Day 3: Kyoto: Kiyomizu-Dera, Hei-An Shrine, Kamo River

The next day we headed to the famous Kiyomizu-Dera district. A very quaint collection of old architecture that sold the prettiest snacks and gifts.

Being there early has its perks as we saw a couple in traditional japanese wedding gear taking their wedding pictures and a TV crew shooting! We didn’t recognise the lead though and we must be walking the right pathways as the crew kept following in our foot-steps haha.

We had dessert for breakfast as that was the only eatery open at that time and we also stopped by another place to try their mochi jelly and strawberry shaved ice.

The famous Kiyomuzi-Dera temple was a tad disappointing. Not because the architecture wasn’t as beautiful as the pictures, but because it was extremely commercialised. There were shops all over selling amulets and for a 100 yen, one could also enter a very dark place which was supposed to be mimic a “holy womb” and you could utter your heart’s wishes in there. If dark areas are not your thing, there was also “holy water” for free if you use the scoops there or buy a special cup for 300-400 yen. Everything was on sale to make your dreams and wishes come true. I got a little sad as I looked at the snaking queues that were standing in the heat to drink the water. It was a vague promise, but one where people were still very willing to grab at. I do not mean to make fun of others’ religious practices and to me, this did not look like a religious practice. It appeared to be just a commercial place riding on a famous name that was as willing to sell dreams and promises, as the people were willing to believe.

We visited the Garden Oriental Hotel to have lunch. A beautifully kept place that offered rest and respite. This was what I observed about Kyoto. The better-run places for rest and refreshments are a lot more like sanctuaries for the soul than the ones who bear such names.

It was still early afternoon and we wanted to visit the Modern Museum of Art. Unfortunately it was closed! But we chanced upon the biggest Torii ever.

It led us to Hei-an Shrine and we thought that the layout was reminiscent of the ancient Chinese palaces. From the map, I thought there were 3 lakes in there. It turned out that there were more like ponds:)

As it turned to late afternoon, we reached the last pond where there was a bridge with seating. My imaginative mind started conjuring up images of past concubines who would sit here with their petite fans and maids and pine for the Majesty’s love and affection. We sat there and paid 100 yen for some fish food and boy, they were hungry! The turtles, fishes, kois, were desperate for food. Maybe this was what the concubines used to do too.

We headed to Kamo River again which was very near where we stayed. We bought drinks and started to relax and chill out. A working adult passed us, looked at us and soon he was back with his own beer. He settled at another corner and started chilling out with a smoke. We soon saw 2 young mums who were skipping to and fro along the stone paths. They were having so much fun! A guy showed up with his dog and even his dog was inspired to join in the fun. The dog eventually got into the shallow water and the owner followed after. A family of 3 ducks were swimming nearby too. It was heartening to share that lovely evening with all these local people and animals at the river. I love seeing the mothers help their kids leap across these stones.

Travel Tips:

1. Lunch set for 1,500 yen at http://www.thegardenorientalkyoto.com

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