It's part 4 of the much neglected summer travellog. I don't think I'd do too well writing serialized adventure stories, I'd lose interest half-way through and forget to finish.
Ok, so we arrived at our hotel, the Kyoto Sun Palace, and it was right in the middle of the entertainment district. Just a few bus stops from Gion (walking distance really) and very close to the Pontocho. We were surrounded by lights, movie theatres, arcades and shops. It was great! Or hotel was a nice business one, fairly quiet, no curfew, etc... When we first checked in, they put us on the top floor, but in an interior room! We had no view at all! I went back downstairs to see if we could change rooms...luck! There was one room left that had a window (I think from some other reservation who hadn't shown up yet). So our view was this, not the hopping side of the district, but the covered shopping mall that you can just see was pretty cool.
Since we had dinner in the station before we picked up our bags, we didn't go out once I got the room situation fixed. Plus, it had been a long day.
Day 2 in Kyoto:
After buying bus passes (very cool, all day unlimited passes, if you ride the bus more than twice you save lots. This was our first stop each day for the rest of our stay), we set off. We had breakfast in a Starbucks overlooking the river (whatever you may say about their mushrooming ways, I like Starbucks. They are oasis' of normalcy when I can't handle any more unique Japaneseness). From there, we got on a bus and went to Kiyomizudera, a temple famous for it's healing water (thus the "mizu" in the name, meaning water). Here is the main gate, there was quite a hike up through various shopping streets to get to it (we shopped on the way back down ^_^). The actual temple is set back into the hillside and is surrounded by a beautiful forested area, dotted with smaller temples (part of the complex but not attached). Here is the "hall" leading to the main building, and this is the building itself from below (there is some fairly spectacular bracing underneath to keep it from sliding down the hillside. We wandered around for a bit and partook of the sacred water (which was a fun experience since it comes out over the roof of a little shrine set in the hill and to retreive the water you have to use these really long handled ladle/cups). I also took an embarassing, but not particularly bad, fall down some of the steps and bruised my hip. It had started to rain and the steps were really slipperly.
After we finished there, we got back on the bus and went to Sanjusangendo, the temple with the thousand standing statues of Kannon. The main hall with all the statues was fairly spectacular, but no picture taking was allowed, so I can't show you. Here is the exterior of the hall, to give you an idea of how big it was, the second door from the left (counting the half one at the far left) is at the middle of the hall. We didn't stay here too long, mostly because there wasn't much too it after we'd go through the main hall.
We were going to go the the Kyoto National Museum, since it was right across the street from Sanjusangendo, but it was just about to close when we left, so we decided to do some shopping.
I'd noticed a mention of a handicraft center in my Lonely Planet, so we went to check it out (back on the bus ~_^). On the way there, we ran across a group of Canadian Girl Scouts (they were going to the same place), it looked like they were doing some sort of volunteer thing...can't remember what exactly...they were a bit noisy and annoying (made me think about how little patience I have now for loud tourists >_< ), but not too bad. Do, we went to the Kyoto Handicraft Center, 7 floors of overpriced tourist trap souvineers...there was some good stuff, but there was lots of really odd things too. It was kinda fun, but I don't think I'd be going back anytime soon. Eventually, the place closed so we left, picked up some food in a little grocery and caught another bus back to the hotel.
Next - In which there are many gates...