09.11.2009 - 10.11.2009 21 °C
The trip to Kyoto from Tokyo was a mere three hours, impressive considering it is 513 kms away and we stopped around five times along the way, I have concluded Japanese transportation rocks.
Got to my hostel at around 8 pm, I can see why it is so highly rated in Hostelworld.com, it has everything you could ever want in a hostel. It's really clean, new, staff are extremely helpful and friendly, there's a laundry, a fully stocked kitchen, a huge lounge area and it has a trendy cafe/bar attached to it (beers are around NZ$6). What more could I want. In terms of comfort and facilities, it is making my capsule hostel in Tokyo look like a bus stop (though don't get me wrong, I really digged my capsule). The only thing I could complain about is the guy in my dorm that snores like a jack-hammer. I even had my ipod going with the volume on about 75% and he was still contributing to the bass. Oh well, you get that when you travel on the cheap and have to share a room.
Outside shot of the hostel in Kyoto, the "Zen" bar is on the right on the ground floor.
Talking about money, it's true, Japan is not cheap, in fact if you aren't careful (by converting EVERYTHING to your local dollars before buying) you could end up spending a fortune. But now that I'm into my second week, I'm getting the hang of the conversion and I shop around before even buying a coffee.
There's 8 beds (4 bunks), in my room... occupied by three Australians, a Canadian, two Dutch and a Pole. Aussies appear to be the majority in this hostel (apparently JetStar is offering cheap flights). The whole hostel is also constantly full of people due to its high ratings on the interweb.
My hostel bunk bed in Kyoto (was in the room first - always go for the bottom bunk near the window!)
Where Tokyo was dominated by trains and the metro, in Kyoto travelling by bus is the easiest way to go. They are easy to use, come by all the time and they seem to cover most of the city, plus you can get a day-pass for 500 Yen (roughly NZ$7.70) - good stuff when you are moving around all day. I've even got used to entering the bus from the back and exiting from the front and only paying when you get off - boy, in NZ there would be trouble if you payed at the end of your journey - goes to show the Japanese mentality on honesty.
Spent the first couple of days in Kyoto in the east side of the city visiting some pretty impressive temples. Unfortunately, there appears to be a large sweep of renovations ocurring in Kyoto and some of the temples are covered in tarpolin and scafolding. On the other hand, I think I'm here at the best time of the year for sightseeing since fall is well underway and the trees at most locations look amazing.
Path in Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
There are so many temples and shrines in Kyoto that you could literally be here for months and still there would be more to see. As a bonus I got to see an interesting Budhist ceremony at the Chion-in Temple. No photos allowed inside most places so hard to describe without a picture but I had never seen anything like it so I was quite blown away by the whole thing.
Monks in Procession after Ceremony, Chion-in Temple, Kyoto
Basically, I like things that are old, the older the better, so that's how I've prioritised the places I am visiting (as well as their size). It's interesting thinking about how things that are so old are still standing and how they were used by people centuries ago.
Walked through Nijojo Castle (only allowed in the hallways) - this castle was built with intentionally squeaky floors so the Shogun would know if any assasins had sneaked in. And sure enough, the floors still squeaked! But it wasn't any old squeaks, in fact, as a whole line of us walked down the hallways, it was uncanny how much it sounded like a NZ forest full of native birds.
Shogun's Palace in Nijo Castle - You can see the difference in the original and restored gates.
Ginkakuji Temple from path in fall forest
Nijo-jo Castle Garden - The Japanese really do know how to garden.
So I'd have to agree with everyone that said Kyoto was beautiful, too bad there's plenty of tourists around. Though I have to keep on reminding myself, I'm just another one of them - funny how at the start you somehow think you deserve the place to yourself. It's sometimes worth taking a longer walk than usual to visit a smaller shrine or temple just because there isn't a tour group walking behind you. Mind you, most of the tour groups I've seen are Japanese believe it or not. Good to see they like to visit their own attractions. I've decided that when I get back to NZ, I will do a trip around NZ and see my own country, especially around Fiordland. I'll also be fit enough to do the Milford track by then.
I really wish I had a pedometer on me because I have walked more k's over the last week than I have over the entire year so far.
I've just extended my stay in Kyoto for another two days, so there's more sight seeing to do, so until next time, that's me over and out.