Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kyoto Day 1 & 2

Linden met me at the airport. I was dazed and confused (note picture) after a horrible flight...14 hours flying over the NWT and the Berring Strait was interesting but the novelty quickly wore off with the bad food, freezing cabin, and lack of sleep. Lind informed me that the next morning at 9am we would be off to Kyoto. (Note: bullet trains are fast, but you can still see out the windows just fine...Ashley Myth #1)

Kyoto is a beautiful city. At first it appears unassuming. After little exploration it reveals an old world beauty of Japanese architecture and culture. The district of Gion and Ponto-Urcho were particularly pleasant with numerous cobbled walkways and the rare glimpse of traditional geisha.

We started the day off "trapped" in the maze of the train station/subway lins while trying to get food. We then got on the right bus, heading the wrong way and took the scenic tour of Kyoto perimeter...ah well it started off slow. We managed to find an amazing bakery close to our run down hostel...We lucked out with the windowless room with cigarette stained walls but you cannot beat the price. We very quickly warmed to our Kyoto surroundings (including the hostel with the never ending green tea supply)

The temples are numerous. The golden temple, stunningly situated against a forest backdrop draws hundreds of tourists a day seeking the perfect picture of the temple and its image mirrored in the lake. (See Pic)

Lind and I particularly liked the Nijo Castle. It was built in the 16th century and is the only Imperial Palace still intact in Japan. My culture shock aside, I was struck with how the interior designs, even of a palace, lack the grandeur that I am so accustomed to seeing from Europe. I am conditioned to think of ornate chairs and sitting areas when I think palace. I coundn't help myself wondering "where is the furniture?...I know it sounds silly.

We marvelled at engineering of the palace, the numerous rooms for the shogun, the waiting rooms for the samurai, the district lords and the offices and ofcourse, the "Nightingale Floors" encircling the rooms of the palace. Each footfall creates an audible squeak no matter how quietly you walk. The floors were designed such that the joists and the nails create the squeak with pressure applied anywhere along the board. So what did we do? stomped around of course. Calf raises are particularly enjoyable over a squeaky spot. It was fun.
The pic is of us at the top of the wall surrounding the Castle.

There were lots of tourist with young families in Kyoto (Jen? Chris? Autumn? Interested...)

Day 2: We traveled to the famous Zen Rock Garden. This shrine was a joy to visit. The surroundings were lush; even in the winter. This place must be glorious during the Cherry Blossom Season. In the afternoon we did lots of walking and I bought myself a coat, in preparation for our journey into the mountains.

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