Day 6: Monkey! Monkey! Monkey!
Trip Start Nov 23, 2011
24Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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2. Don't go too close to the monkeys.
3. Monkeys may attack when threatened.
I can confirm that number 3 is true. I sort of broke rules 1 and 2. I also discovered a new rule that they didn't mention:
4. If a monkey growls, hisses and screams at you, don't do it back to the monkey.
Wild monkeys, I have discovered, have no sense of humour.
More monkeys later.
My day was started by writing last night's blog entry. After baths, and getting dressed, we left on today's trek. First order of business was breakfast and coffee. Starbucks fitted the bill nicely. Again in the underground mall in front of Kyoto station, this time without the 40,000 other people. It is actually a decent shopping mall when it isn't filled with wall to wall people.
Starbucks was the same excellent quality, and after it was done we went back to the surface to find the bus we needed to get to Arashiyama. We eventually figured out which stop we needed to be at, got in line, and waited. And waited. And waited. Many many buses came and went, but none of them were the bus we needed. The idea of hijacking a bus and demanding transit to the monkey park was suggested several times, but each time Veronica told me I wasn't allowed.
So eventually the bus turned up. And the waiting crowd piled on. We had 4 seats, and feeling guilty, we offered 2 of the seats to an older Japanese couple. Charlotte sat on Veronica's lap, and Angela sat on mine. Oh I wish I hadn't offered the seats. That bus ride was 45 minutes of hell. It didn't help that I was sitting over the rear wheel which encroached on my floor space, so my knees were already up in line with my nose. With Angela balancing herself on my lap as well, I wasn't comfortable.
With the ambient air temperature in the bus rising to approximately that of the inside of a freshly baked potato, the trip was less than pleasant. Eventually we arrived at Arashiyama, got of the damn bus, and out into the refreshingly cool mountain air. With the other 50,000 people. We thought if we left this until a Monday it would be less crowded. We were mistaken.
Even with all of the people there, it was immediately evident that this was a very pretty area. With the majority of the sea of people heading over the bridge to the little township of Arashiyama, we decided to head up the mountain to the Iwatayama monkey park. A very steep, and uninteresting 25 minute climb later, we arrived at the summit of the mountains. We were wondering whether we'd see any monkeys. Would we see one or two monkeys? Would we be able to get close enough to photograph the monkeys. When we got to the top, our concerns were answered. Monkeys sitting. Monkeys hanging. Monkeys running. Monkeys eating. Monkeys fighting. We realised that the problem was not going to be finding the monkeys, the problem was going to be not stepping on them. There is approximately 135 wild monkeys on the mountain. I think all 135 of them were running around the monkey park today.
We took some initial photos, and I stayed outside to get some extra shots, while Veronica and the girls went inside the feeding room to feed the monkeys. The feeding room is a room with mesh cages on the windows where the monkeys could put their arms through and take the food being offered to them. Naturally this room was covered in masses of monkeys. The girls thought it was an absolute thrill to feed the monkeys. Veronica thought it was great to be able to sit down. I quickly got bored and decided to head outside.
By this stage, all of us were a little sick of masses of monkeys, so we went for a walk up to the uppermost look out point. This gave an absolutely spectacular view across Kyoto. With that done, we headed back down the mountain, and back to the stupid crowds in Arashiyama.
Across the bridge, and to a little cafe at the side of the river which we discovered sold ice cream. I say "we" discovered it because before we stopped there, it had no customers. After we got the girls and ice cream however, it seemed that everyone that went past saw what the girls were eating, and stopped there. There was a huge line up within 10 minutes of us sitting down outside the stall to eat the ice creams. Again there were quite a few people who would blatantly stop to take photos of the girls, in particular Angela with the blonde hair. They snap off one or two photos very slyly, but when they find that we don't mind, and give them a nod and a smile, they always get a few more shots.
After the ice creams, we continued down the riverbank to the scenic walk, which we hoped would lead to the bamboo grove. Veronica made the mistake of asking an older Japanese man for directions. Big mistake it turns out. The guy was really friendly and helpful. For the first 15 minutes. Then he turned into a bit of an annoyance. Talking to Veronica at 500 words per minute I could tell that she was getting sick of having to concentrate so hard. She was obviously understanding what the guy was saying, but he was talking to her like she was a fluent Japanese native. I think if someone talked to me in English as fast as this guy was talking I wouldn't have been able to understand them.
But we eventually found the bamboo grove. Very pretty, but quite simply too many damn people to be able to enjoy it. If you were able to see this place when the crowds were low, it would be undoubtedly a pretty special experience. Today however, we were just sick of rubbing elbows with people.
Back to the township of Arashiyama at the bottom of the hill, and it was time to look for a bus out of the madness. We were lucky enough to see the bus we needed immediately when arriving to the main road. So we crossed over in front of the bus, and approached the back doors to get on. That's when we realised that there was a line 50 people long also trying to get on this bus. With Charlotte and Veronica in front however, the warning bell went off saying the bus was about to leave, and Charlotte cut the line and got on. Veronica followed. Dammit, looks like we're getting on. So I put my head down, and pushed into the line and got on the bus, just as the doors closed behind me. I felt really bad, and I didn't look back to see the angry faces of the passengers we displaced. Next bus will be along in 30 minutes. Sit tight people.
We decided that since we already had the all day bus passes, and we were in that part of town already, we decided to head back to the vending machine restaurant near the Gimmond Hotel that we'd eaten at so many times in the last Japan trip. A very long walk was required because the buses do not go close to the restaurant, so we got off at the closest stop, and began the long walk. So long was the walk in fact, that we stopped halfway at Starbucks for a coffee. After coffees, cookies and people watching for a half hour or so, we continued onto the restaurant.
After selecting what we wanted, and ordering like seasoned professionals, we took our seats. Very very quickly our meals appeared, and were exactly as we remembered them. Very nice meals, and for around $7 each an absolute bargain.
With dinner done, we headed east to the nearest bus stop. Found the bus without much of a problem, and climbed aboard. Sort of. The bus was so crowded the doors again just managed to close without pinching the cheeks of bum, the bus was that full. Another really uncomfortable bus ride, but luckily it was only 20 minutes this time. Yesterday the crowds were a novelty. Today they are just damn annoying.
With the stupidly crowded bus trip over with, and exiting the bus station the wrong way, and running down the bus lane because of the lack of footpath, we were finally on our way back to the hotel for a much deserved rest. Walked further today than we have in a long time. No plans for what to do tomorrow, so we'll see what we feel like doing. It is supposed to be raining tomorrow, so it may be a day of exploring the many interesting shopping malls and other indoor Kyoto attractions.