I’ve seen a lot of impressive things over the course of this trip, but the entrance to Batu Caves — featuring a towering, 140 foot golden statue — is right up there.
I mean, look at that thing.
Then you climb up all those stairs (it’s a lot of stairs), and there’s an enormous cave with multiple temples inside.
It’s pretty incredible.
That’s not to mention the monkeys!
There are dozens of monkeys that just hang around on the steps and near the entrance to the cave.
As you can see, they were pretty much the best.
Even if the caves themselves weren’t spectacular (which they were), it would be worth coming here just to see the monkeys.
Plus, here’s some video I took of a monkey eating a banana. Yes: I got to see a real-life monkey eating a banana, so I think it’s safe to say that my life has peaked and that it’s all downhill from here.
I mentioned in a recent post that the under-the-radar temples and shrines in Kyoto are where it’s at; well, on the other end of the spectrum is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its seemingly endless pathways of orange gates.
It’s a stunning sight, but it’s also as insanely packed with tourists as you’d fear, especially at the beginning of the trail.
Thankfully, it’s about four kilometres long and leads up into Mount Inari, and as you get deeper inside, it becomes less and less crowded.
Towards the end, it was finally empty enough for me to take a picture like this:
And, because I have a hard time writing a blog post without talking about food, there’s a little cafe about halfway up that sells soft serve ice cream cones. One of them was “soy bean flour” flavoured, and of course, I had to try it.
It wasn’t bad — it had a mildly nutty flavour, and was a nice treat after a long uphill walk.
You also get a pretty good view of the city from up there (which would have been better if it weren’t so hazy out).
I know, more cemeteries? Weird, right? Well what can I say, they’re entrancing.
Many of the temples in Kyoto have a cemetery attached, and some of them are quite striking.
I took a brief video at one of them. It doesn’t really capture it (it’s mostly wind noise from the tiny built-in microphone on my camera), but there was something weirdly serene and kind of eerie about the sense of quiet here; just birds chirping and boards clacking.
Then there was this odd pyramid of sorts at one of the cemeteries; I don’t know what it was, but it was certainly memorable.
I am, however, always vaguely paranoid that I’ll accidentally knock over a tombstone or something and wind up with a Grudge-esque curse, so if I die under mysterious circumstances here, you’ll know what’s what.
On the 21st day of every month, the Toji Temple in Kyoto gets transformed into a bustling market — something I had no idea about until the owner of the pug cafe clued me in. Ah, pug cafe: the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s a pretty typical flea market, filled with all of the useless knick-knacks and quirky junk that you’d expect, but it’s still interesting to wander around, and the location can’t be beat.
There are also intense, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, so it might be a good idea to either go first thing in the morning or later in the day, not smack-dab in the middle of the afternoon like I did.
I was surprised by the amount of food to be had; there was all kinds of street food like takoyaki, okinomiyaki, and yakitori (all of the yakis, basically).
It didn’t occur to me that there’d be so much food there, so I had already eaten lunch. Like an idiot.
I did, however, partake in one of these cakey, sweet bean-filled things.
As far as I can tell, these are identical to the ubiquitous fish cakes that you see everywhere in this part of the world, just in a different shape. It’s hard to go wrong with these things, especially when they’re hot and fresh.
There are over 1600 temples and 400 shrines in Kyoto, which is readily apparent when you’re walking around the city. It’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without stumbling onto a temple or a shrine, and when you’re on the outskirts of the city, they’re absolutely everywhere.
The more famous ones are certainly worth seeing, though they tend to be packed with wall-to-wall tourists, which does diminish the experience somewhat.
I discovered some of the shrines and temples I liked best just by randomly wandering around the city.
That’s the only way you’ll find quirkier shrines like this one, which was rabbit-themed.
Here’s another one I randomly stumbled across. It’s hard to argue that it’s any less impressive than the more tourist-friendly temples, and I only saw a couple of other people while I was there.
I’m not one of those travelers who looks down on anything touristy; I have no problem staying on the beaten track if it’ll lead me somewhere memorable, even if I’m the millionth person to do it. But there’s an amazing sense of serenity to being alone at a place like this that’s completely lost when you’re surrounded on all sides.
And then there’s probably my favourite temple that I went to in Kyoto, the Honen-in Temple.
This one I actually did read about (which is why I know the name for this one and not the others), but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be nearly as tourist-filled as some of the more popular ones.