When we arrived in Kyoto, we had a few hours before check-in. We decided then to go to a nearby shogun palace.
This palace was used to be where Japanese samurai lived and reported to. Inside were beautiful golden paintings on the walls, hand drawn centuries before. Photography of them are prohibited so not to damage the artwork, but I took many pictures of the grounds and the courtyard.
In one such room, we witnessed wax statues of a famous samurai meeting. The topic of this meeting was the dissolution of the samurai dynasty during the 1880s. At this time, Western ships were common around Asia, and trade was no longer a rare occurrence but a way of life. And with trade came new weaponry, and no longer where the centuries old armor and swords of the samurai efficient in battle. To prevent from falling any further behind in technology, and for the sake of their country, the samurai decided then to give up their old ways and adopt a new, modern approach. To end it, the samurai sold this palace to the government where it was converted into an office, thus ending the samurai forever.
The temple was a bit disorienting, as it was also built as a fortress (with deliberately creaking floors so to hear intruders) and a couple members of the group were misplaced. As a result, we had to cancel our afternoon tour of the golden pavilion temple.
With this sudden free extra time on our hands, we broke into smaller groups and one group went shopping, while the other went for an authentic tea ceremony. Although I didn't buy much, it was still interesting to walk past the wooden stores in old town Kyoto.
An hour later we switched and my group got to try the tea ceremony. However, being a white, Western male, my abilities to follow the directions were cumbersome and I made several mistakes (such as how to whisk the tea, how to turn the cup before and after drinking it, how to wipe it when done, etc.). Although the ceremony was very unique and peaceful, it wasn't very exciting and I would have much rather spent that time exploring Kyoto some more.
We then wandered the streets of Kyoto into an area with many red lantern. Our guide told us this was the area where we might see a geisha. My knowledge of geisha is very limited but I believe they are a form of upper class escort, but much more sophisticated. We wandered the streets and saw some buildings where there were geisha-in-training, and lodges where they lived. But sadly, we saw no geisha.
We took the train back to the hotel and washed up, although it was to no avail because the humidity stuck to you the moment you walked outside. We went out for supper, and I caved and had a hamburger. This is the first hamburger I had had since arriving in Japan almost a week ago, and it was delicious. I went out for supper with a group of people and we spent several hours at the restaurant until our tour guide came and got us. We needed her help explaining to the server that we wanted to split the bill, and her sudden appearance makes me wonder if somebody didn't text her and ask her for help.
Kyoto is the only stop on our tour where we can do laundry, but while sorting it after supper I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I plan to do it tomorrow night because tomorrow is our first, and very well needed, "free day". And I'm running low on clothes, with more than a week ahead of me.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.
Last year I put together 50 Images That Showcase Regina, and it was very successful. However, I did that article early into the year and missed out on some pictures I would take later, so I decided to do it again this year. These pictures were all taken either in late 2015 or in 2016.
If you guys enjoy this article as much as you liked the last one, I might start making this an annual thing.
Some of you may recognize a few of these pictures from earlier in the year, but there should be a few here that none of you have ever seen before.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.