Avicii in Tel Aviv

The night started off drinking on the beach with A TON of students from Haifa. I’d have to say about 30 of us made the trip down to Tel Aviv for this show, and having so many friends there was amazing. A friend of mine, Mason, who I had met 2 years earlier in Jerusalem was also in Tel Aviv with his roommate from UVA and we were able to meet up, grab dinner, and go to the concert together. I hadn’t seen him since we left Jerusalem 2 summers ago, so this was a nice little reunion.

We got to the concert around midnight and established ourselves in the middle of the crowd almost immediately. Avicii didn’t even come on stage until roughly 2am, but the DJ that was playing before him was great. When Avicii took the stage, the place went nuts. His set was over 3 hours long, and the show ended at 5:30am. When we left the sun was rising. We raged our faces off for over 5 hours. It was so much fun, it seemed to have flown by. I looked forward to this show for over a month, and like the blink of an eye it was over! It was the last big event that me and my friends were able to all go to outside of Haifa before our week of finals and our respective departures back to America/Europe. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the semester.

8 days and counting…

Wine and Cheese Festivals Are Great

I want to start this post off by saying that I have never felt more entitled and pretentious than I did at the wine and cheese tasting in Haifa last week. It seemed like kind of a spur of the moment decision, but a lot of us from the International School decided to check it out. It turned out being the most fun I’ve had in Haifa so far.

It was 45 shekels to get in, which is roughly $13. We were provided with a wine glass and wrist band and let loose to go drink whatever wine we wanted. I’m no wine connoisseur, but these were some nice wines. Wineries from all over the country were represented at this event, and I surprisingly was able to pick out wines that I liked and didn’t like. The cheese was wonderful as well. There was gourmet cheese of almost every variety, and we sampled all that was offered.

I’m not going to lie, I did have the slight intention of sampling these wines to get drunk for the night, but when I looked around at some of the adults that were there, they were pretty wasted too! I didn’t feel as bad after that. And it’s not like we were crazy binge drinking. After about an hour of sampling wines it kind of dawned on me that I was slightly drunk. I was having such a good time trying all the different cabernets, pinot grigio’s, sangrias, etc, that I didn’t even think about my level of sobriety. We spent about 4 hours there hanging out and drinking wine and eating cheese (occasionally chocolate too). I never in a million years thought a wine tasting event could have been so much fun. Everyone that went really enjoyed themselves, and I kind of look forward to the next wine tasting i’m able to go to. Although I already know it won’t be the same as the one last week since half the fun was the group I was with.

I surprisingly only have one week left in Israel, and despite finals and papers I’m trying to make the best of it! Lord knows I’m going to miss everything about it once I’m gone.

Weekend at the Dead Sea, Masada, and Ein Gedi!

One thing that every tourist or foreigner must do in Israel is hit up the Dead Sea for some mud and floating. After all, it is the lowest place on Earth at 423 meters/1,338 feet below sea level! *Fun fact: in Hebrew the Dead Sea actually translates to The Sea of Salt (ים המלח). The term “Dead Sea” was a Roman saying that just so happened to stick.* It took me almost 4 months to get there, but last weekend I finally did! This trip was unlike any other trip I had taken around the country though, because WE RENTED A CAR!!! Guess who got to drive…I’ll give you a hint…it was ME! I love, I mean REALLY love driving. Going without it for this long has been rough. I know I go to school in Madison without a car, but every now and again I find ways to snag one from my friend’s cars to go grocery shopping off campus or whatever. I can’t do that in Israel, but finally I got to drive and it was great!

For those that don’t know, Israelis drive like maniacs. Speed limits and lane separations are considered suggestions that most people ignore. Using your brights to flash at people to signal to move happens as they approach your car from behind, not after about a minute like we see in the states. A lot of my friends didn’t want to deal with that nonsense, but I was all about it. So we drove down to the Dead Sea, and it was great!

Originally I was only planning on being with Steph, Conor, Meghan, and Julia – we all rented the car together. But it turned out that 8 others: Benny, James, Brett, Rachel, Emily, Brittany, Aaron, and Ariel also were going down there too! So we met up with them and the 13 of us hung out the entire time. The 8 of them got down to the Dead Sea earlier than we did, so they had already finished their mud and swimming before us. However once the rest of us got there, we wasted no time and got body deep in mud asap!

