November 9, 2012

Alone in Kyoto

Before we get to today, let's go over last night:

After seeing Rob & Stephen off at Kyoto Station, I found my way back to the capsule hotel to collect my bags. I discovered that two nights was more than enough time to get the full experience, so my next adventure was staying in a hostel.

If you're like, the images conjured up with regards to "hostel" are a run down shack with a few bunk beds and an air of murder. "K's House", where I slept last night, does away with the creepy vibe (though it keeps the bunk beds) and replaces it with a warm, welcoming, and dare I say swanky atmosphere. How swanky? Well their cafe/bar is called "Zen CafĂ©" and their playlist includes a lot of BeyoncĂ©, some Groove Armada, and a whole lot of explicit rap that would not have been played had the owners knew what the lyrics were.

Not what Eli Roth had in mind
I chose a room with 3 sets of bunk beds, though when I returned at night, it appeared that only half were occupied. It's weird slipping into a dark room with sleeping strangers who you're about to trust will not wake up and murder you while you're off dreaming. What's even more strange is that most of the people staying at the hostel were adults or entire families.

I spent the evening in the common room, which consisted of a collection of couches, tables, a full kitchen, some origami lessons, loads of travel books, and a few computer nooks. I kept to myself as I was tired from a day of cycling, but as the room cleared, it was just me and my bunk-mate, a Swiss gentleman, who asked if I wanted to watch President Obama's speech. Sure did!

Looking back, it was really a shame that I was too exhausted to socialize because it looked like a really interesting mix of people. Any middle-aged person who is staying in a hostel has got to be quirky, no? There's another K's House in Hiroshima that I may stay in for a night, just so I can meet people. The Swiss gentleman and I exchanged email addresses and are planning on attending the sumo tournament together.

So now we get to this morning:

Decided I wanted to spend my day riding a bike. I had such an amazing time traveling through the city the previous day and have never felt more confident on two wheels. I quickly checked a map and decided to head North (uphill) so I could have an easy journey back. I grabbed my bag, a book and my camera and started zipping through the streets with no particular destination in mind. My only goal was to read the Jon Stewart book of essays Naked Pictures of Famous People.
Bike selfie
I eventually found myself by the river that cuts through the center of town and found a nice bench on which to read. Between essays I would walk around the river or bike towards different patches of park, but I wanted to finish the book before the sun set so most of the light hours were spent in my book.
A nice place to read, minus the wet pages.
By the time it was dark, I had nearly finished and realized I had to start making my way back to the hostel to grab
my bags. For my final night in Kyoto I was going to couch surf with a University student in his apartment. Couch surf may be a bit misleading though as his only furniture was a desk, drafting table, and a chair. But more on that later.

Biking through Kyoto at night was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had on this trip so far. First of all, I've never felt confident on a bike, so to suddenly be able to zip through narrow alleys while taking video of the experience is a feat worthy of you writing a comment on this post and telling me how awesome I am.

I'll wait....

Secondly, Kyoto (as I would learn later that night in some architecture books at my hosts apartment) has been preserved in a few neighborhoods to forever reflect the look of the once-capital city. And although the insides of the buildings have become modernized, the facades are required by law to maintain a certain look. So it really felt as though I was biking in another time period.

I've tried to capture a little bit of the city as I cycled through these last two days and cut together those videos into the piece below. Still have to tell you all about my Couchsurfing experience, but I think I'll wait until after my departure tomorrow to go into detail. Off to bed now and then off to Osaka tomorrow.

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