A Travellerspoint blog

Kyoto2 - Memoirs of a geezer

sunny 10 °C

Last night we wandered down a narrow alley lined with lanterns, full of restaurants and bars. Very romantic. We stumbled into a restaurant, ate well of sashimi and salmon, and ended up by drinking rather too much warm sake - deceptive stuff, sake. Nevertheless we found our way back to the hotel and collapsed.

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Today started late due to the aforementioned sake. Kyoto really is a magical place. There are dozens of temples and shrines in the surrounding hills. We visited two before feeling all templed out. One of them, slightly off the tour party itinerary, had marvellous gardens reaching up into the hills. Zen gardens of raked gravel, stones and moss, bamboo groves, cherry blossom, etc, The other was the first Zen temple in Japan, had a fantastic painted ceiling, and beautiful dry gardens. We plodded around in our socks, and changed into red (men) and green (women) slippers to see the great ceiling.

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On our way home we wandered through Gion, the traditional Geisha district. We saw quite a few "Geishas", but these were mostly tourists done up as Geishas. There may have been one or two genuine ones - its hard to tell. In Gion we walked down the "most beautiful street in Asia" according to no less than the Lonely Plant Guide.

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Tomorrow we head for a side trip to Nara to see - you guessed it - more temples, and in the evening to Hiroshima on the shinkansen.

Posted by colandmand 05:30 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kyoto Bullet-in

We unpacked our thermal underwear and set off to explore Tokyo via the underground and railcard routes. The area around Sensoji Temple was brilliant - the narrow market streets bustling and full of colour and worshippers engulfing themselves in incense-smoke. We escaped a downpour in a tiny Suchi restaurant where the chef made the most delicious dishes right in front of us and there were cushions on a platform to sit at tiny tables. Thankfully we sat at the counter cos I don't think I can sit x-legged :o(
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Later we went to 'Electric City' with thousands of tiny stalls selling gadgets and games or Manga and anime stuff - some quite dodgy ones too. From there we visited Shibuya crossing (think Piccadilly Circus on NYrs Eve!!) Col found an HMV store so was happy browsing music as I recovered with a bit of 'people-watching'
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This morning we took the Bullet Train to Kyoto, whizzing past gardens and rice-fields too fast to photograph - thankfully Mt Fuji took longer to pass so I managed 1 shot! When it tilts to compensate round corners it makes the buildings we pass look as though they are tipping over - wierd. Thankfully only 1 tremor felt so far - lets hope for no more before we leave the earthquake zone
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Posted by colandmand 04:01 Comments (0)

Tokyo Spring

sunny 10 °C

From the wet season in tropical Queensland to springtime in Tokyo - quite a contrast. The first day in Tokyo was warm and sunny, but today was cold, with a biting wind. Still, spring has arrived and the cherry blossoms are out in the parks - if not yet in full bloom (should have been here next week as usual).

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Like Chicago earlier in the trip, Tokyo is a really pleasant surprise. The city has green lungs in the form of many parks - we've visited three of them in two days - the Ueno Park, near our hotel, Shinjuku Park, and the Meiji shrine park. Ueno and Shinjuku have marvellous cherry blossoms, while Meiji has a huge Shinto shrine for the late emperor Meiji - the emperor who Westernised Japan in the late 19th century. In Ueno we visited the Japanese Museum - modelled on the British museum. There was a special exhibit on the spread of Buddhism from China through Korea and to Japan.

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At the entrance to the Meiji Park is a meeting place for kids dressed as Goths to pose for the tourist photos.

