In my mind there are three types of travel:

1. The relax trip:  this involves reading, eating, some exercise of the conventional nature (to balance out eating) and for us, usually a beach. Recently, that was a family week in Guam. Nothing to do but enjoy the beach and the sunset …. Barely brought out the camera. No point, but read a few books (4), swam and snorkelled, relaxed with the family. It was perfect.

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2. The experience trip:  This is about learning a new culture, adventure and activity. A trip in Europe fits into this category, or our recent trip to Kyoto where it was all about exploring a culture. On this vacation you often come home more tired than you left. This is what our upcoming trip to Palau will be.

3. The hybrid trip:  A mix of 1 and 2 – some relaxation, sprinkled experiences. To which I pose a question – do these trips ever work out how you want them?

I have the opinion that if you set an expectation to experience and relax, that something always comes up wanting, one of the items will be mediocre. To illustrate: Bali. We had hoped that Bali would be a great hybrid trip, a mix of culture and relaxation. On the culture front, we were not disappointed, it was an amazing trip filled with history, culture and wonderful sites. On the relaxation front, we stayed at a wonderful hotel but the beach was mediocre. Nusa Dua simply isn’t a place where we would travel for the beach – that was the mediocre part.

It seems to me, you have to choose one or the other, or be prepared to “settle”. Thoughts?


One of the more famous temples in Kyoto is Kiyomizu Temple, and it has a grand view of the city.

It is a hike up a hill to get to the temple, which is half the fun as the road is lined with shops. It was very hot in Kyoto (32C+humidity), so the ice cream shops were very busy with their special Japanese flavours.

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And a few uniquely Japanese treats on a stick.

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Our guide pointed out the woman in the hat (center near building in the hat). He said she has been standing there for 20 years and is a fraud. She chants nothing (he has leaned in many times) collecting gifts from tourists … he stops his clients.

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I could pop a Wikipedia reference in, or post this simple explanation. Thanks Fujicolor.

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It has a grand entrance and in 2007 was nominated as one of the “new” 7 wonders of the world.

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Inside the temple are the oldest wood based paintings in Japan, depicting the Samurai.

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And if you look across the forest, past the hydrangeas, you see a beautiful temple peaking out of the trees.

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We hiked over.

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A view of the Kiyomizu Temple from across the forest.

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Thanks for dropping by.


Our 3rd day included the Monkey Park (previous posts) and a boat ride down the Katsura River which runs below it. Across the river is a famous bridge that people like to photograph, the Togetsukyo or “Moon Crossing bridge”. It provides beautiful views of the river and mountain.

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It was very bright and hot that day.

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At the base of the mountain (right outside the gates of the Monkey Park) are many boats. The covered boats are moved up and down the river by the boatmen using long bamboo poles.

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It was a very tranquil setting until a boat slid up beside us, engines blaring and food steaming.

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It all seemed to fit right in. Grilled octopus and squid, cold beer and other Japanese delicacies at your finger tips.

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I would imagine this is the most amazing of boat trips in the fall, when the entire mountain is coloured red and orange. I think we will need to go back.


There were plenty of monkey babies at the Iwatayama Monkey Park. This little fellow didn’t look old and wobbled like a new born.


He also stayed very close to his mom.


It was interesting to watch the mothers. At one point a commotion broke out behind me between this very angry mother …. (baby hanging on tight) ..


and this frightened male, who clearly did not want to tangle and kept retreating. Perhaps he forgot to take out the garbage?


These two little fellows were having a great time, chasing each other around and playing.


Glad we stopped at the park.


I am not sure if people know about Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto. It wasn’t listed as one of the “must see” in Kyoto as I researched for our trip. But as an animal loving family, when we found out about it we quickly added it to our itinerary.

The park is on the top of a mountain and sanctuary to 140 monkeys.

Iwatayama Monkey Park (Japanese: 嵐山モンキーパーク, Arashiyama Monkī Pāku) is a commercial park located in Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan. The park is on Mt Arashiyama, on the same side of the Oi River as the train station. It is inhabited by a troop of over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys. The animals are wild but can be fed food purchased at the site.

It is a 20-25 minute climb up the small mountain and as you get closer to the top, you start to see the monkeys in the trees. The macaques are everywhere.



This was a very different experience than Bali. The sanctuary is very well controlled, you do not feed the monkeys as they are conditioned to 2 feeding patterns; pre-set feeding times (we arrived at for the 1pm feeding) and the option to buy food and feed them from behind caged windows in a single building.

Upon reflection, this makes the entire experience safer for both the animals and humans.


This fellow made me laugh. The entire time we were there he sat on the post, waiting for a tourist to hand him some nuts.



I could have stayed all day photographing the macaques. These are the same monkeys that enjoy the hot springs in the winter.


This fellow was sitting on the edge and a big yellow koi kept flitting around his feet. Every once in a while he would just reach down and flick it away.


Fun to watch them .. just “hanging out”.




A Kyoto must-see .. and all of the babies were an added bonus.


One of the more famous sites in Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji:

The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune.[8] Kinkaku-ji’s history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionjis by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex.[8] When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes.[7][9]

A few shots from across the pond.


Our guide explained that it is not an original, having been burned down by a young monk who felt that the gold was contrary to the Buddhist ways:

During the Onin war, all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down.[8] On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illnesses (persecution complex and schizophrenia) on September 29, 1955; he died of tuberculosis shortly after in 1956.[10] During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames (now restored). A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishima‘s 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.[2]

The name’s origin:

The name Kinkaku is derived from the gold leaf that the pavilion is covered in. Gold was an important addition the pavilion because of its underlying meaning. The gold employed was to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death

I cannot remember the exact cost, but the gold cost is significant (20KG of gold rings a bell?). I could not find it, so feel free to drop a comment if you can fill in that gap in my memory!


The pond is filled with koi and turtles, including a few very long necked and rather vicious looking snapping turtles.


Beside the pavilion is a main building with a tree that has been shaped to look like a ship over hundreds and hundreds of years. The mast and bow are clearly seen, with the pebbles representing the ocean.



Our guide mentioned a few interesting facts:

You clean gold walls very carefully, every day.

The pipes are for shuttling the rain off the roof.

On the right you can see a single wire going to the top .. a lightening rod protecting the wooden building.


A beautiful garden and sight.


Part of having a guide is that he takes you into different places (if  she is good). Our guide took us out of the city of Kyoto to show us the countryside and the rice fields. It was a 15 minute detour, but worth it.

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I didn’t get a shot of their planting machines but they reminded me of a celery planting machine that relatives used on their farms in Canada.

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As mentioned, the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Not a white one in view.

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This pond is privately owned and once a year the farmer who owned it would drain it and “harvest” the fish.

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It is beautiful land. Which reminds me of a random observation on Kyoto. If you do travel there, you will find it a city of contrasts. The city itself is like many Japanese cities, clean but wall to wall people, large drab concrete residential buildings with shops jammed in-between. Rather uninspiring, until you turn a corner and come headlong into Japan’s historic buildings which are beautiful, unique and well crafted.

It seems to me that during their post war rush to modernization, their architects discarded the intricacies and beauty of Japanese style for function, people per square meter, concrete and efficiency. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination as one colleague imparted that when he was a child living in Tokyo, the city was rapidly industrializing and as polluted as Beijing until the government took drastic action (as the country became wealthier and was able to afford it).

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Too bad. Even concrete can be beautiful, with some thought. (Above: The entrance to Chion Temple)