We had an awesome time in Kyoto, and truly, Kyoto is a foodie's paradise! We did so much in just two days and I took more than 250 photos!
It seems that the Japanese do very well at equipping the eki (train station) at most cities, and Kyoto eki is no different. In fact, there is a huge Isetan shopping mall more than 11 storeys big. Mainly women's clothing and fashion, but my favourite floors are the food omiyage (souvenir) department and the food market sections. In the middle of the eki area is the "Grand Stair" - basically a huge open space, not unlike an amphitheatre, extending about 10 storeys with a performance stage within. It was packed on the Sunday that we arrived in Kyoto, and some school band was playing on stage.
Near the top of the Grand Stair at the eki
After arriving in Kyoto on Sunday afternoon and checking into our accommodation at K's House (which is an excellent, affordable and convenient place to stay at - very popular though so it gets booked out very quickly), we armed ourselves with maps and took the train to Arashiyama to see the monkeys in Iwatayama (I'm happy to say that we are no longer so bewildered about buying train tickets). There are temples and other traditional stuff in Arashiyama, but with a tight itinerary we only had time to see one thing, and seeing monkeys seemed a lot more interesting than visiting temples.
Since it was the last day of a 3-day long weekend, the streets of Arashiyama was absolutely packed with Japanese tourists (Rob was the only gaijin-looking person in the crowd!). The walk from the eki (train station) to the hills took about 20 minutes, and I'm sure the traditional streets would have been more beautiful without the tourist crowd.
The streets of Arashiyama:
The breathtaking view of the river:
After paying the 520yen entrance fee to the monkey park it was a 20 minute hike up the hill in the monkey park. We encountered a few curious monkeys on the way to the peak, but there were so many more monkeys at the top (a total of about 150 monkeys, and each one has a name). The baby monkeys were sooooooo cute! Very noisy though. We could also feed the monkeys from inside an enclosure. (The greedy adults kept snatching food from the baby monkeys!)
Rob keeping oh-so-still in the hopes that the monkey would come near him:
Feeding a monkey
The view at the top of Iwatayama was beautiful (I'm inclined to say that me being in the picture spoiled the view, but the groundskeeper was helping take photos of other couples, and I guess he assumed we wanted one too) :
By the time we got back to the bottom of the hill, it was already twilight, so we went in search for our dinner. Arashiyama certainly isn't the place to hit at night - the empty streets after dark was quite starkly different to the noisy crowded streets during the day.