The last leg of my trip to Japan was to Kyoto. Kyoto is the old imperial Capital of Japan, home of the imperial places and countless temples and shrines. No doubt you will have seen those pictures of Japan, pictures of temples amongst forests of cherry blossom trees. Well those images are of Kyoto, and is why Kyoto attracts so many tourists.
Kyoto was the most traditional places that i visited in Japan, lots of compacts streets and old buildings, small markets and shops, hidden away behind the buildings. Whilst not being overly busy, the streets had a few more tourists than in Tokyo.
We had 3nights in Kyoto so we wanted to make the most of it, so we spent plenty of time exploring a few sights, and taking it all in. At night kyoto was illuminated by the restaurants,bars and street lighting that really is pretty
Due to the route between Hakuba and Kyoto not being straight forward, it meant the choice of getting numerous trains taking 5 hours, or get a coach that is direct and takes 6 hours. We went for the coach! It was really simple to book, we simply rang up the number and spoke to an english speaking lady, and she booked us onto the coach, and we paid at the coach itself. The coach was the cheapest option and was by far the most luxurious, to our surprise when we got on the coach.
After our time in Kyoto was up, we got another coach to Osaka Kansai airport. The only way to get to Kansai airport is by the road bridge as the airport is built on an island. So to save time and energy we caught the direct bus.
We flew back to Heathrow airport via Hong Kong where we had a 2 hour change over, the total flight time was 17 hours and with all the in flight food and entertainment, the time flew by ( yes that was on purpose) As when we flew out to Japan, we flew back with Cathay Pacific, which is the main Hong Kong airport, so that being the reason for the change there. I would recomend Cathay Pacific to anyone, it is the best airline I've experience.
Our Accommodation was in a little semi-indoor market next to the old town of Kyoto. A short 5 min walk into the old town where we could see the small streets and temples and pagodas, and a 10 min walk into the more build up modernised side of Kyoto.
The Hotel was called Japaning Hotel, which is a chain of self service hotels. On arrival to the hotel the reception simply required us to scan our passports and enter a pin code that we had from booking. The rooms where simple and clean, and in every room there is a smart phone/tablet that you can use for the duration of your stay, this helps immensely with getting around Kyoto and not spending loads on roaming charges.
Food and Drink
The food is very familiar to Tokyo, plenty of ramen noodle and rice restaurants, plenty of the vending machine restaurants, but there was a lot more steak houses, the famous Wagyu beef was advertised everywhere. There was loads of traditional sweet shops and snack huts, plenty of street food around the temples, and the tourist hot spots. Some of the street food will make you look twice, but it is so nice.
In Kyoto there are plenty bars to choose from, a nice mix of pubs, bars and clubs. The young Japanese people really do seem to let their hair down on a night, nothing aggressive like you see in some places, it was fun and safe for everyone.
Things to do
Kyoto Old Town
Kyoto's old town is full of old, tight, small streets, winding through and past numerous temple,s shrines and pagodas. You'll find a fair few tourists in this area, so the streets can get very bust at times. In the old town you'll find plenty of little huts and shacks providing some immense street food, I highly advise treating yourself to the street food.
To get a good view of some of the best and most traditional buildings in Japan, then the Old town is an absolute must
The Kyoto Monkey park is based in the hills that surround Kyoto, very similar to the Monkey park in Nagano. A good 20 minute hike up hill to get to the Monkey's playground, but it is well worth the trip. You can watch the Macaque Monkeys play, groom, sleep, chill out and there is a hut, where inside you can feed the monkeys with bits of banana, apple and peanuts. The monkeys are very gentle and will take the food from you nice and slowly. If you're lucky you can even get to feed the babies.
This was one if the most impressive buildings that I've ever seen, for its size and history. The entrance fee to the the grounds is only a few quid and will take a few hours so give yourself enough time. The palace is set in the hills around Kyoto and is and extremely striking place.
Kyoto is a wonderful place to visit, you'll see buildings like nowhere else in the world, and a way of life that is incredibly pleasant, and relaxed. Enjoy the food, drink and take in the sites.