Reading Break Part 1: Vegas


You have probably heard a lot about spring break in North America and ideas of it filled with lots of college and university students flooding party stops in Miami and Cancun to blow off some steam. UBC has a similar week long holiday with the less exciting name of ‘Reading Week’. This implies that students will be spending this holiday in the library deep within their textbooks. It comes as no surprise that all of UBC’s libraries are empty over this week as we all have more interesting things to be doing with our time.

Most of my exchange friends used this holiday to go and see nearby areas they wouldn’t have the chance to see on short weekend trips. People headed east into Alberta and the Canadian Rockies, others South through the U.S on road trips into California.

I chose to also head south to catch some warm weather and forget about the frozen land of Canada and the frostbite it had left me with.

My destination?
Las Vegas, Nevada!


Main foyer in Bellagio Casino

Although I wasn’t there to get lucky and win big in the Casino’s, or have a Hangover-esque escapade. I was in search of desert sandstone just to the west of the city. This is Red Rocks National Park, where beige and ochre peaks baked in the desert sun and invite tourists and rock climbers alike to bask in its natural beauty.

Myself and seven others from the Varsity Outdoors Club flew down from Vancouver. A cheap and cheerful 3 hours flight. We were staying in the Downtown district of Vegas, a 5 min drive from the infamous Las Vegas Strip. My first impressions of Vegas were what you would expect but multiplied by 10. Upon departing our flight we were greeted in baggage pickup by hundreds of slot machines. After in arrivals, more slot machines. In the supermarket, car rental store, gas station, slot machines! The most surprising and depressing part is people use them in all of these places.

Anyway, after collecting our bags we hop on the shuttle to our hotel. A huge trumpeting woman driver turns round to the shuttle and announces ‘WELCOME TO SIN CITY FOLKS!’. And so the tone of Vegas was set.

We arrived at the casino which we would be staying at. Immediately after walking in the smell of cigarette smoke and alcohol hit you. The constant noise of bandit levers being pulled and coins being shoved into each machine filled the place. Not surprisingly though there was not the noise of coins dropping and people winning big.

As we were not there to gamble or party my perspective on the city was a depressing one. I don’t have a problem with people enjoying the entertainment and spectacle the city has to offer. Many of the tourists visiting will go with a set amount of money which they want to enjoy gambling with and if they lose it then so be it. These people will have a great time in Vegas.

Unfortunately, most of the people staying in our hotel were glued to these machines, often controlled by an addiction they have to gambling. One man sticks in my mind who I saw at 12.30am before bed and again at 7.00am when leaving the casino. He had been sitting on the same machine, just pushing coin after coin into the machine with no luck. Most of these people were ill of health or elderly. The casino is also so kind to ‘take care’ of these loyal customers by bringing them free or reduced price drinks whilst they gamble. This is great at clouding their judgement as to when to stop playing, and not helped by their inability to judge the time of day as none of the casinos have windows to see outside.

Although I was there for climbing, I had to experience a night out in Vegas!

I chose to end the week on a big night out, unfortunately none of the others were buzzing enough for a night out after a big day climbing. I thankfully had prepared and stocked the car with little bottles of wine to get my party started. This then lead to booking onto a club crawl. There was a quick changeover from my stinking climbing clothes that I had not washed in a week and into my party piece which also included many more tactically placed wine bottles in the shower and bedside cabinet.

So now I am in the taxi heading onto the Las Vegas strip, a little bit anxious that the night might not be that great since I was that sad guy on his own… I arrive (fashionably) late and ready to experience Vegas as it should be. It just so happens that the guy running the club crawl is from Glasgow and is buzzing that I am from Glasgow as well!

He takes my wrist, and stamps ‘open bar’. At this point I don’t know if I was excited or scared at the prospects of this very young night. I look up and he is pointing his finger at me smiling.



This magical stamp allowed me unlimited drinks to all the fantastic establishments that we would be inspecting that night. And so began a beautiful one night friendship of two Scotsmen in Vegas. The clubs, like everything else in Vegas were a spectacle with thousands of people in some of them.
After a great night out at around 6am I went for a wander to see some of the famous Casinos with a few others from the crawl.


Left to right: Bellagio, Ceasers, The Venetian, Paris


Left to right: Excalibur, New York New York, MGM

Every casino is the equivalent of a small town, except the only shops in these towns are Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Rolex. We decided to try our luck on some of the tables in some of the casinos, it was at this point that I realised I had lost my passport.

Oh dear.

No amount of free drinks that night would have kept me from sobering up at this awful realisation. All I could think was ‘You’re an idiot John, you have a flight in 12 hours, you are in Vegas, the sun is about to rise and you don’t have a passport to get back to Vancouver…’.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next 2 hours which was spent trying to remember where I went. In the end I found it handed in to a club which must of had at least 2000 people in it.

Looks like in the end I did get lucky in Vegas. Although my mum would disagree.

If I was to sum Vegas up in word word it would be ‘excess’. Everything about it is excessive (often to a sickening extent) but for the purposes of my one night out in sin city, excess was all I could have ever asked for!


‘I have no idea what I’m doing here’ – $5 gone in 20 seconds!







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