Mrs Smith and I were no strangers to the Las Vegas experience. We’d run off there with friends for lost weekends or on (slightly) more buttoned-up work junkets, but never together.
With an anniversary and new jobs to celebrate we thought this Sybarite-seekers’ retreat a fitting destination for a tête-à-tête. So with a naughty wink and gleam in our eyes, we made our way for that other US destination that never sleeps – and doesn’t want anyone else to either.
Arriving (as everyone should) in the dark of night, the desert town was lit up like a scoreboard with dazzling lights, neon displays and the roar of a distant crowd heralding Floyd Mayweather’s latest knockout punch. A few sleepless nights can be a good thing, right?
Before the non-stop action began though, we made our way to the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, our Eastern-inspired oasis in the CityCenter complex. It’s perfectly positioned just a casual poker chip toss away from the throbbing main strip stacked with casino-laden hotels.
Sin City we expected, but ascending the 23 glassy floors up to reception, we found that this noise-cancelling tower was more like Zen City. Dropping our bags, we quickly toured our Strip View room. Styled in a tranquil taupe with pops of cranberry red, and accents like mercifully thick light-dimming drapes and a serene Buddha statue – a tasteful nod to the hotel’s overall design theme. The sprawling king size bed was tempting, and I could go on and on about how lovely the room was (which is true) but this is Vegas, baby, and the Mandarin Bar awaited…
Gazing at the glittering cityscape below, we sipped cocktails and nibbled on bites from the small-plates menu. Seared tuna tataki and lightly fried calamari were just the late-night fuel we needed. Strolling through he din of the nightclub beats we couldn’t resist a quick stop at the Blackjack table, before calling it a night. Well, beyond of the confines of our spacious room, anyway…
We eased into the next day at the hotel’s sleek (without being stuffy) Mozen Bistro with an East-meets-West menu and friendly, attentive service. A three-piece band played Jazz standards and the mimosas flowed a bit too easily – a very nice way to start a Sunday.
Sated we went in search for entertainment suggestions from the concierge. Doug, it turns out, was THE man to see about access to the hottest shows in town. Elton John, David Copperfield – this magic man could even swing VIP access to impossible-to-score Peep Show.
We decided to weigh our options over yet another meal. Las Vegas has clearly become the city which all top chefs and restaurateurs consider Mecca. And several top-notch celebrity-chef helmed restaurants were in easy stolling distance. Including the hotel's own Twist, where award-winning Paris chef Pierre Gagnaire whimsically reinvents French cuisine, offering deconstructed, semi-molecular dishes with high-rolling Vegas views.
There is the Las Vegas we expected. The one packed with fine dining at every turn, too many drinks, flashy showgirls, ka-ching casinos and star-studded performances by magicians and music legends. And yes, it’s really as fantastic as you’d imagine.
But then there was the Las Vegas we never thought possible. The soothing and serene side of this hedonist’s playground that existed in the hotel’s Spa and Wellness centre.
Stepping off the elevator into the spa reception area, a sublime calm gently washed over us as we took in the minimalist surroundings meant to evoke retro Shanghai. The faint echo of lutes and dulcimers wafted through the room, and we may as well have been floating in a tranquil lagoon as lotus flowers drifted past. Insider tip: definitely leave time before or after your appointments to experience the co-ed hammam, vitality pool, saunas and the relaxation lounges with sparkling city views.
Choosing the Qi Balancing Journey in one of the private couples suites, we were sent on a four-hour journey of peace and relaxation. Expert therapists guided us through a gently paced, but thoroughly satisfying, foot cleanse, body wrap, acupressure head massage and full body massage.
Waking from my slumber, I was greeted by a smiling and blissed out Mrs Smith. Reluctanly wrapping ourselves back into our robes, it was clear we had taken things down a notch in all the right ways.
The only wrinkle in our now baby-smooth skin was a mix-up in our generous late checkout, which resulted in an error with our room key cards. Waiting outside of our room, robes tightly hugging our bodies, the gambling-addled guests eyed us (with envy, we think) as they hustled by.
Making the best of this minor interruption to an otherwise perfect weekend, might have been a problem a few days ago when still in our harried-work-and-home mode. But in our newly chilled-out state, as if on cue, we broke into a duet and a fit of laughter… Viva Las Vegas! Viva, viva Las Vegas...