And after we got all muddy, we of course had to rinse off!

I could only handle the salty water for so long. After we got out, we rinsed ourselves off and then set up camp for the night. There were other people and families in the area as well, but we just kept to ourselves and made a little circle of sleeping bags with all of our stuff scattered around them.

Little did we know, we’d be attempting to sleep through massive amounts of wind. Wind + desert = sand EVERYWHERE! I woke up and my face was full of sand. It was in my eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and hair. It was great (sarcasm).

We got up DARK and early, considering it’s still dark at 4am. We packed up all our stuff and drove over to Mt. Masada to hike up the snake path and see the sunrise! We got to the top of the mountain around 5:30am, but could not see the sunrise until about an hour later because it was a very cloudy morning. It was still beautiful though, and the cool air made it not so unbearable. We hung up there for quite awhile because there is much to see other than just the sunrise. Here me and Conor were standing along the edge when Rachel snapped a photo!

From there we hit up an Aroma cafe close by for some breakfast, since we were all in desperate need of some food and coffee since our day had started at 4am. After that, we went to Ein Gedi and hung out in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and National Park for a few hours! I had never been there before, and it was really nice to walk around there. There were also some pretty sweet waterfalls and natural springs that we were able to swim in. That was super refreshing, because it was soooooo hot down in the Negev.

I don’t have any pictures in the water or with the waterfalls, but here is Aaron and I right after we got out of the water!

That was my weekend down south in the Negev! It was a ton of fun and I’m really glad I found time to go to the Dead Sea and Masada. I hope you enjoyed reading about it!!

Concerts in Israel

I love music. It’s just that plain and simple. I probably listen to music for at least 3 or 4 hours a day, and without it I’d be pretty lost in life. One thing I didn’t once think about before coming to Israel would be the opportunity to go to concerts. Luckily however, I’ve been to 4 and there are still more to come!

First was Infected Mushroom, an Israeli band known around the world. They have a very unique style, one unlike any other band I know that I can only describe as psychedelic-trance with some rock thrown in. They have had a plethora of shows during my semester here, probably about 8 or so, and I’ve seen them twice! The first time was on Purim – March 8th – in Tel Aviv. Another Israeli rock band, Machina, opened for Infected and they were fantastic as well! The entire show in general was outstanding. Aside from Machina’s hour and a half set, Infected had 3 sets – one with the entire band, a DJ set, and another one with the full band. The 3rd set started around 3:30am and that’s when I had to tap out. I was beat from the previous 5 hours of raging. Plus the night before I had been at the largest club in Israel, Ultrasound, until about the same hour. It was a pretty intense weekend all around. Gotta love Purim celebrations.

The next show was a little less exhilarating but still really great and a lot of fun. I took a bus down to Jerusalem on a Monday afternoon mid-April to meet up with my friend and former counselor from Muss, Mayan, who lives in Emek Refa’im (the German Colony in Jerusalem). She had informed me of a show featuring cover bands of John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band, who are two bands I very much enjoy. We went to a small club called “The Yellow Submarine”, in Hebrew צוללת צהובה, to see them and both cover bands were great. In about 2 songs I was able to hear the Israeli accent in their voices, but only slightly. Overall they were actually the best cover bands I’ve ever seen. The show ended around 1am, and I made it back to Haifa for Hebrew class at 10:15am the next morning…I didn’t sleep much that night, but it was well worth it!

The third show I saw was the Haifa Student Day festival concert on May 10th that was free for all students in the student union, or אגודת סטודנטים (I’m in the union!). A bunch of us got down there and stayed for almost the entire set of Shlomo Artzi, a pretty famous Israeli rock singer. I didn’t know any of his songs, and could only pick out a few words here and there, but I was surrounded by Israelis who did know his stuff and it made the experience great. Not to mention I was with pretty awesome people as well. The coolest part of the show though, was when Shlomo picked some random girl out from the crowd to come up and dance on stage. He gave her the mic to help him sing part of the song, and she turned out to be an amazing singer. She was up belting out the song like it was her own, and Shlomo was almost standing there in pure amazement.

