Entry Info

6th (Sat)
Nov 2010

[day142] Tel Aviv Night Out

Tel Aviv Night OutCome to think about an Israeli city, Jerusalem is arguably the most famous one, isn't it? In fact I'd been thinking to go to Jerusalem directly from the Tel Aviv airport but changed my mind to visit at Tel Aviv city at first for interviewing a top Israeli web studio "INKOD HYPERA" due to the Adobe's article I was writing at the time.

Tel Aviv is a modern city developed by Jews in their early settlement days and it's the central hub of the Israeli economy now. Though the suburban parts have a distinctive gray atmosphere being similar to the other Middle Eastern countries, down town has some high buildings and it doesn't look different from the other Western developed cities, except for the signs written in Hebrew. Besides, the Mediterranean beach cleanly maintained and there are of course many beautiful girls wearing bikinis.

Well, actually this situation, the bikini girls are everywhere on the beach, merits for girls more than just a feast for men's eyes. It was especially noticeable at Egypt and Jordan that Muslim males are prone to make bad sexual harassments towards foreign girls as they are tightly restricted approaching any Muslim ladies but free to contact with non Muslim girls. (Although the Middle East is a great destination for travelling, every female traveller should aware of this fact.) On the other hand, Israelis are much more familiar with girls and wouldn't dare unpleasant things.

Well, let's get back the point, as Tel Aviv is quite a modernised city and the prices are also higher than the other surrounding countries, presumably the same as or bit higher than Istanbul. For instance, a dorm room costs about 10-15 euro per night. It's a huge leap from Egypt and Jordan where you would get even change from 5 euro. However, from another point of view, it could be said that you can receive high quality of services as good as the other Western countries with reasonable prices.

In fact, I went to a bar located at the top of a skyscraper, drank 2 glasses of cocktails and the final bill was 100ILS(28USD). If it had been the bar at Tokyo's high building, this amount would've been just for a cover charge. Besides, due to the tipping system the bartender was very hospitable. After a little chat, she gave me a small plate of olives. Well, I need to enjoy myself freely at this kind of stylish places. Actually, rarely had I gone for drinking alone in Tokyo but it seems like I acquired a new habit during this trip.

Tel Aviv Night OutBesides, speaking about the night life in Tel Aviv I have to mention about the clubbing that Ilan, the founder of INKOD, took me around. Fridays and Saturdays in Israel are notorious among foreign travellers for the Sabbath day, on which most of shops close and public transportations got polarised. Nevertheless, according to Ilan, for the young local people living there the Sabbath is just a weekend and therefore clubs get their peaks on the Sabbath. I'd never heard of this kind of story. "I can show you the real Tel Aviv, Satoshi", accepting his generous offer, we decided to go out on the next Saturday.

The first place was a lounge club which was integrated with a balcony of a hotel located along the coast. After passing through the strict security gate, there were actually a lot of young people chatting, drinking and dancing. Coincidentally, the day was the final of European League Soccer and the DJ was playing fashionable tunes in front of the huge screen where the soccer image was being projected. It was completely opposite from the other part of the city occupied by silence.

Tel Aviv Night OutWhat's more, miraculously (beautiful!) girls greatly outnumbered boys at the club. I presumed that because of the mixture of Jewish blood from all over the world, the number of attractive people grew but it was a mystery how come so many. Though I didn't dare anything as I was planning to go to Jerusalem on the very next day, I recommend male travellers visiting Tel Aviv going to this club. I assure you it's a sort of paradise.

The second club was situated at the harbour area. In the open air area, the atmosphere was similar to the previous one; many people were shooting the breeze and enjoying the night breeze. But there's a building leaking loud sounds in the back area. After entering the architecture, it turned out a typical dance floor with frequent flashing lights and a revolving mirror ball. Being packed like sardines, everyone was moving their body as they liked.

Speaking about myself, though I'm not good at dancing, closing my eyes and giving way to the frenzied rhythm I can feel like I'm the last person left in this world. Nobody cares about me at all though many people were dancing around me. I love this isolated feeing.

As such, thanks to the new friend in Tel Aviv, I could enjoy the local life there. Being a traveller, it's always nice to have local tips which take me to any occasions ordinarily travellers can't get in.

