Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kyoto - Temples And Shrines And Movies, Part 2

Life in hostels is like nothing else. In fact, we're quite baffled that no one has made a show about students traveling - it's better than Big Brother! It's very strange to wake up with four new people sleeping around you who definitely were not there at 2 AM - and all of them in only underwear. But that's not quite as strange as watching relationships form so quickly due to the forced intimacy. For instance, two people arrived in the hostel separately, and within twelve hours of meeting each other, they were coming back to the dorm at 3 AM, making out. And then Katie, Laura, and I all laid in our three-story bunk bed and watched in disbelief as she climbed into her bed, and after a quick glance around the room, the guy stripped down to his underwear and dove into her bed head-first. The girl kicked him out within five minutes, thank god. I can't wait to watch for the next couple days as their relationship blossoms and then ends, I'm sure with them screaming at each other on the sidewalk outside.

Anyway, my day started - how else? - with temples and shrines. I've decided I will not be paying to enter any more of them, since that's ridiculous, so I hit up one that Lonely Planet told me would be free - and we all know what that means, right? It's not free.

But I didn't know that, so I took the subway out there, and was met with the hardest rain I've ever seen in my life. Lonely Planet said to get there and head east towards the mountains, but since I couldn't see ten feet in front of me, I obviously had no idea where the mountains were. I just went uphill, assuming mountains are usually on high ground, since "high ground" is pretty much the definition of mountains. It was the right choice, but I didn't learn that until I actually got to the temple. The rain was flooding the streets, so traveling uphill was literally like trying to wade upriver. It was very, very entertaining.

When I arrived at the temple, the rain stopped completely, so I decided to walk up a path into the mountains that would surely have shrines that were free to see. A woman coming downhill looked at me, down at my sandals in the thick mud, back at my face, and put her hand on her hip while shaking her head, as if to say, "Classic Danny." I walked for about fifteen minutes in my sandals through the nasty mud before I gave up and went back to the subway, washing off in the cleaner-looking puddles along the way.

When I got back to the city, I ran into Katie and Laura, who were supposed to be going to a hot spring, but it didn't open until three. So we went to a little food market to eat all the free samples we could find, and Katie and I ended up getting some delicious pork kebabs.

I went with the girls while they ogled all the expensive clothes at Zara, since I'd rather do that than another temple at this point, and then went back to the hostel for a bit of a break while they went to the springs. They invited me along, but my reasons for not going were threefold: I'd still be alone, since I'd be in the men's half; I'd have to be naked with old Japanese men; and the sulfur I'm allergic to would probably make all my skin fall off like it did in New Zealand.

The girls came back later that night, and we had a lovely and very British night. I bought some yellow cake, since it was their last night, they taught me the proper way to drink tea, and we watched Casino Royale. I even practiced my English accent, which they found entertaining for some reason. We spent the rest of the night having a really hilarious time in the common room that had kind of become our own room by this point - people actually asked our permission to use the computer.

I was really sad to say goodbye to them. It was so nice to not only finally have people in a hostel that spoke fluent English, but to have two girls who are absolutely hilarious and know how to have a really, really good time in any situation. They were also on the same wavelength with me for most things. The second I mentioned Lonely Planet's maps, Katie cut me off, yelling, "They're so wrong!" During Casino Royale, when Bond is running to get to a bank before someone steals all his money, Katie joked, "This is the bit where he's in the Lonely Planet, saying, 'Where's the fucking bank? It's not where it says it is!'" And the three of us were able to confess that our favorite part of Japan is the trains. I claimed I wished I could spend all five weeks on the trains non-stop, and Laura and Katie were jokingly planning to make a day of just riding the trains to and from Tokyo (which they actually did later, so they tell me).

I'm very lucky to have met them, and they saved my time in Kyoto from being five horrible days of loneliness to five really fun days. I guess it really wasn't all luck. When I first met them, I apologized for America, and Laura explained to me on the last night that she had told Katie earlier on their trip that, "I don't mind talking with Americans, just as long as they apologize for their nationality."

Laura's the left, Katie's the right.
You can't tell from this picture, but we
do have facial features.

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