Just last Wednesday, May 17th, was the most recent concert I’ve seen. This time, it was the Technion’s Student Day concert. The Technion is another university in Haifa that is primarily known for its engineering, technology, and medical studies. Only those in the top of their fields go to the Technion to study. It’s a great school. But back to the concert! They hosted Infected Mushroom, among many other bands, last Wednesday. I had missed a bunch of Infected’s other shows in Israel since Purim, but I could not miss them playing in my own city! I went with a ton of my friends for their set – from about 11pm-1am. It was epic. They did not disappoint, yet again. Unfortunately I had Hebrew at 10:15am the next morning, so I left at the end of their set so I wouldn’t miss Hebrew (again). I don’t think I’ll get a chance to see Infected again before the end of my time here, but they tour in the US all the time, and I won’t miss their next show in Madison or Milwaukee.

LASTLY is the show that I’m very eagerly waiting for. AVICII teased all of Israel in February when he had planned a show in Tel Aviv but got sick and canceled (Afrojack came instead but let’s be real, he doesn’t compare to Mr. Bergling). So the Swedish wonder planned a new show for May 31st, and I got myself a ticket!!!!! I CAN’T FREAKIN WAIT! It is going to be unreal to see him at a real club (sorry Segredo, but you’re 500 person capacity doesn’t cut it). It will probably be my last night out in Tel Aviv before I go home a week and a half later (June 10th), so my friends and I are excited for our last hoorah together, raging our faces off.

Overall my musical experiences this semester have been pretty damn good. I can only hope my luck continues over the summer! Hopefully I won’t get punched in the face at Summerfest this year ;) (assuming I go, that is.)

Spring Break post 4.2: Koh Phi Phi – My 21st and Thai New Year

So my 21st birthday was awesome. The party after the tsunami nonsense was epic (the night of April 11th-12th), and the following night was the beginning of Thai New Years so the party that night was even better. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know, but for some reason Thai’s throw water and white paint on EVERYONE when they celebrate their new year. The night of the 12th-13th was a wet one, let me tell you. Water guns were everywhere, it was raining, and people were throwing buckets of water on anyone they saw. We drank, we danced, and we threw water. Everyone was fair game. It didn’t stop after that night either. On Koh Phi Phi the water throwing lasts about 3-4 days every year (other places in Thailand have longer celebrations – it’s 7 days long in Bangkok). Luckily for us the water reserves on the island ran out at night on the 13th, so we were able to remain somewhat dry on the 14th when we left the island. Trust me, we lucked out BIG TIME. People that arrived on the 13th with all their bags and suitcases got absolutely soaked. It wasn’t so much the Thai’s that got them, although some did. It was mostly the other tourists who were ruthless and they held no mercy:

“Oh, you don’t want to get wet right now you say? Well that sucks for you, happy new year and welcome to Koh Phi Phi!!” *SPLASH*

I didn’t take my camera out for obvious reason, but luckily Meghan’s camera is waterproof so she had it with her and took some pictures.

I didn’t want to buy a gun, but I had a water bottle and would fill it up and dump it on whoever would go after me first. Sometimes when I had no water left I’d pretend to dump it on people and it would generate a flinch from that person. For example, this adorable Thai boy:

After roaming around the village for about 2 hours throwing water on everyone in sight, Meghan, Jon, Annie and I went out on a snorkeling, cliff jumping, and “see what else is around Koh Phi Phi” tour. It cost about $20 bucks. A 5 hour trip WITH lunch (pad thai..it was so good) like this anywhere else would cost $60+ a person, but not in Thailand! Here is a picture of the water and some of Koh Phi Phi from our long tail boat.

We saw incredible fish. They were more colorful and brighter than I could have ever imagined. It was purely magnificent. I wish I could have gotten some pictures. Oh ya and we also swam with sharks and saw a huge sea turtle. So that was sweet. Good thing none of us were bleeding, though…

When we got to the cliff that we were going to jump off of, I looked at it and thought “Oh that’s not going to be so bad, I wish it were higher up.” Ya, sure Josh. Whatever you say. It was about 16 meters high! That might not seem like so much, but when you’re standing up over the ledge it’s quite terrifying. First is a picture of me and Meghan jumping, and second is me and Annie in the water below with Meghan up top hanging out. That boat is what took us around during the tour!