Entry Info

As you probably know, Israel has serious diplomatic problems with the neighbouring countries and if you have a certain evidence of entering Israel, some Muslim countries such as Syria and Lebanon wouldn't allow you to enter their territory. (So far, you can enter Jordan and Egypt WITH an Israeli stamp on your passport as they formally established diplomatic relationships)

As I mentioned at the previous entry about Amman, the backpackers travelling around this area have two options to avoid this problem; asking "no stamp" at the Israeli passport control and taking the risk of a lengthy interrogation OR going to Syria and Lebanon beforehand and submitting the passport without reluctance. I chose latter as the troubles for the "No stamp" process would bother me although most travellers prefer the former. Besides, it would be funny to have an Israeli stamp next to the Syrian one.

As Israel is exposed to the threat of terrorism, the severe security check began even before the boarding process at Istanbul airport. When I was queuing for the check-in counter, two Israeli officers started a passport inspection with some questions. And one of the officer's hands became completely motionless when he checked my passport. Indeed I had pages of stamps of Syria and Lebanon which are officially at war with Israel. Besides, they look glum with the other Arabic letters such as Egypt and UAE.

After this, they totally changed their attitude and questioned me about every detail starting from my purpose of the trip, family structure, occupation, how I managed to save up such a large amount of money for the trip and the like. I just answered the questions as I hadn't done anything wrong but due to the delay caused by this inspection, I had no time to stay at the airport lounge. The flight time was only 2 hours which was shorter than the whole procedure at the airport. As Turkey faces Israel over the Mediterranean, it's very close in fact.

At the Tel Aviv airport's passport control, literaly the final gate of Israel, I presented my passport without any hesitation. However, the officer became motionless again when she was checking the other stamps. After some exemplary questions, she picked up her headset and started talking. After a little while the other officer came and I was instructed to follow him. Well, it seemed like I was sent to the special room for suspected people. Besides, my passport was still in the officer's hand at the gate. Though it's a special room, the space looked like a waiting room separated by a partition from the main area and some people were already nervously sitting on the hard chairs which are very typical at airports.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there was wi-fi available at the area and I could kill my time by tweeting my situation in real time (on reflection, I wonder they might have censored my network traffics) but after waiting and waiting my name was not called at all. It looked like it all depended on the officers' judgment who is to be picked up. I noticed some people who came after me were called immediately but some had been waiting since before my arrival. Although a few people demonstrated their irritation, I tried to be calm but expose a little anxiety. Anyway, in the worst case, I could've been expelled from the country but it would've become a part of my funny travel talk likewise the other accidents.

After 2 hours or so, finally my name was called and a beautiful female officer took me to her office for the private interrogation. Some of my friends had told me before, Israel government intentionally choose beautiful people for the personnel who have chances to contact with foreigners and I suppose it could be true from this experience. Sitting in a tiny room, a beautiful lady was asking me a lot of private question. What a bizarre situation it was.

The questions were basically the same as the ones at the departure gate of the Istanbul airport for double check. Anyway I have no reason to tell any lies and just answered the question again. But her attitude was so cute and cunning. For the reason of the trip to Syria, I answered "I'm travelling around the world at the moment and interested in the culture of this area. But some countries such as Syria would refuse me if I had the Israeli stamp. So I decided to go there before Israel." and she commented "Oh, I didn't know that" with a mean smile. How come she was acting so sadistically yet enchantingly? "Well, Israel is a good country because you can enter with the Syrian stamp?" YES, absolutely.

After all, the interrogation finished in 15 minutes and she handed me my passport with a sheet of paper saying "Ok, you can go. Bring this paper to the passport control." It was an indulgence; just passing the sheet of paper I finally entered Israel. But I realised a very important fact that I hadn't gotten the stamp on my passport. I'd heard it would be possible to ask "no stamp" at the airport. But I hadn't had the faintest idea of applying it for me. I rather wanted to get the one though, it was for the best; I'll be able to travel to the other Muslim countries later.

