December 25, 2009
Japan Trip Day 15: Kyoto Day 2: Arashiyama Monkey Park, Bamboo Groves, Kinkakuji
I woke up this morning in the comfortable room in Kyoto and busted out my iPod Touch + microphone + headphones + Skype to call Angie for her birthday. That was fun and nice to catch up! The iPod is a lifesaver, the Skype app is just as important as the World Clock app for figuring out what time it would be reasonable to call someone in Canada from Japan. :) So that was super fun and nice to chat with the famed "numero" for her birthday, and after that I called Norm while I was in Skype mode and we chatted for a bit too. After that I packed up all my stuff, said goodbye to the funny Indonesian girls and guy, left my bags with the dude at the front desk, and rolled out.
I got a full day bus pass on recommendation from a few people, and trekked out to find the nearest major bus terminal. It wasn't too hard to find, but of course I had no idea where my bus stop was. I asked around as there were a bunch of helpful old people wandering around at the station, and they were all very nice. "Ah-ra-shi-yaama?" I said to one nice old lady and she said, "Hai!" and smiled at me. From her expression I got the impression that she was happy that someone clearly not Japanese was trekking way outside of the regular touristy places and (attempting) to take a local bus somewhere in the countryside that would be 1) far and 2) absurdly interesting. :) The ride to Arashiyama actually did turn out to be quite long, it was ~60-70 minutes! There was some complicated train method to get there that might have been faster, but I was keen to try the bus and it was great. The train tends to be much better/faster in general, but I had lots of time to travel so I wasn't worried about taking my time.
My main destination in Arashiyama was to see the bamboo groves, but... wait... a monkey park?!!! I saw some signs for a monkey park and, especially since I'd forgone the snow monkey park last week, I definitely had to check it out. That was a really good decision too cause MAN was it awesome. The walk up the mountain was tree-lined and had sunbeams bursting through the trees, and it was quite and peaceful and AWESOME. Then as I got further up the mountain there was a fantastic view of Kyoto city, and a big cage you could stand in and feed the monkeys. I must have stood in there for 30 minutes taking photos of all the hilarious monkeys, they were really funny and had a lot of personality. There were monkeys everywhere, climbing on things, standing on a wooden post and launching themselves at the cage fence (that was hilarious), there was a zen monkey sitting in a lotus position on a post, and even lots of babies that were playing under the watchful eye of their parents. So cute and hilarious, and it was a great experience. (See lots of photos below).
From there I went to the Bamboo Grove, which was super nice. I took some interesting photos and I bet that place would be crazy at night and in different seasons - I hear at night there are lights pointing up at the Bamboo and it would look even more fantastic. I wandered there for a bit and it was really relaxing, I am really glad I made the trek out to Arashiyama. I got a tasty snack of some teriyaki rice balls, we got them yesterday when I was with Tatsuya, and I'd been looking for another vendor ever since. Soooo good. After the walk through the Bamboo Grove, I got some lunch of ramen and tofu, and some "guh-reen tea-uh ice-u keu-rim" ("green tea ice cream" - I think I pronounced it well and the ice cream man was happy I was attempting some Katakana). :)
From there I took the bus to the middle of nowhere. I got off a stop or two too early because the map was super confusing, and I hiked for a little while to the next stop along a quiet side road. Haha. I was pretty lost but I knew I'd find the transfer bus stop eventually, and the area was also pretty frickin' beautiful and it was a great day, so it was totally worth getting absurdly lost! I got to the bus stop (which actually looked like some sort of bus depot), and it was deserted save for me, the attendant, 1 bus driver and about 10 parked busses. Haha. There were several routes leaving from there, but I think they felt bad that I looked lost so they started the bus up and left along my route within a couple of minutes... awesome.