After we were done jumping, they took us around to a few more places. Once the sun began to set, we made our way back to the island. I took this picture, and it doesn’t even look real. But it is, I promise.

The next day (April 14th) we left Koh Phi Phi and took a ferry to Phuket, where we caught a flight back to Bangkok later that evening. We got to the Swiss Park Hotel around midnight. 5 short hours later at 5am we were off to the airport. We got on a plane back to Ahu Dhabi and then to Amman. After we landed in Amman, we took our booked transport from the airport to the border, hopped on the bus to cross into Israel, got through security and made our way back to Haifa in a שירות, or large taxi. Our day began at 5am in Bangkok and ended at 10pm in Haifa – the time differences is 4 hours. 21 hours of traveling is not easy.

That was my trip in a nutshell! I hope you enjoyed reading about it. I promise it was way better than I made it sound. Lastly, I’ll conclude with this:

GO to Thailand! It’s everyone’s dream to go, whether they know it or not. See you there ;)

Spring Break post 4.1: Koh Phi Phi – the 10cm Wave

We got to Koh Phi Phi, our last destination, around 1:30-2pm on April 11th. Meghan, Eva and myself stayed at the October Guest House, a youth hostel about 2 minutes away from the beach. The other six stayed at another place that was about half way up the mountain on the island, and were not exactly close to the beach (that being said, the island is very small so it was all relative). The three of us in the Guest House wanted to hit up the beach almost immediately, so we put on our suits, snagged our towels and books, and headed over there. The other six were either still hungover from the night before, hungry, tired, or some combination of all 3 and didn’t come with us. We got to the beach, swam in the water, read and just hung out in the sun until about 3:30-4pm…that is when things got real.

SIRENS EVERYWHERE! *The second time the three of us had heard them this trip.* I look up and people start running out of the water, off the beach, and from the restaurants. I look at Meghan and Eva for some answers and they have the same confused look on their faces as I do. After about 1 minute of not really moving anywhere yet still watching the chaos, the sirens stopped announcing whatever they were saying in Thai, and it turned to English:

“There has been a large earthquake in the sea. A tsunami is expected. Evacuated the beach immediately.”

………

…………..are you kidding me?

In that moment (as well as for about the next 20 minutes), I was absolutely terrified. I could not believe what I had just heard. It took me about 30 seconds to collect myself, but once I did I looked at Meghan and Eva again and we just grabbed our stuff simultaneously and started running. Keep in mind, this island was completely destroyed in 2004 when the last tsunami rocked South East Asia. Everything was wiped out and about 35,000 people died. We didn’t know when the earthquake had occurred, and we didn’t know when this wave was going to hit. What we DID know was that we were on the beach and needed to get off of it and ascend the mountain asap. So we ran.

We quickly got to our hostel, made sure we had our passports and cameras and everything worth saving, and then ran up the mountain as fast as we could. We tried to call the others, but the phone lines were down for almost 2 hours and we could not reach them. We got to the top of the mountain still with no clue where Jeff, Bekah, Freddie, Jon, Annie, or Mitch were, and we did not get through to them until about 6:30pm. When we did finally talk to them, they told us they slept through the sirens and didn’t know there was a tsunami warning until they tried to go down to beach level to get some food! Crazy stuff. They spent their tsunami warning in an air conditioned room half way up the mountain while watching the news, while Meghan, Eva and myself were up on top of the mountain simply waiting.

To make a long story short, there was no devastating wave that hit the island. The wave that “hit” the island was about 10cm high, which is clearly way less of what was expected, however still technically a tsunami. (I SURVIVED A TSUNAMI!!! Bet you can’t say that). When the sirens went off, they were not sure how the tectonic plates had shifted. Luckily for everyone in South East Asia, it was not in such a way that would cause a massive wave of destruction.

If anything positive came out of this experience, it is that the path we took up the mountain led us to an amazing viewpoint on the island. We were able to watch the sunset up there, being about 186 meters above sea level, and got some amazing photos. The first picture is pretty much the entire island, and the second is of the sun setting.

