5 Things to Do in Kyoto (excluding temples)

Temples are like good books. They’re all basically the same thing: words in black ink on pages bound together within stiff boards. But each has its own charm and unique story to tell; each I can spend an entire day perusing.

But I’ve discovered that many people aren’t as keen with temples as I am or don’t have the time to appreciate a lot of them for stretch of hours like I do, which lead me to making this list as a guide for anyone who’s seen enough of Kyoto’s temples and shrines, but still itching to see more of the city.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama is a district on the western side of Kyoto. It is home to Tenryu-ji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site like the famous Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Despite the temple’s distinction, it’s a bamboo grove that attracts droves of tourists to Arashiyama.

The grove is bisected by a path that takes wayfarers to a small shrine (most popular among women for its God for Matchmaking) and a small park. The grove itself is picturesque and calming – the conversation between the hollow giants and the wind silences inner conflicts. But this conversation gets muffled by loud voices and endless camera clicks so go at an early time (the grove is accessible 24 hours) if you want to enjoy the grove in silence and peace and, in summer, a more bearable temperature.

Other attractions: Togetsukyo Bridge || Monkey Park Iwatayama || Music Box Museum
 

Romantic Train and River Boat Ride
Beyond Arashiyama’s bamboo grove looks like nowhere, but don’t let the empty path fool you into thinking there’s nothing more because just a few meters from the end of the grove is Torokko Arashiyama Station, the last stop of the charming Sagano Romantic Train before it snakes its way between mountains and over a wide river.

At the train’s fourth and last stop, passengers have two choices: return to Arashiyama on the same train or return to Arashiyama via the river. A bus outside the station goes to Hozugawa Ferry Terminal, the starting point of an approximately two-hour boat ride that takes its passengers back to Arashiyama.
Read More »

Best Shrine in Kyoto

Kyoto Prefecture is home to at least 400 shrines, which makes it almost impossible to choose the best one. Almost impossible because I have done it. It took a lot of deliberation because every shine I’ve been to has its own charm and beauty, but familiarity won me over so I’m giving the “Best Shrine”┬átitle to…

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Torii Gate

Sounds familiar? Probably not.Read More »

Discovering Bohol, Philippines

One of my resolutions this year was to see more of the Philippines. Palawan was at the top of my list followed by Batanes and then Sagada. I don’t know why I didn’t consider places outside the Luzon group of islands. I guess it never crossed my mind that there would be great things to see in Visayas and Mindanao. Fortunately, fate intervened in the guise of a friend’s wedding and last week I found myself on my first domestic flight to Bohol.

Bohol is the tenth largest island of the Philippines and it has 75 minor surrounding islands including Panglao, which is famous for its diving locations. I only discovered this when I got there but even I, who has never been to many diving spots, think that Panglao Island deserves its popularity. The sea was clear and inviting and the fine, white sand was the perfect carpet for a walk.

panglao-island-beach

bohol-beach
Read More »

A September Day Itinerary in Nara, Japan

Nara may only be a former capital of Japan and not as popular as it’s neighbors, Kyoto and Osaka, but it does have its own visit-worthy places and I’m not only talking about the deer park. That said, it is quite a distance from Kyoto so I made a itinerary in which I could go to as many places as I could in a day.

I used the Kintetsu Nara Line because it was more convenient for me and I wanted to get down at Kintetsu Nara Station, which is closer than the JR Line to the famous tourist spots. I only had Google Maps in “map” mode so I didn’t really know what I should expect after getting out of the train station, but I saw Higashimuki Nakamachi shopping arcade and I can’t resist those so I walked through it and exited into Sanjo Dori where I saw tourists crowding around a Japanese confectionery shop. Naturally, I joined the crowd and bought what everybody was buying.

nara-mochi-shop

That shop has the best yomogi mochi (grass rice cake) in Japan, which immediately makes it the best yomogi mochi in the world. You can bring some home but it’s better if you eat it there when it’s still slightly warm and the flavors are fresh. It was honestly the best mochi I have ever had and I after I went back to Kyoto I kept looking for something like it but never succeeded.

nara-yomogi-mochiRead More »

Around the World in a Lifetime

A bare sakura tree against a concrete wall is the first image that comes to mind when someone asks me about the first time I stepped into a country that was not my own. That was two years ago. Since then, I’ve been to two other countries, tasted Pad Thai, quiche, and fugu nabe for the first time, met wonderful hosts through AirBNB, and discovered that traveling is the greatest way to know more about the world, life, culture, history, people, and yourself.

I don’t know when and where I can travel again and if I will ever get as good a chance when I ticked Kyoto off my bucket list, but just in case I did I decided to make a list of the top ten places that make me curious, daydream, and very excited about life.Read More »