Entry Info

2nd (Sat)
Oct 2010

[day138] My Life in Istanbul

My Life in IstanbulFor us, who had journeyed up North from Egypt, Istanbul is no longer a city in the Middle East. Well paved roads, modern buildings and young girls exposing their bare skins. After entering Turkey, getting alcoholic beverages became much easier as well. Many restaurants are fully licensed and there are so many bars and liquor shops everywhere. What's more, I found a funny poster on the wall of a bar at Istanbul. (http://twitpic.com/1nrake) Although I hardly found any restaurants serving pork, this city was very different from the countries being under strict Muslim rules.

My Life in IstanbulOn the other hand, people who travelled from Europe always insisted Istanbul is no longer a city in Europe. Pillars of huge mosques' spires, people smoking water pipes and playing board games at open air cafes, markets, stalls, distinctive foods like Kebab. Their facial features are also bit different from the ones of European. Speaking so, which part does Istanbul belong? I would suggest Istanbul is Istanbul; this city deserves to be the only one not belonging to anywhere.

As I stayed 2 weeks, I had enough time to walk around quite a few places. Not too being enthusiastic about tourism, I just strolled around the local streets and occasionally photographed some interesting subjects. Not gripping myself as a tourist, I liked the calm and relaxing life as if I were a local. Window shopping and watching a soccer game at a sports bar were fine for me.

My Life in IstanbulMy favourite spot in Istanbul was Galata Bridge which connects the down town and the old historic area. When I visited there at dusk, I could see many seagulls hovering on the wind with the gradient background of orange to indigo and it somehow looked exquisitely melancholic. What's more, the sun set over the mosque across the ocean. Also it was a good idea to have dinner at a restaurant under the bridge, observing the nightscape reflecting on the surface of the Golden Horn. Although the restaurants there are bit pricier than the ones in the other areas, you can actually find some reasonable places if you carefully check the menu.

My Life in IstanbulWell, I actually mentioned this before; among Japanese people, Turkish food is regarded as one of the most phenomenal foods of the world and I suppose it's true. In fact the food in Gyoreme was so tasty. Besides the traditional Turkish food, Istanbul has a rich selection of seafood as the city has a big harbour and I was elated at eating juicy grilled fish when we had a farewell dinner with Shin and Tomoko. It was positively surprising that I could eat such delicious grilled fish outside Japan though my budget didn't allow me to eat it every day as seafood was a rather more expensive food than the ordinary foods like Kebabs. If I'd been the richest person, I could've tried lobsters, oysters and other gorgeous menus too. Maybe next time.

My Life in IstanbulWhat's more, I must mention about the freshly baked Turkish breads. Most restaurants gave us the breads free when we ordered one dish at least and the breads were absolutely delicious. No exception here. All of them were soft but springy. After Turkey, I have travelled to a lot of countries which claim to have delicious breads but for my preference, Turkish bread is the absolute best. A bowl of salad with dipping sauce was my typical healthy choice. The bread with the dipping sauce went very well with the local beer.

In terms of the attraction in Turkey, the Hamam(Turkish bath) should be the top. After being impressed with it at Damascus, I tried it on every occasion at Hama and Gyoreme and for the memorial last, I decided to go to the local traditional one with Shin. Lying on the steam heated marble, we found the beads of sweats broke out with the weariness of the trip from whole our body. What's more, the most notable treatment here was the peeling. A hairy muscular Turkish guy intensely scrubbed our body and made us moan deeply. Although it appears so weird in writing, this massage was so painful yet energising. An astonishing amount of dirt peeled off from my body and the texture of the skin became as smooth as a baby's bottom.

My Life in IstanbulBesides, I have to emphasize this; we were in Turkey where we can drink alcohol. Although the Hamam didn't have any alcoholic beverages as it's a kind of traditional facility, we firmly resisted the temptation for the soft drinks and set out on the journey seeking for golden ale. After all, drinking a Turkish national brand, Efes Draft in the afternoon was so delightful.

Anyhow, such a comfortable city Istanbul was! The prices were not too expensive. People were very kind. The internet connection was just fine. Even though the shop keepers hustled sometimes, they are not as annoying as the guys in Egypt. Therefore, I could get away from it all on the last destination of the Middle East. Actually, the next destination is still in the Middle East but it's a totally different world. Finally, I was going to Israel.

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