This is Kyoto

Speaking of not being able to lie in the grass, 10 minutes after starting to cycle this morning I found grass. And plenty of it, all along the riverside. It's still not the 'real' grass, cause it's not nearly thick enough, but still. It's close.

Look, it's grass! Kyoto is so green.

I started off my day by zigzagging my way to the other side of Kyoto. I ended up near Kinkakuji, the golden pavillion. It was still quite early in the morning, so I figured I might as well take a look. It's not golden week yet, and it was early, so I was hoping to find the place quite empty. I could not have been more wrong. There were at least six tour busses full of annoying school children, screaming and running all over the place. The very young children were just playing and running around, but the middle school children just stood there looking annoyed, following their teacher around, taking photos whenever the teacher tells them they should. Must be pretty boring for them. As a big scary foreigner I am mostly ignored by all the boys (except for the occasional scary look or rapid step-out-of -the-way when I approach). The girls start screaming and yelling 'HARRO!!! HARRO!!!'. Yay, I'm back to being a stereotype again.

Every tourist takes this picture. Meh.

Getting the hell out of kinkakuji I asked a random person where I could find my real goal: Arashiyama. There's supposedly a mountain just outside of Kyoto which offers a great view of the city, and also has a monkey park. In other words: monkey mountain! It turns out I had to cycle 30 minutes to get there, but the route was amazing. Beautiful nature, great landscapes and wonderful buildings along the way. I'd say that the road between the golden pavillion and Arashiyama is a must-see if you're tired of temple-tripping in the inner city. Really great.

Peace and quiet on the way to the stormy mountain.

I did take a wrong turn in the end and climbed the wrong mountain, which went remarkably easy without luggage (which I had left at the hostel). When I asked for directions a guy told me I could either go back down the mountain and around it, or climb a little further and go over it. I went on climbing, but it turns out the guy failed to mention that the only way to go down at the other end of the mountain was by taking the stairs... Well, stubborn as I am I carried my bicycle about 50 steps down. Ha!

Wonderflonium
Another NICE BOAT

This area was again amazing. A river surrounded by forest and mountains appeared in view. I took a lot of photos in this area which I must share some day. I cycled along the riverside for a while until I could go no further, and then went back to find the monkey park. Well, the monkey mountain was just awesome. I'll show some photos instead of ranting on.

Monkey get close

This guy was busy taking a picture of a monkey far away when this other monkey just walked up to him and sat down next to him.

LOTS of monkeys! - getting fed.
They beg for food like this
..and they eat a lot on days like today.
Hand-fed
The family together
Monkey play
Monkey scratches balls

After the monkey park I zigzagged my way back to the river near the youth hostel, and stayed there for a while until the sun set. A very relaxing day, I must say.

I will process this later, I promise.

Some thoughts about Kyoto:

  • There are a LOT of foreigners. Big scary foreigners that make loud noises all the time.
  • There are a LOT of (Japanese) tourists. Tiny loud school children that talk in annoying accents all the time.
  • Kyoto's city center is surprisingly ugly. You really have to go out of your way to find an interesting neighborhood to random around in, otherwise it looks just like any other Japanese city.
  • Despite that, I really really like Kyoto. I said before that I liked Wakayama, but I admire Kyoto. It's different somehow.
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Kyoto in the rain

I walked around Gion district in the rain today. Despite the rain it was a very nice experience. The area just feels so nice and old. I've been to Kyoto before but didn't wander around this area at all, which is a real shame. So much nice atmosphere here.

A bridge in the Gion district
Lots of shops and bars nearby
Nice street.
City center as seen from the east
Even the bridges look nice

The public bath is always a place to strike up a conversation. Today I talked to an old man who was traveling around Japan. It's amazing how many old Japanese people you meet in youth hostels. Yesterday at the youth hostel there was only me and one old man. Today there's me and two old men. They're multiplying. Anyway, this old man told me he was 61 and retired. He still had a job but he only has to work 3-4 days per month, to earn what he refers to as his 'allowance'. The funny thing is, this man had his business in Hiratsuka, the place near the seaside that I always used to cycle to. It seems like quite a coincidence to meet someone so close to where I'm from. Quite a coincidence indeed, because the old man I met yesterday lived near Ebina, another place close to Atsugi.

Tomorrow's weather will be nice!

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Yup

I'm in Kyoto. It's smaller than I expected. I tried to take a scenic route but ended up 3 kilometers from Kyoto station, which was pretty much far-out already. I started out this morning in full rain-wear, but took it off again after one hour because it was barely raining and I was soaking wet from my own sweat that couldn't find any way out. That's the second time that has happened by the way. It was nearly dry all the way, but when I arrived in Kyoto it started raining more heavily. Despite the rain I enjoyed myself and wandered around the streets by bicycle a bit. When I went to the hostel to check in I was again too early, but they let me leave my luggage at the entrance. My luggage takes up an entire corridor, it's horrible. I'll try to decrease my luggage even more. There's still some clothes, tech and tools that I can leave behind or send back home.

I also took the opportunity to visit a bicycle shop to get my gears checked. A professional guy spent about 20 minutes tuning and twisting every wire and nut and bolt on the gear assembly, and after the tuning it felt pretty much the same as before. He told me I'd have no trouble at all cycling to Kyushu with these parts, and he didn't recommend replacing them, using the phrase "相性がわるい", meaning that the parts might not work well together, and that replacing only some of the parts could only make things worse. I'm actually fine with that, as lately I haven't been having problems at all. The bike's gotten used to me, I guess. A bigger problem is the brakes: the guy told me that they should immediately be replaced as they are in extremely poor condition. When I told him I'd been cycling the past 300km's with the brakes in this condition he just stared at me and said "anyway, replace your brakes". I guess I should.

Today I'm going to wander around the area near the hostel a bit. Tomorrow I'll have a nice chance to wander around Kyoto by bicycle. The weather should be perfect too. After that I'll have one more day to get rid of some luggage, fix my brakes, and prepare for the second half of the journey. I'm halfway done!

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