Sunday, 24 May 2015

stop, we want to get off

templed out
temˈpelːlɪd/ aʊt/
adjective: templed out
  1. 1.
    very tired (esp. of old buildings).

    "she returned to the guesthouse, templed out from her day in Kyoto "

    synonyms:tired out, worn out, weary, dog-tired, bone-tired, bone-weary, ready to drop, on one's last legs, asleep on one's feet, drained, fatigued, enervated, debilitated, spent
    informaldone in, all in, dead on one's feet, beat, dead beat, shattered, bushed, fagged out, knocked out, wiped out, running on empty, zonked out, worn to a frazzle, frazzled, bushwhacked;
    informalknackered, whacked (out), jiggered;
    informalpooped, tuckered out, whipped;
    vulgar slangbuggered;
    vulgar slangrooted;
    rare propermozzied

    "I must go shopping—I'm templed out"
    antonyms:fresh as a monk, raring to go
  2. 2.
    (of tourism) completely overwhelmed.

    "John couldn't remember where he was, he was so templed out"

    synonyms:used up, at an end, consumed, finished, spent;

these toris are sponsored - the football shirts of Japanese Buddhism

The traffic along the riverside is horrendous.  Endless queues, getting cut up, people passing too close for comfort, narrow lanes, and bollards that make it really awkward with the loaded bikes.  But the cylce path that goes from Osaka to Kyoto is a vast improvement on the roads.  It's a Sunday and the World And His Wife are out on their bikes, in lycra, in jeans and straw pork pie hats, in court shoes, in sandals.  It's a lovely sunny day and the riverside is a ribbon of green.   When we reach the city we head over to one of Kyoto's UNESCO-listed temples.  It's tucked away on a backstreet, behind a railway line, but as soon as we see white faces we know we've found it.  We call this one the 'Many tori Temple' because it has a walk through the forest made up of a tunnel of vermillion gateways.  The temple is dedicated to good harvests - which translates as business success these days - and so the toris are donated by businesses seeking a better return on their investment.  The temple has been voted the best in the whole of Japan on a popular travel website.  But as Maki points out to us later, it is free to enter.  Not all of Kyoto's fabulous collection of temples are free, but as there are over a thousand to choose from, we thought we'd start with a few freebies and see how we get on.  Down the road is the Tofukuji Temple, a temple dedicated to good tofu.  If you want it, they've got it in Kyoto.

a bar for everyone
Guesthouse Soi is easy to find on the south-east side of the city.   Hostels are notoriously busy in Kyoto and when we contacted Maki a while ago, she warned us that bookings were high.  We know Maki because she ran one of the best hostels we've ever visited with her husband Sim in Chengdu.  A while ago they sold up and moved back to Maki's home country to open this place with friends Suzuki and Koori.  Sim isn't here sadly - he's out in Penang setting up a new guesthouse in Georgetown, but when we arrive Maki is on the phone to him, so we say hello.  Maki had kindly agreed to receive two parcels for us - replacement zippers for our tent generously sent by Hilleberg - and a 'Red Cross' parcel from Gabor who is now back in Germany.  We are delighted to receive biscuits we dreamed of in Mongolia, an indestructible silicone spatula, and home-crafted handbrakes for our bikes.  So much thought and care has gone into the parcel - I only wish the same could be said about what I wrote about our ride acrosss Mongolia together and sometimes not together..........

roof detail
No time to dilly-dally though, there are sights to see, places to go.  Temples, temples, shrines, temples.  Kyoto's downtown area is not particularly remarkable but where the city edges out into the surroundings hills and forest you can find plenty of wonderful temple complexes in extensive and leafy grounds.  Some are overrun with coachloads of tourists, while others remain calm and peaceful.  This temple is under a huge scaffold while an army of workers rebuild it.  That shrine is covered in moss and cobwebs, seemingly undisturbed for years.  There are streets of old buildings given over to selling souvenirs, reminiscent of what we have seen in China, and others where the rich live in the luxury of 'old' Japan, with large manicured gardens and wonderful examples of traditional houses, all discreetly tucked out of the sight of prying eyes behind grey stone walls.  Money buys you space in Japan.  