Gorgeous, right?

We were up there until about 9pm. Two guys that we met, one from New Zealand and the other from Germany, had internet on their phones and were checking the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center every 10 minutes or so. Here is a link to a BBC article about this specific earthquake: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17675399

When we saw that they dismissed the tsunami warning we headed down the mountain to meet up with the others and get some food. Within about an hour, everything was open again and people were ready to party. Everyone was thrilled that there was no tsunami, and the bars were raging all night. The best part about the whole situation was that I was turning 21 at midnight and it was still Jon’s 21st birthday all day. What a 21st birthday to remember, for both of us.

Spring Break post 3: Railay

Railay was my ‘least favorite’ place in Thailand. I say least favorite but what I really mean is, it was absolutely amazing although I don’t feel the need to go back there during my next trip to Thailand (whenever that is). It’s on mainland Thailand, but it can’t be reached by car because it is surrounded by dense jungle and cliffs. We got there by long tail boats, which you can see in the picture below. We are walking from the water with our bags to shore.

There wasn’t much to do there, but the beaches were amazing as always and we spent our time relaxing most days. Our first day there, I was lucky enough to step on a sea spine and that little bastard stabbed one of my toes. It hurt a lot at first, but after about an hour or two I didn’t feel it much anymore. My wonderful friends however made sure to capture the moment just minutes after the spine went into my toe.

Our last night turned into Jon’s 21st birthday (midnight of April 11th), so we hit the bars pretty hard. A common theme we found in Thailand was body paint, which we took pleasure in using. However we also were allowed to paint the floor of the bar, so we did…

The next morning (still April 11th), we were off to Koh Phi Phi. Oh what was soon to come…

Spring Break post 2: Koh Samui and Koh Phangan

Our overnight bus drove down coast of Thailand from Bangkok to the province of Surat Thani, and from there we would take a ferry to our first island, Koh Samui. To give you a visual, here’s a map of our point A to point B

Here is a picture from our ferry ride…pretty awesome, ya?

As soon as we got checked in, we made sure to get busy. I walked across the street and rented a moped. We rode those things all over that island when we wanted to venture out and see all that Koh Samui had to offer. My first destination was the Na Muang Waterfall, roughly 14 kilometers away from the hotel. Annie, Jon, Meghan, Eva, and myself got there, hiked up to the waterfall, and took in the view.

Some other notable stops we made were Big Buddha (picture below) and Grandma and Grandpa rocks. The search for the rocks was much harder than it should have been, but we got there eventually. I don’t have any pictures of it, but I’ll provide a link with pictures for those that want to know what it is and the story behind it (<http://www.kosamui.com/lamai-beach/hinta-hinyai.htm&gt;). Again, a picture of Big Buddha is below.

The last noteworthy thing we did on this part of the trip was attend the Full Moon Party on another island close by, Koh Phangan. Every full moon there is an enormous party on this island, and this particular party hosted roughly 30,000 people. All the bars on the beach turned their speakers out and blasted music all night long until mid morning the next day. They sold alcohol in buckets, and it was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. Some call this the ultimate partier’s experience, and I would have to agree that it is indeed just that. I didn’t dare bring my camera to this, for it would have surely been destroyed. It is a night I wouldn’t want to be fully documented, for my actions were less than coherent and were safe to say, sloppy. IT WAS AMAZING! Everyone should go, seriously. I recommend it to anyone that has the means to get there.

From here we traveled to Railay, which will be what my next post is all about!

Unfortunately I will end this post on a somber note. While on this island a friend of mine, Curtis McIntyre, passed away. He had been battling lymphoma, and unfortunately could not overcome it. Curtis, may you rest in peace.

Spring Break post 1: From Haifa to Bangkok

Well, I certainly just had a spring break to remember. We had about 2 and a half weeks off for Passover (Easter too) and I sure did quite a lot during that time. I left Haifa for Rishon L’ziyyon with a friend of mine, Meghan, to spend Shabbat with my family there. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be in Israel during Passover, I figured it would be nice to spend Shabbat with them once more before I began my trip, and I was right! It was a great time to see them as always, and I was able to finally meet the third son in the family, Zeev. He lives in New York City, so whenever I’ve been in Israel he’s been in the US. But since Passover was just around the corner, he came home to celebrate with his family. Luckily for me, he flew in the morning of Shabbat that weekend.