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The best way I can describe Tokyo is like combining the best of Mumbai and Switzerland. It is, like Mumbai, a total assault on the senses, but, like Switzerland it is also very clean, ordered and user friendly. In fact, despite the language difference, it is very easy to get around on the train system. Yes, the trains do run on time, and everything works as it is supposed to (including the ubiquitous vending machines). You dont find a spot of litter anywhere. You might think this indicates an over-conformist society - but it also confers some enviable freedoms in everyday life. EG - we've seen thousands of bikes parked in the streets - almost none of them locked! Children seem to have more freedom to play in the parks, etc. People are mostly incredibly polite and helpful. The big thoroughfares can seem like concrete jungles, but the back streets are drawn on a more human scale - with a visual surprise around every corner. Just a first impression of course - but a very good one.

Another day in Tokyo tomorrow, and then the bullet train to Kyoto.

Posted by colandmand 02:53 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

How could we have forgotten the wet season

We set off for Cairns in high spirits. The cyclone had come ashore far south and we stepped off the plane into the typically steamy heat we recalled from PNG days. Our first trip was down memory lane to Kuranda in the Atherton Tablelands - last visited nearly 30 years ago when T&C were just tots. It was originally an alternative community set up largely by old hippies whose laid back lifestyle provided the perfect escape from the pressures of PNG. Think Camden Lock in the rainforest :o) Even the WWII plane wreck was still there.
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We passed a very contented few hours playing Backgammon and drinking locally-grown organic coffee before heading back to Cairns. This town has changed out of all recognition and now boasts a huge Casino and Convention Centre. We headed for the beach and settled for a walk along the marina, drinking a cool beer as vast black stormclouds blew in from every direction. Even the fruitbats with a wingspan of 3' who congregate over the bay each evening couldn't make any headway against the wind.
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The next morning we woke to discover it had been raining - and blowing a gale - all night, flooding the roads in some places. Suffice it to say our planned break with a cool drink beside the pool for 4 days never happened. we fled for Japan with our umbrella blowing inside-out and temperatures still too warm for shoes!!!

Posted by colandmand 06:32 Comments (0)

Friends Reunited

sunny 28 °C

Isn't it great when you meet an old friend, and you pick up seamlesly from where you left off 10, 20 even 30 years ago. Well it's been that kind of week for us in New South Wales (why? it doesn't look anything like Cardiff!). Having flown into Sydney a week ago Friday, we drove to Canberra. It took three hours and we managed to avoid hitting any wildlife, despite dire predictions (winding up the Poms?). In Canberra we met an old friend, Marlene, who we first knew at University almost 40 years ago. Marlene and her cats made us feel most welcome, and we spent the weekend pretending to be students again - ie drinking too much, staying up late, lying on the grass to watch the stars, and sorting out the world's problems. In deference to the passage of time we have a diminished capacity for alcohol and also swapped notes on various ailments and medications, as oldies will. Marlene lives in an area of Canberra surrounded by parkland and woodland, so we had some great walks.
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Then we returned to Sydney to stay with our old PNG friends Sue and Gwilym, who we first met 30 years ago. They have been splendid hosts in their beautiful Rectory in Enmore. Enmore is a very colourful, cosmopolitain and lively innner suburb of Sydney, and the church reflects that vitality, no small thanks to Father Gwilym and Sue. Cue more (moderate) imbibing, reminiscing and catching up with several years worth of news, punctuated by some light recreational weeping. We last visited Sydney together in 1982, and it has acquired Darling Harbour, the Olympic Park, etc since that time. But the crowning feature is still the harbour and the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House. We also made a trip out to the Blue Mountains, and up the Pacific Coast to a small place called Scotts Head.
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The trip to Scotts Head was made in order to meet Mandy's sister Cath and Cath's son David. Cath lives in a marvellous house overlooking the Pacific. To cut a long story short, this was the first time they had ever met, and it was a joyous occasion. It was a case of catching up a whole life's story for each of them, and it was a privilege for me to listen to it all. Mandy found a sister she never knew she had (until recently) and they turned out to have so much in common.
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Tomorrow we're off for some RnR in Cairns, where we spent some great holidays in the early 80s. A tropical cyclone has just passed through north Queensland, so lets hope its not too rainy.

Photos to follow

Posted by colandmand 00:45 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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