GOING AROUND KYOTO:
We went around Kyoto using a combination of Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Subway One Day Card. To be honest, it's not easy to figure out the map, since there's too many of us, I left the navigation to my peers and get lost with them... yes, getting lost is an integral part of the experience.
You can read through how to access public transport at Kyoto City Web. This pastel colored kyoto city bus and subway map likewise gives you a visual guide around Kyoto. The day card doesn't always mean unlimited access, extra fees may be required for certain stops marked as "squares", so do take note of the legend. The bus or subway stops doesn't normally stop near the entrance of these tourist attractions; 5 to 15 minutes walk may be necessary.
Kyoto is everything cultural heritage sites; there are more than seventeen temples, castles and shrines. Visiting all of them would definitely be overload. Since most sites close by five in the afternoon, it's best to start early. The best season to walk around these sites should be between mid to late November, when there's an explosion of colors brought about by the autumn season. late March to April would also be best for cherry blossom viewing. And here I am, walking around in August, at the height of summer, and I tell you, it was such a bad idea. At an average, I could consume three or more iced desserts in a day. The vendo machines that you can find anywhere served its purpose to keep us hydrated. A bottle of water costs about 100 yen on the vendo machine.
Tenryuji is a Zen temple in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. It has been ranked first among the city's "Five Great Zen Temples". Last summer, the zen garden looked so pretty, but I sat there imagining how much prettier it would be in autumn.
Nijo Castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo Shogunate, as the Kyoto residence for himself and his successors. It took some time to go around the premises, the garden was huge and twas interesting to step on those so called "nightingale floor". The floors of the outer rooms at the castle squeak whenever someone steps on them. The squeaking sounds much like the singing of the nightingale but they weren’t designed because the shogun liked to hear birds singing but he was very fearful for his life, and the squeaking floors were designed to alert the ruler if anyone approached his chambers.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Looking from across the lake (photo above), it looked picturesque with it's reflection on the lake. However, up close, it looked plain and simple. Its premises was also not promising.
Kiyomizudera ("Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. There's obviously a good number of couples and locals compared to other temples. IMHO, this is probably the most interesting among all temples, aside from me being unmindful of the walk uphill because of the numerous small stores and tea houses along the way.
Aside from the heritage sites, one thing I love about Kyoto is food! We did not find so many typical Japanese restaurants like those serving sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen (save these for Tokyo). When in Kyoto (or southern Japan), have these interesting meals part of your to do list:
After a scorching hot day at Kiyomizudera, the skies started to rumble, so we had to swallow those takoyaki and rushed downhill to the bus stop. It was not long before the rain poured. We all cramped into a corner, under the roof of a restaurant extending on the sidestreets and screamed as we rushed inside the bus when it arrived several minutes after. We must looked so poor yet clumsy, the people on the bus had a good laugh. An unusually big japanese guy seated next to me can't stop giggling and laughing til the next bus stop. We finally caught the attention of the locals who are generally reserved with their actions.