All this sight-seeing is exhausting - we are out of practice.  On the other hand Michael, a young Aussie, doesn't pause to take a breath.  He's travelling around the world in about five months.  He's been in Japan for three and a half days and already travelled the country and he's read a 1001 Things To Do Before You Die and decided to try and do them before he's 25.  His Japanese souvenir is a tad large and tasteless but it's hard to tell him this to his face.  So he might just read it here instead.  And anyway he is obviously thrilled by it. He will return to Tokyo to get the shoulder/torso tattoo completed before he leaves.
950 Japanese schoolchildren try to recreate a famous Beatles album cover

Kyoto is full of pantomime dames
We also have an accommodation headache because Maki hasn't got room for us after two nights.  In fact on the second night we sleep in the booths in the dining area which Maki offers us for free.  This is very kind of her.  We had made a booking for another place on the other side of the city and changed the booking when she said she had a free room.  It's all very messy and as a sign of how far removed from reality we can get, the thought of being charged £12 for changing our booking at the other place quite stresses us.  We cross town to find a traditional house hidden behind modern appartment buildings in a quiet neighbourhood.  The guesthouse is excellent and great value but we decide not to like the owner for charging us that £12 fee.  On the way there we pass the Golden Pavillion.  It's close to 5 o'clock but we take a look anyway.  "You're too late" a man shouts to us as we set about parking our bikes.  Ian and Martin are sat sweating in the shade.  They are staying in a capsule hotel near the station tonight for want of a better place to stay.  Martin is nearly 2 metres tall so he's not looking too sure about it.  Ian is a jovial Englishman ready with a story.  Have we been to Kobe and tried the famous beef there?  No, was it good? we ask.  Weellll.  The Kobe beef was a little too expensive so they headed to McDonalds instead and had burgers.  So now if anyone asks they can say they went to Kobe and had some Kobe beefburgers.  It's a hoot chatting to some cheery Englishmen.  The city is full of tourists from all over the world but we feel that sudden displacement commonly felt when we switch from travelling in parts of the country that sees no foreign tourists to the complete opposite.  And hey, why does no-one say hello to each other?  Why are we being blanked?  All of a sudden the world feels cold and friendless.

Japanese maple

We are happy to return to Maki's guesthouse.   When we stayed at their guesthouse in Chengdu she was usually in the office managing a large team of staff whilst Sim had the fun of mixing with the guests and doing jobs around the hostel.  It was too big.  They employed 45 people and had over 100 rooms.  They wanted something smaller.  But Maki observes that the kind of guest that they have in Kyoto is rather different to Chengdu and rarely do long-term travellers pass through their doors.   Masato has arrived and begun helping out.  He has cycled quite a bit in China, where he met Maki and Sim in Chengdu. He speaks English well and adopts the air of a traditional English gentleman's butler, but with a warm and friendly smile.  He has improved his English by watching television.  Maki takes us and Masato out for a lunch of ramen noodles at a locals' place in the north of the city and then up onto the mountain in the north west where there was once a large and influential temple complex.  It was here that many leading Japanese buddhist monks studied before then heading off and setting up their own splinter group sect.  There are still many important buildings here and the main prayer hall has the most atmosphere we have come across in Japan thus far.  But there looks to be few monks here.  Maki wonders why a young man would become a monk in modern-day Japan.

Desperate for a proper rest, despite getting one with Danny and Christine, we stay a few days longer.  Maki once again grants us special exemption to sleep in the dining area on yet another full night.  This means we can meet Romain whom Gayle found fast asleep in the sunshine in Kagoshima about two months ago.  Romain has met his parents here before he starts a year's stay working in Japan and gets in touch via Facebook.  He is taking time off the bike for a while.  It's something we need to start planning for too.  We have been invited to house sit for old travelling friends Fabien and Coralie who now live in Luang Prabang in Laos and, for the record, are far from old. So we book a flight from Seoul to Chiang Mai for early August.  After a break in Luang Prabang we need to find work to save some money for the onward journey.   It's a good opportunity to take a break from travelling and do something different.

with Suzuki and Maki outside Guesthouse Soi

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