I left Thailand after spending six days in Prachuap Kiri Khan, which is a quiet city on the coast – about 400 km from Bangkok – and three in Bangkok. I felt the difference from Chiang Mai, but I enjoyed the peaceful life by the sea and I could appreciate the busy life in Bangkok.
I went to Japan in the last week of August, and started my real travel all alone. I reached Kyoto directly from Narita airport, after a six hour flight from Bangkok. I was so excited to start my new adventures, even though I was quite scared too. I’ve always known that taking trains is hard, especially in the big train stations like Tokyo or Kyoto, but I did it.
I was in Kyoto for three wonderful days. I know that it’s a short time, but I’d already been there twice, so I’d almost seen everything all you need to see. Last time I was been there, I wore like a Maiko and I enjoyed becoming another creature just for one day. I didn’t feel myself when they started to whiten my face and made me up. I chose a Kimono and an Obi belt, and then did a photo shoot in the garden. It was an amazing experience and stunning sensation.
Anyway, I found a city that I’d never been to, called Arashiyama. The city is famous for its bamboo forest, and I really wanted to see it, because I could imagine the amazing atmosphere I could feel there. I went to Arashiyama by taking a Keifuku local train from Omiya station, which cost only 210 yen (about 1,80 €). I started to walk around the little city and in the park, finding the famous bamboo path. It was extremely hot and I needed to sit down often, just drinking and taking a breath. When I reached the path I felt as though I’d turned up in an ancient and imaginary world, where everything was colored by the intensive green of the bamboo, and the sun on the top shyly sinking. The atmosphere was unreal, even though there were a lot of people walking through. I closed my eyes and imagined being the hero of the “House of flying daggers”, beautiful and brave. When I stopped my imagination, I followed the path. At the end I visited the Tenryuji temple with its beautiful garden, where I walked around the trees and the little river, and everything was perfect. I reached the station, because I wanted to go back to Kyoto, and I was very tired and overheated. I’d eaten a green tea ice-cream and I’d regenerated myself, so I decided to go to the monkey park. I wanted to see the macaques in their natural habitat, even though I knew it would be hard to walk into the mountain in 40° heat. I started my climb with a fan, which was given with the ticket, and a bottle of water. At the beginning I thought I couldn’t do it, but then the desire to be in contact with the amazing animals gave me the strength to go on. When I reached the top of the hill, I started to see a lot of big macaques, who ran around me. It was so fun, even though it was a bit dangerous, because the monkeys were extremely spiteful and you had to pay attention to all your stuff. There were a lot of guardians to protect people, but the animals were free to move where they wanted. I saw a big macaque diving into the water, a lot of baby monkeys suckled by their moms and most of them groomed each others. I stood in front of all of them and I was completely fascinated by nature. The view up there was amazing – you could see all the city of Arashiyama till Kyoto. I took a lot of pictures, before going back to the station. The descent was easier, also because I was so satisfied and happy with what I’d just seen.
The last day in Kyoto I spent time in a cat cafe and in an owl cafe. I love being together with animals. Of course, the owl cafe isn’t the best place where you can see the birds, because owls are night animals and they have to live in the forest, free to fly and hunt. I know that, but I really like owls and I really wanted to see them, even though I don’t agree with these cafes. I visited one regular cat cafe and one Bengal cat cafe, in which there were only Bengal cats. These are an amazing breed of cats. Their fur is just like a leopard’s and they are beautiful. I cuddled one for half an hour… I love cats and I would like to have remained there longer.
I’d walked though Nishiki Market, which is a street full of delicious food shops, and Teramachi street. I saw some real Geishas walking on the Gion area and I spent time on the river to see the fabulous sunset. Kyoto is an amazing city – so traditional, but also so modern. Spending time there, even though only for few days, is regenerative, because you are in a city, but you are surrounded by nature and historical places.
I left Kyoto to reach Okayama, before going to the island of Shikoku. I’d arrived in the afternoon and I’d immediately gone to see the caste. It is small, but the architecture is stunning, and it has some parts of the roof in gold, but with a totally black exterior, earning it the nickname of Crow Castle. I then visited the Korakuen gardens, thinking to see the same boring gardens… Unexpectedly, when I entered from the main entrance I stood in another world, in the wonderland world. I felt exactly like Alice when she fell in the hole, following the white rabbit, and she went out in another reality. The view in front of me was breath-taking, a huge green meadow with many rounded white lights all over, a lot of streams and beautiful trees. I dreamed of following my personal white rabbit, talking with the Cheshire Cat, drinking tea with the Mad Hatter and running away from the Queen of Hearts… And yes,I lost my mind for few minutes. I went back to the hotel, where I found myself again. The hotel Maira is a very nice and cheap one, and they offer some sweet bread every morning till 9.00 a.m., all day free hot and cold drinks and a free massage chair in the hall. The room is basic, but clean and bright.
The day after I’d been to Kurashiki city, which was recommended by my Japanese friend. I spent twenty minutes by train from Okayama station to reach the city, and the most interesting place to visit is the Bikan historical area, which is the old merchant quarter. It contains many fine examples of 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. The area has no electric poles in order to make it more closely resemble the look of the Meiji period. It seems to live in another century, and there’s a magical atmosphere all around. I walked through the shopping street, where I saw some interesting dress shops and a cos player’s photo shooting. I went back to the hotel, spending my last night in Okayama.
Okayama was my last city on the mainland. After that, I took a direct train to Matsuyama, where my travel around the island of Shikoku started.