After leaving the Shalev residence, Meghan and I made our way to Tel Aviv to meet up with some friends who had just run the half marathon in the city the day before. Unfortunately, James had to leave almost as soon as we got to Tel Aviv, but Jon, Valerie, David, and Freddie stayed. We spent two nights in the illustrious Hayarkon 48 youth hostel, and spent the weekend hanging out around the city and laying out on the beach. It wasn’t quite beach weather yet, with somewhat of an overcast and a slight breeze. But even with that said, we managed and enjoyed the semi-warm weather.

When Monday morning came, there were 7 of us: Jeff, Bekah, Freddie, Jon, Meghan, Eva, and myself. We were all off to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station to start our long day of travel to Amman, Jordan, en route to Thailand. The trek to Amman went relatively smoothly. The only hiccup along the way involved a malfunctioning of the missile alarm system at the border. Meghan, Eva, and myself got rushed into a bomb shelter along with many other people that were there with us. Jeff, Bekah, Freddie, and Jon had already crossed through no-mans-land into Jordan, which is why they weren’t with us. It was a little concerning at the time, but it was a false alarm. It ended up foreshadowing events soon to come. Let’s just say it wasn’t the last time the three of us heard sirens that prompted people to run…but I’ll get to that later. We got to Amman in mid afternoon and still had plenty of time to explore the city. Later that afternoon, Annie and Mitch met up with us in Amman. They had been traveling around southern Jordan and met up with us for our flight to Thailand the next morning.

Here is an old Roman Theatre embedded into the hills that make up the city of Amman.

The next morning, we were off to the airport. We had an 11 AM flight out of Queen Alia International Airport to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, our next pit-stop on our way to Thailand. We had a 6.5 hour layover in Abu Dhabi so we decided to leave the airport and check out the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was only a 20 minute cab ride from the airport.

Walking up to, inside, and around this amazing display of architecture was simply breathtaking. It is the most beautiful structure I have ever seen in my 21 years.

We returned to the airport after roughly 2 hours here, and awaited our flight to Bangkok.

We landed in Bangkok around 8AM local time, and had the entire day to roam around the city. But before we left the airport, we all made sure we had some coffee and food in our stomachs and our Thai sim cards all figured out for our phones. We were all pretty groggy from the overnight flight, so it took a few hours to get everything situated. When we finally did leave the airport around 11AM, we were all pleasantly surprised that it was not excruciatingly hot like we had anticipated. We made our way over to one of the malls, which was enormous, and walked around for a little while.

From there we hopped in Tuk Tuks (see picture below) to an area of the city that Jeff had been before to get our first street vendor pad thai. It was amazing. I won’t be able to eat pad thai in the US ever again without being sad that it’s so inferior to the pad thai from Thailand. After lunch, I went and got my first Thai massage for $10, or 300 Baht. Unfortunately I was so tired from being up so long (I didn’t sleep on either plane) that I fell asleep many times during the massage, somehow. The Thai woman that was giving me the massage, as well as the 2 women that were massaging Bekah and Mitch, found this to be particularly funny.

After our massage ended, we made our way over to a very large Buddha in Bangkok. He was pretty big. Still is actually. You can say hi to him yourself…

When we were done with Buddha, we headed over to Khaosarn Road, which is a huge backpackers area. We spent our remaining hours in Bangkok there waiting for our overnight bus down south.

Slight Absence

I haven’t posted on here in quite some time, and I apologize for that. I’m wrapping up this week with 2 more classes, and then I’m off to Tel Aviv, Amman, Abu Dhabi, and all over Thailand. I will update the blog upon my return, possibly with a post on Turkey, and definitely with a post on my most recent trip.

By no means should my month long blog absence suggest that I have nothing to write about…I’ve just been lazy. So until I get back in a few weeks from now, have a nice spring break, Passover, Easter, etc.

חג שמח

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