Our itinerary to round up Kyoto began with a visit to Kinkaku-Ji. Waiting for Wesley to arrive, my breakfast was the amazingly traditional choice of green tea sundae. (It had cornflakes at the bottom, so it counts right?) Kinkaku-Ji was 500 yen to enter and very crowded. It’s a beautiful attraction to visit, but I’m not sure it was worth the price of going in since you were only allowed to view the temple from outside. We also purchased some charms here, but later found the same ones 300 yen cheaper at Kiyomizu-dera! I was naïve in thinking that they were special to that particular location and not some mass produced tourist souvenir. Disappointing!
I would advise finding a location to eat before heading to Kiyomizu-dera. The food around the area is a little overpriced compared to other locations, but I guess it’s natural with the amount of tourists it attracts. Out of all the sights I’ve visited in Japan, the immediate area of Kiyomizu-dera is definitely the prime location to dress in yukatas! There’s so many people in traditional Japanese dress, you probably stick out more by being in normal clothes.
Attracted by the small cluster of tourists coming out of an unassuming temple, we were intrigued and paid the 100-yen entrance fee to go inside. The idea is that you enter the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu, become a new born again and spinning the stone at the end grants you a wish. It was the weirdest thing stepping inside as it’s totally pitch black. Sometimes in the dark, you can make out faint shapes, but here it was impossible. It’s quite an unsettling feeling, but made amusing by the sounds of other people bumping into one another (there’s a rope to guide you round the inside).
Feeling a little disorientated as we stepped back out into the light, we headed towards Jishu Shrine, a place for the romantics amongst you. There’s two love stones here that come with a special challenge. Upon touching the first one, you close your eyes and attempt to make your way to the other. Doing this successfully means finding true love! It was sweet to see a group of school children helping out a classmate by shouting out hints and a group of girls also helped a stranger find her way to the other stone. Unfortunately, Wesley failed at this task and was condemned to never finding his true love.
Not to be overlooked, Kiyomizu-dera itself provides a lovely viewpoint to see Kyoto in the daytime. Seeing photographs on Google tells me it would be an even more spectacular sight during cherry blossom season. Not to mention autumn. Or winter. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to return seasonally and observe the changes?
Sightseers and information seekers
After our disappointing first attempt to sight-see around Taipei, we checked and double checked opening times this time round, setting off nice and early to fit as much in as possible. With the sun on our side we arrived at the Dalongdong Bao’an Temple (臺北保安宮). It’s a small but beautiful site that has been awarded for its conservation efforts by UNESCO. There’s a lack of English signs providing information about the temple and it would have been nicer to be given more about its history, but it’s nothing you can’t read up on Google later I suppose! Across the road from here is the Confucius Temple, which does have an abundance of information given to you in English! Although less intricate in architectural design, I did enjoy this temple much more due to its interactive exhibitions! There’s also a screening room towards the back of the area showing Confucius related films in 4D (!!!), there are nine screenings spread throughout the day if you have the time. Having just missed the previous screening, we decided to press on with our itinerary feeling sorry to have missed the 4D film.
We next made our way to the Taiwan Fine Arts Museum, not seeking out anything in particular but to check out some works by Taiwanese artists. Entering the main exhibition, it was nice to discover for ourselves the works of Daniel Lee (a Chinese artist raised in Taiwan). The collection consisted of human/animal hybrids, termed ‘manimals’ by Lee, created through both digital and traditional mediums. They were all fantastically beautiful and creepy to view, provoking ideas of future bodily manipulations or even ethical implications of combining animal and human genetics. Not having any expectations of the museum beforehand, it’s pretty easy to be satisfied with our visit, but lovelier to find pieces that strike you and create conversation – something that is definitely harder to come across!
Moving on from the arts museum, we went to meet another friend (this time a Taiwanese local) and explored the surrounding area, ending up at Maji2, a little hipster street style food court that serves a variety of food from different countries. There’s also a few shops here for those of you wanting to buy quirky gifts to take home! We stopped here for lunch and can confirm that the prices and quality of food here is pretty decent!
Completing the cultural tour, we then went to the National Palace Museum, which is a fair bit away from our location (~1hr) – something to keep in mind for anyone else planning their itinerary. Once there however, it’s a spectacular sight to behold. The structure itself is huge and imposing, which is funny contrasted with the rather shabby block of flats directly opposite. For those residents, it must be amazing to have such a view to distract you and reminds me of this observation from Karl Pilkington. Heading inside is like walking into a vault of treasures, temperatures are kept low to preserve the artefacts so bringing a light jacket is advisory (unfortunately, no one told me, so I kept warm by briskly walking around the exhibits). There’s a lot to go through and even more locked away from the public eye (!) but my favourite parts were the calligraphy and jade exhibitions. We spent the rest of the day here but still weren’t able to make it around the whole museum, there’s so much to see!