restaurants and their amazing buffets! Even the people walking the streets are all dressed up bubbly and bright as if everyone is heading to a party everytime!

It’s like the city doesn’t want you to go back home with any leftover dollar! 

5. Well Hidden Poverty: A short walk away from resorts and the glamour of The Strip into the inner city reveals a life that many resortists (In Vegas, there are no tourists, only resortists) and foreigners never get to see. Believe it or not, there are beggers, homeless, drug addicts and mentally ill roaming the streets of Vegas.

Watching a few episodes of CSI will reveal a little bit more of the other dark side of Vegas that may not be so visible when you’re lounging in a resort.

Just like Lagos, many destitute beg on pedestrian bridges only a few meters away from some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Some are playing musical instruments, feeding their babies, smoking something illegal or just quietly sitting by a cardboard paper with their plea for help boldly written. Most of them never bother the passersby.

Also surprising to see were couple of young rappers trying to sell their mixtapes on the streets... just like vendors do in Lagos traffic.

6. City of Immigrants: Vegas is a relatively young city built by a large immigrant workforce brought in for construction of the famous Hoover dam and railroads in the 1930’s. Many of these migrant workers (mostly Chinese and Mexican) stayed behind and today form a major portion of the population.

Many of the cashiers, attendants, cab drivers, waiters and cleaners are immigrants from various parts of the globe. We met Kofi a Togolese, at a fancy restaurant in Aria Resort, who told us never to move to America.
“No place like home” he said in heavily-accented English. “If you spank your kids, they'll report you and the government will take ‘em away from you.”

Juan, a Mexican driver gave a detailed 7minute lecture on the history of Las Vegas while driving us to the airport. I doubt if any professor of history at University of Nevada could have done better. Brilliant guy!

Ken, a Filipino cab driver gave tips on how to pick up hot girls from Vegas strip clubs. (Un)fortunately, we couldn’t put his theories to test before leaving town.

7. Customer Service At Its Best: From the airport, to the cabs, the shops, hotels, exhibitions and everywhere we went, all attendants appear to be well trained, well behaved pleasant people always flashing bright smiles which make it so easy for visitors to settle in and gladly part with their dollars.
They all do it so well. Makes you wonder if every resident of Vegas attends the same customer care classes.

Another amazing thing is that people were honest enough to always admit when they lack the skills or knowledge to solve your problems and are always quick to direct you to whoever can get your needs sorted. As a Lagosian, this was a pleasant surprise.

Lagos has a lot to learn as a city hoping to develop its tourism potential and as a mega city of the 21st century.

8. Nigerians Everywhere: Among the 160,000 (Yes, 160k and the city still functioned well) attendees at CES 2015, there were a couple of other Nigerians apart from my colleague and I.

I have to admit that I was usually on the lookout for the name tags of every black person I encountered at the hotel and exhibition floor. It was good seeing an “Onasanya”, “Adekunle” and a few others. Even bumped into 2 fellows chatting away in Hausa somewhere between the 4K Ultra HD Samsung TV booth and the MakerBot 3D printing machine at LVCC Central Plaza.

I ran into a Chike somewhere at the Venetian too, and countless other faces that looked so 'Nigerian' but one couldn't get to speak with.

Also met a few Africans here and there: Lourenco from Angola who runs his electronics business in 3 continents, Larios, a sweet-talking Madagascan tailor at Brunello Cucinelli who almost sold me a N400,000 suit (400k!), and the Ghanian Owusu with his pretty daughter who I ran into a few times on the LVCC exhibition floor.

I indeed enjoyed my first Vegas trip. Although I cannot categorically say that I loved Vegas more than I love Lagos (I really mean it), all I am sure of is that this isn’t going to be my last visit to the city. Hopefully next time I stay in a Vegas resort, I won’t be answering a hundred work-related emails and sleeping alone in those lovely hotel rooms.

... Femi Falodun is Team Lead at BHM Digital.


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