Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mandalay Bay Malaise

The beach side casino is seen here, with blue windows
Dr Desert Flower and I joined our friends Tim and Jill in Vegas last weekend to help celebrate their wedding anniversary.  We'd gotten deals in the mail for the Wynn (where there are signs at the entrance that say "for your safety, strollers are not allowed") but Tim & Jill had already booked Mandalay Bay, partially based upon DDF's praise of what a nice place Mandalay Bay was when we stayed there for one night last year for one of her co-worker's weddings.  The pool looked nice, the rooms and service were nice, the restaurant selection was extensive... why not?  

So we show up on Friday afternoon, and Mandalay Bay is extremely busy.  Maybe not 100% with no vacancies, but very very busy, with large families, lots of little kids ("little kids" = couples with toddlers, often twins, in strollers, ages 5 and younger mostly).  We looked around, gambled some, lost mostly, and drank comp'ed alcohol (play MAX credits on the 25 cent machines, and the servers tend to come by to see if you need a drink more often).  Everyone retired early, and slept it off, Tim & Jill being jet lagged from their transcontinental trip.

Saturday was to be BEACH DAY!  But..  we got started after 11am, and by then, there were no free beach chairs available at the massive wave pool, the 2 auxiliary pools, the two hot tubs (it was over 100F, so "Hot Tub" was not a good idea anyways), the lazy river, or the closed and barricaded off "south pool".  Sure, you COULD pay $20 a female, and $50 a male, to get into the Moorae Beach Club, a top-optional or "toptional" adults only area, but there too, were no more free chairs.  They DID have $100 cushioned beach chair, and accompanying $100 umbrellas...  so a "trip to the pool" would have cost us $270 per couple.  I found that insulting, and we opted for starting early on Sunday morning instead, and walked around the Las Vegas strip visiting various casinos Saturday.

Saturday night, we had a nice dinner together at the Aureola restaurant inside Mandalay Bay, and it was fine.  Sure, I DID find the one Bordeaux on their wine list that was called a "Fronsac St-Emilion" on the fancy iPad driven wine list.  [For those of you not familiar with Bordeaux regions, calling something a Fronsac St-Emillion is like saying you're from Welsh Scotland.  Fronsac and St-Emilion are two distinct regions, separated by the town of Libourne, and the Pomerol region.  I know this, because I have the map mounted on my office wall, just a few feet to the side of my computer monitor, and I've memorized the map over the last 4 years, and I have drank bottles of Fronsac and St-Emilion, and they have distinctive, different tastes].  But dinner was delicious, service was fine, and not too expensive... and the Sommilier admitted the mistake, and said they'd update their wine list.

Sunday morning came, and Tim and I staked out the free beach chairs, wave pool adjacent, saving $270 a couple, and slathered up with SPF50 sun block.  After an hour or so, Tim heard the call of the video poker machine, and headed to the beach side casino.  I stayed beach side, and held the chairs for the eventual arrival of the wives after their morning at the spa.  The longer I stayed, the more uncomfortable it got.

I chose the word "Malaise" for the title, mainly for the wiki definition:
Malaise (pronounced /məˈleɪz/, mal-aze) is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness, of being "out of sorts", often the first indication of an infection or other disease. Malaise is often defined in medicinal research as a "general feeling of being unwell".  

The chairs were jammed tightly together - so tight you could not get through the rows of 30 to 40 chairs each.  The sand was heated by the unrelenting desert sun to greater than 125F, since my feet can handle 115 to 120F without too much discomfort, and I couldn't handle walking on the sand to get to the pool, 50 feet away - flip flops required.  While the cramped space and the hot sand were not welcoming, the piped in music - which started calmly in the morning with a subtle eclectic mix - turned into an oppressive & intrusive cacophony of pool-wide sound competing with all 8 of the "bungalows" that ringed the perimeter of the free pool chairs (and which cost between $500 and $3000 a day per bungalow), AND the music carrying over from the Moorae Beach Club, 15 feet above and 50 feet behind.  I've been in train stations at peak times that have been less crowded and not as sonically chaotic, and that includes Garde de Norde in Paris, Grand Central in NYC, and Central Station in Amsterdam.  The sound began to berate one's senses. The burning sad gave you a feeling of being stranded.  The crowded & cramped chair arrangements combined with the searching families looking for empty seats made me feel like a ship wreck survivor floating in the midst of circling sharks. What fun!

Then, to make a Matrix / Terminator "hunter killer" reference, there was the near constant circling of helicopters.  Mandalay Bay Las Vegas is located near to BOTH the commercial heliport at the McCarran airport, AND the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter wing, which fly nearly continual sorties.  The commercial operators are taking people to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, and we were lucky enough to stay at Mandalay during a National Guard training weekend when the OH-58A Kiowas were repeatedly taking off and landing, early in the morning, Saturday and Sunday. 

But there's a wave pool! - you might say?  Sure, there was a wave pool, and for anyone who's never been to ....  say...  the ocean, the 2 foot high swells that the wave pool generated were unspectacular.  the gulf of Mexico during calm winds gets bigger waves sometimes, and all of South Carolina and the South end of Lake Michigan gets larger waves.   Lots of the small children loved the Mandalay Bay pool, splashing merrily about, but for me, it was the antithesis of a fun beach.

And when I googled "Mandalay Burma" (as I KNEW there was a city called 'Mandalay' SOMEWHERE in SE Asia, unlike most Americans) I found that the land locked city of Mandalay is smack dab in the middle of tropical Myanmar.  It has no "Bay", and the only "Beach" is along a heavily commercial Ayeyarwady river that runs close to the Sagaing Fault where the tectonic plates of India and Sunda meet - so it gets earthquakes too!

I highly doubt the marketing geniuses at MGM (MGM group owns & operates Mandalay Bay) figured anyone would associate the beachless, land locked, oppressive totalitarian regime governed, tropical city of Mandalay that is the economic hub of Upper Burma to be the inspiration for their sizzling sand, tiny-waved, crowded chaired, helicopter buzzed, oppressively & blaringly loud Mandalay Bay hotel pool.  "Paradise" ?  Well... maybe if your idea of "Paradise" is hellish, perhaps.  If you've got little kids, you should not visit Vegas.  It's not a city for little children.  But if you do take your little children to Vegas, and their feet are immune to hot sand, and you get up early each morning, and you've never been to the ocean, and you don't enjoy cool alcoholic beverages on the beach (they'll sell you some for outrageous prices, but you can't bring your own into the pool area), then Mandalay Bay is the place for you and your youngins.  I won't be at Mandalay Bay again.


  1. Hmm. And here I thought I'd had a nice weekend. Boy do I feel stupid.

  2. Jill dear, it WAS a nice weekend... but the beach, I cannot recommend. Your and Tim's company was wonderful. Learning how to play video poker was fun, and not inordinately expensive. DDF getting sick twice... not so much fun... but hey, it was Vegas, and someone (apparently) always has to get sick. Last time it was primarily my turn, this time, her turn.

    Please do not feel stupid.

  3. ahhh.. DDF JUST got home at 9:26pm.. time for me to log off!


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