setting, igniting the cliffs vibrant red, dark mulberry and eventually deep purple before finally fading to black.
It’s eerie out here at night, and your mind wanders to the unlucky souls who met a grisly end in this desert – some accidental, most not.
The desert solved a lot of problems for the early Vegas mob.
And then it appears, in the distance at first, shimmering like the lights on shore from a passing boat.
But they grow brighter as you approach, eventually exploding out of the desert darkness.
It feels alien in the natural black, like a thick blanket has been thrown over the world, but the sun’s shining out of one hole over Vegas.
And then you’re there, shivering from the culture shock of empty-road darkness to peak-hour gridlock (it’s always peak-hour on Las Vegas Boulevard). Imagine a world plunged into absolute darkness because every single light on Earth had been stolen and lit-up in a single, 352sq km city.
Vegas emits fluorescence in the same way that a Chinese city emits smog.
It’s impossible to determine where it begins and ends. It’s just there – endless and all-encompassing.
You’ll soon realise Vegas is nothing like it appears in the movies.
In fact, it’s completely different (you didn’t see quite so many 300kg Americans fighting over jumbo cocktails in Oceans 13), but not in a disappointing way. Qantas flies to Los Angeles from Sydney and Melbourne, with connection from Adelaide. See qantas.com.au
Hire-car companies abound at LAX. See dollarental.com
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is in the middle of the famed ‘‘strip’’. See cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Try venturing off the strip to somewhere a little more local. Firefly Tapas is not far from the strip; See fireflylv.com
More: See visitlasvegas.com.au
It’s a grand, gaudy, wonderfully offensive city completely at home with what it’s become.
Eventually, though, you’ll find your way to your hotel – in our case, it was the Cosmopolitan, the newest hotel on the famed Strip complete with moviestar suites that overlook the Bellagio Fountains – and step out of your car.
At this stage, a fresh wave of tourists will also arrive, stepping out of their post-airport taxis looking tired and uninspired, but grateful their holiday can finally begin.
But you’ll know better. Yours began several hundred kilometres ago.
Three rules. Follow them. The writer was a guest of the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
CASINO CITY: The glittering view of Las Vegas from the Cosmopolitan Hotel.