After a couple of days exploring and visiting some of the stunning temples & shrines (post to follow) we headed off to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – a 30-40 minute walk from the Utano YHA.

The bamboo forest is located near the Ōi River and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and narrow streets lined with houses. If you enjoy souvenir shopping this is the place for you with most tourists crowding the shops that surround the train station.

If you manage to escape the crowds Arishiyama is a great place to stroll along the river, through the beautiful parkland and enjoy the calm, tranquil atmosphere!

In the heart of the park is the bamboo forest – a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty!

The muted green, silver and grey of the bamboo makes the place feel like something out of a movie set and the noise of the bamboo knocking together in the wind is oddly calming! Like most places in Japan the crowds tend to dominate so my advice would be to get their early if you can!

After 4 nights in Utano YHA and our semi-rural surroundings we headed to our second hostel right in the heart of the city! Guest House Kyoto is a small hostel run by a friendly and chatty guy who does whatever he can to make you feel welcome. Despite not having the facilities of the YHA it’s location is pretty hard to beat as it’s a short 5 minute walk to Kyoto train station and the city centre.

Another advantage of Guest House Kyoto over the YHA is it’s lack of curfew! Curfew seems to be a standard thing in Japan and most hostels will lock the door at 11:00 – 11:30 pm which – although isn’t a problem most evenings – proves difficult when you’re in the mood to party!

Kyoto city centre is a quirky mix of traditional and modern and less than a 5 minute walk apart are two magnificent shrines and the ultra modern, funky and quirky Kyoto Train Station! The station building is a tourist attraction in it’s own right and houses a 15 floor shopping centre, food courts, restaurants, bars, performance spaces, roof-top gardens and even a wedding venue!

Kyoto is a city full of surprises and as you wander around you spot random artwork, quirky architecture and beautiful gardens! There’s lots to see and do and it’s a great place to shop, eat, drink and party!

As a city filled with eateries and temples it’s inevitable that the two will cross paths and Toji Temple market does just that! The market runs once a month and is a great place to sample some street food or pick up a bargain!

Continued in Part 3…

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