Temple time in Kyoto

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November 24th 2018
Published: December 5th 2018
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One of the great additional unexpected benefits of being here has been that my sleeping has been amazing. I'm falling asleep by 11pm, and (although a few toilet stops in the night) i'm not waking up again until about 8am, and waking up feeling refreshed. It's like my body clock has totally reset itself which is amazing! Anyway, I digress. As mentioned, we wake up at 8am and have a quick look at the itinerary to try and figure out our routes for the day as we are heading to North and West Kyoto today. We plan on stopping off first at the golden temple (Kinkaku-ji) which is the furthest away tourist spot we plan to visit on our trip here, so it seems sensible to start there first. First things first, we need some breakfast and so stop into our favourite 7-11 for some chicken skewers and a steamed pork bun for breakfast (no pancake place here unfortunately) and then head to the bus stop which will hopefully take us to where we need to go. I'm a bit uncertain at taking the bus as its not as easy as the metro system and less likely to be in english, but in for a penny and all that. To take a train to where we are going is not really an option, certainly not without a huge detour and a long walk. I ask some helpful looking Japanese ladies if this is the right stop for the temple and also the right bus number and they nod enthusiastically and point to an express 101 service that we should take. So far so good. Even better, when the bus arrives it has english translation for every stop, and so its a complete doddle to get to the temple. We even arrive 15 minutes ahead of my anticipated arrival time, so i'm really chuffed.

The kinkaku-ji temple lives up to its name and is really beautiful in it's full golden glory, especially with the autumn foliage in the background. And even though its busy, its not sardine yourself in busy, so that's a bonus. We saunter through the grounds for a while and then head on to our next destination – the ryoanji temple which is just down the road. En route, I spot a place selling matcha tea ice-cream which is another food on my bucket list, so even though its only about 10 degrees outside, I have to get one. To be fair it doesn't have an overly strong taste although it is a bit more savoury than sweet. And bright green. I can't say i'd rush out to buy another one but at least i've tried it. The ryoanji temple is also very pretty and also a lot less touristy. It's where they have a famous rock garden created by some zen monk way, way back in the 15th century. It's cool to look at even if I don't understand it however long I stare at it. But it does feel good to seem a bit cultured lol. Again we have another wander around before heading on to our next destination Arishiyama.

Arishiyama is a beautiful district which has a river running through the middle and rolling hills with a stunning backdrop of autumn trees. We walk all the way around and through the enchanting bamboo forest (well worth the visit even though it is absolutely mobbed) and then we end up at the river. Because we are quite a bit ahead of schedule, Greg suggests we pop in to the monkey forest at the other side of the river, across the bridge. However, the bridge is super narrow and there is about 400 people waiting to cross at any given time, so it takes us about 15 minutes just to get to the other side. As we are waiting to cross, we are slightly bemused at the sight of a guy walking his two dogs with matching christmas outfits along with his guinea pig in tow. We realise its going to be the same the other way back, which is seriously eating into our time to get to the sagano scenic railway which I have my heart set on, so we make our way back, which does indeed take about another 15 minutes. Half an hour to cross a bridge which is only about half a kilometre long at best! One positive to come out of it is that whilst we are heading back over the bridge an old Japanese man starts talking to us and asking where we are from. We explain we are scottish and then he tells us (in perfect english) he hasn't been to scotland but has visited spain and italy. We tell him we live in spain, and proceed to have a conversation with him in Spanish! He is a lovely man and once we get to the other side of the bridge, he gives us a business card and tells us if we are ever back in Kyoto and want him to show us around then he will, how lovely. Its restored our faith a little in the people of Kyoto who up until now have still not been as friendly in our opinion.

By the time we have made it to the ticket counter for the scenic railway, we are told it is sold out which I am gutted about. But then she offers us a solution in that instead of taking a return journey on the scenic train, we can get a normal train to the end stop, and then get a one way journey back from the end destination instead. Its on the JR line which means we can get there free with our JR railcards so its win win. All this rushing about means we don't really have time for a proper lunch, so we head into one of the convenience stores and pick up a few nibbles instead which will keep us ticking over. I love that you can buy hot, reasonably healthy snacks in every convenience stores. And rice balls stuffed with any filling you could want (my favourite being soft boiled egg or the tomato and egg omelette option).

The scenic railway does not disappoint as it follows the river through a gorgeous backdrop of colourful trees so I'm really happy we managed to get tickets. We take the JR line as close as we can back to our hotel, and then walk the remainder, stopping off to pick up a few beers (of course) along the way.

For dinner, we decide upon a little place we'd spotted on the way back from the train station earlier, specialising in japanese omlettes called okonomiyaki. There is a hot grill at our table and we decide to order an omelette stuffed with pork and noodles, and an omelette filled with pork, beef, cabbage, squid and ginger. Wow. I cannot even exclaim how amazingly good they taste, especially on a cold night. If there is one food i recommend anyone to try whilst they are here is is these. We can't help but feel a bit sorry for the waitress for whom it is clearly her first night serving and they are watching her like a hawk. Feeling stuffed, we head back to the hotel room for our usual nightcap and bed.

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