The light in the top of the Luxor pyramid (Las Vegas version) is, according to Tim the bus driver, the brightest light on Planet Earth. At 32 million candlepower, it is so bright that when the Space Shuttle passed through its beam, the light passing through their window was bright enough for them to read the newspaper. And spooky but true, in late summer, the light looks milky because it's surrounded by a huge swirling cloud of tens of thousands of moths. And what kind of moths are these, irresistibly drawn to the pyramid's light? The Sphinx moth.
There is a 1000-foot-high rollercoaster ride here that is so high that somebody at the top phoning a friend on the ground may find that the rain that is falling at 1000 feet is evaporating before it reaches their friend.
These things are strange, but is probably some of the least bizarre things about Las Vegas. Last night I went toured the Strip with a friend - I saw volcanoes erupting, ships sinking, fountains dancing, and lions prowling - just your average Monday night in Las Vegas.
The hotel where we had dinner was the MGM, the largest hotel in the world, with 5034 rooms. 10,000 people work there. I now see why the Green Valley Ranch, with a mere 500 rooms, is regarded as small fry.
And here's another strange thing about Las Vegas - you would have thought that in a city with a) such a huge power consumption, and b) so much sunshine, there would be solar panels everywhere. But I haven't seen any yet.
If New York (last week) is the gateway to America, where you can be whoever you want to be....
then Las Vegas (now) is larger than life, where cash is king...
and Los Angeles (next week) is where dreams come true in the movies... but in real life?
The average American consumes 3,774 calories a day, almost double the 1,960 calories consumed by the average man or woman in India. 76% of American men and 73% of American women are overweight, compared with 17% of Indian men and 15% of Indian women. But America is not the fattest nation. Read on....
There is a fascinating article in August's Zest magazine, giving all kinds of facts and figures about the state of the nations when it comes to food, drink, weight and health. Here are a load of fascinating facts about our global eating habits...
Amongst the Europeans, the French are relatively lean, with only 46% of men and 35% of women being overweight. But here's the trade-off - 35% of women aged 16-30 smoke.
It takes a French person 22 minutes to eat a McDonald's burger, while an American chomps through a larger-size burger in a mere 14 minutes. Presumably the French could eat faster if they didn't keep having to stop to drag on a cigarette.
Despite being the second thinnest nation surveyed (after India), with just 18% of women being overweight, Japanese women want to lose an average of 11lb 8oz. Yet Canadian women, 57% of whom are overweight, are relatively at ease with their size - 69% saying they are happy with their weight, although statistically this must include 12% who shouldn't be. Similarly, 65% of Italian women think they are the perfect weight, even though 38% of them are officially a bit tubby.
Maybe this has something to do with exercise helping to promote a better body self-image. 62% of Italians exercise, whereas only 15% of Japanese women do. Brazilian women, 71% of whom take regular exercise, are the nationality most likely to describe themselves as beautiful.
Brits consume an average 3.412 calories a day - 66% of our menfolk are overweight, 62% of our women. We have bigger waists than our American counterparts - our average vital statistics are 39-34-41, while they are 41-34-43.
There are more overweight Australians that Brits (72% of men and 63% of women), despite them clocking up an average 8,873 steps every day - impressively close to the recommended 10,000. The average American manages a measly 5,210 steps a day.
Other things you probably didn't know:
- the average German eats 100kg of meat a year, equating to about 4.5lb a week.
- Swedish women have the lowest alcohol consumption in the world, with only 1% drinking every day
- The average Russian man, by contrast, consumes ¼ litre of vodka a day
- The average Mexican consumes 120kg of tortilla and 7.5kg of chilli peppers every year
So, you may be wondering, who ARE the fattest people on earth?
You may recall that before he went on a diet, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga made the Guinness World Records book for weighty monarchs, weighing in at 462lb (or 33 stone, or 210 kg). He now weighs in at a (relatively) svelte 286lb. Apparently 97% of Tongans (and seemingly a similar proportion of former ocean-rowers) carry a gene that makes them prone to weight gain.
So the Tongans are officially the world's heaviest nation. 90% of their men are overweight, and 91% of their women. The average dimensions of Mr Tonga are 5ft 7in tall, 14st 3lb in weight. Mrs Tonga is 5ft 4in tall, and weights in at 14st 9lb.
Given my current sensitivity about my weight (30lb gained in 4 months, since my rather skinny arrival in Antigua) I think I've just found the perfect destination for my next holiday...
I've spent a lot of time in the US, but have never been to Las Vegas before. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Las Vegas there was no doubting where I was. Less than 10 yards from the arrival gate was a huge bank of gaming machines (see above). I could just picture game-hungry passengers staggering off the plane and over to the one-armed bandits, like thirst-crazed desert travellers to an oasis.
I'd flown in from New York, leaving the apartment early this morning. Coming from a small island, it's easy to underestimate the size of the US. It's very, very big. Today I crossed 3 time zones, in around 5 hours. On the Atlantic, I crossed 4 time zones, in around 3½ months. At human-powered speed, it would have taken me months rather than hours to get here.
And the distance is not purely geographical. New York reminds me of a city in the developing world - it's all a higgledy-piggledy and grotty and gritty and, well, REAL. I love it. It seems exciting and edgy and full of possibility.
By contrast Las Vegas, the little I've seen of it so far, seems manufactured and unreal, a plastic cut-out of a place. From my hotel window I can see distant dusty mountains, nearby palm trees and enormous parking lots. In the air-conditioned comfort of my room, the scorched landscape out there seems like stage scenery, almost as if it's painted onto my window. And looking through Las Vegas Life, the magazine on my coffee table, all the people seem unreal too - airbrushed and immaculate and glossy.
I'm staying at the Green Valley Ranch, a 'small' hotel, according to the shuttle bus driver - a mere 500 rooms. I'd got talking with the woman next to me on the flight, during the game of guess-the-weight-of-the-plane, first prize being VIP tickets to see Blue Man Group at the Venetian (I didn't win - I never win anything, so best I don't gamble while I'm here). She'd told me she was 'envious' of me for staying at the Green Valley Ranch, and it is rather gorgeous. My room here is larger than the entire SoHo apartment I was staying in last night.
I'm here courtesy of The Network - the amazing and kind assortment of people whose lives have somehow touched on mine at some stage, and who do what they can to help me in my mission to do daft things to make everybody else happy to Not Be Me. Without The Network the Green Valley Ranch would be way out of my price range.
I arrived here feeling like something of a Cinderella, but without the fairy godmother to conjure up the appropriate outfit for the occasion. In this glamorous, manicured city, I felt like an interloper. I skulked self-consciously up to the reception desk in my scruffy jeans (decent label, but now rather old) and vest (bought for about $3 in Peru), and shyly suggested that I might have a reservation. The impeccably polite staff refrained from sneering, and issued me with my room key.
It was only when I got to my room and was checking out the fragrant goodies in the enormous bathroom, that I looked in the mirror and realised to my horror that not only was I scruffy, but in my haste to get dressed, get ready and get packed this morning... I'd put my $3 vest on inside out.
view from my window
Just thought it fair to warn you - I am going to start blogging more often. I am trying to find an easy and user-friendly way for you to filter the updates, e.g. so if I categorise them into travel, technology, exercise and nutrition, etc, you can choose which category or categories you would like to receive alerts for.
But I haven't yet found a solution that a) works and b) is easy for you to implement. I am on the case, and will get back to you as soon as I can.
In the meantime, if there is a technical guru out there who knows all about RSS, BlogSearch, or suchlike, please get in touch and enlighten me.