After a while of windy country-ish roads, I got back closer to the city and more people and got off at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This turned out to be EVEN BETTER than anything else I'd already seen in the glorious city of Kyoto. I LOVED IT. I got there about 4:00pm-ish, just as the sun was hitting the Golden Pavilion, creating a beautiful shimmery reflection in the lake surrounding the pavilion. I took a bunch of photos which caught the attention of a family. Their daughter, about my age, called me "Canon Man" and asked if I could take a photo of them. I chatted with them for a bit and then they called me "Canada Man" once I said where I was from. They said they were from Jamaica, and joked around asking me "Are YOU from Jamaica?", to which I answered, "I wish!" They liked that, of course. :)
After I left the Kinkakuji area, I bought a few more souveniers, and bussed back to the hostel area to grab all my stuff. At this point it was getting dark and eveningy so I wanted to keep moving cause I was heading off to Kobe to stay for the night. I got my bags and headed to a bus which would take me to the train station with all my crap. The bus was very busy and I had SO much HUGE baggage... well fortunately I got to practice my "sumimasens!" Instead of taking a Shinkansen, the ticket attendant suggested I just take the local train from Kobe to Sannomiya (the specific area of Kobe that I was going to be staying in) - that was kinda insane, but was direct so I did it, amongst many more "sumimasens". When I got out at Kobe, I was looking forward to setting down my stuff and relaxing after a busy day... and then I got totally lost. I reaaally should have just got a cab from the train station, but I didn't have any cash on me, and finding a bank to take my card at that time of evening would have been almost as hard as just finding the hotel. Oy! So I just kept wandering, and asked a few people along the way, who weren't sure. I eventually found a 7-11 and asked for help there. All the employees came out to help me and were super nice, and unfortunately told me I was going the completely wrong direction... d'oh. My shoulders and legs were starting to hurt from all the walking, and my knees were starting to hurt too (given the 60+ lbs in my back/front packs!) Oh man.
So after some more walking and asking for help I FINALLY tracked down the hotel! SO glad I decided to stay in a hotel in Kobe rather than another hostel, it would be perfect for having a nice shower and a good sleep. I got into the hotel and was suuuper sweaty after a 2hr hiking expedition through downtown Kobe, I put down my bag, and said... of course... "sumimasen!" haha. I dropped off all my stuff and relaxed, had a REAL shower and a shave, and felt like a new man. It was too late for real food and I was too tired to explore downtown any more than I already unexpectedly had, so I just went to the local 7-11 and picked up some sushi and junk food, and had a relaxing night inside, watching some funny local TV shows.
Lake running through Arashiyama, about 60 min out of Kyoto
I was surprised to see a bunch of people in Santa Claus outfits... then I realized it was Dec 25th!
Ah, I think this must be the monkey park
BEAUTIFUL walk up the mountain
This was amazing
I kept my food well hidden!
More funny "don't feed the monkey" signs
My first monkey sighting
Taking photos from the caged area
This guy was going to town on this orange
Peeling an orange
One of my favourite photos of the whole trip. "You be careful now, I'll be right here watching you" :)
Mom and Baby
The monkey on the left looks so serious
View of Kyoto, and more monkeys
I got some of the Teriyaki rice ball dessert things again, these were soooooo good
Cool roofs and architecture here too
Me in the Bamboo Grove
Awesome walk through here
Can't see the forest for the... uh... trees?
I got a ramen and tofu soup for lunch with a "C.C. Remon" which was REALLY good. The label said something about harnessing the Vitamin C "Power of Lemons" :)
The place where I bought my tasty lunch
I love these roofs!
Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. One of my favourite sights of the trip!
Me at the Golden Pavilion
The walk around Kinkakuji was fantastic, too. Lots of cool ponds and sculptures and wildlife.
This was cool, these were Fortune vending machines, very similar to the one I modeled for one of the many items in Wall-E's truck!
And... off to Kobe. I arrived in the late evening to Kobe and I was quite tired, but staying in a proper hotel room. I got a bunch of to go junk food and snacks and sushi form the 7-11 nearby, and had dinner while watching lots of weird stuff on TV.
One of the many random things on TV that night!