We arrived in Kyoto a little worse for wear after spending the night sleeping on a bus, in an effort to save money. Japan is the home of sex dolls, sushi and sake, so you can see why it gets expensive…

We bought a city bus pass and went about trying to explore as much of Kyoto as humanly possible. Our first stop was a temple (of course!)

Three Storey Pagoda - pfft
We saw what we now believe to be a graveyard and we shamelessly took some photos. I find the way different cultures handle death to be interesting, particularly here, where there seems to have been much care taken in dressing these gravestones in some kind of winter clothing / bib (we assume).
Next stop was another temple called the Silver Pavilion and it was very pretty and serene. However, we arrived with a group of 300 school kids so we had the choice of rushing through ahead of them or waiting for them to get out of our line of sight. We chose the latter, hence my forlorn expression, whilst I waited in the cold.

This tree had some strange fungus growing on it...
Next up was Nijo Castle, which we arrived at 30 minutes before it closed. Most tourist destinations seem to close very early, which was frustrating as we had a bus pass, a tight schedule, and a hunger for sightseeing. We rushed to the main gate and inside to see the painted decor of past emperor's palaces (no photos allowed!) For me the most interesting thing were the floorboards inside the palace. As we walked around, they creaked and squeaked in a very unique, almost musical way. There was a sign explaining that they were named after the mockingbird, and that the bird-like chirping noise they made was a way to warn the inhabitants of any intruders. And sure enough, even with my ninja socks on, I couldn't move without tweeting (or updating my facebook status).
Main Gate was under Restoration -
They didn't tell us that in the info desk!

Surroundings were cool - weird straw tree!
It's a moat... and not the kind that kill policemen.

It's a heron!
That evening we were couchsurfing in a flat owned by our new friend, Masato. He was a great guy from Japan who has couchsurfers round practically every day and at one point there were 4 of us there! Couchsurfing, for those unaware, is a fantastic way of meeting new people local to the area you are visiting, while benefiting from some free accommodation and swapping travelling stories. Our first day in Kyoto hadn’t been as intriguing as we had hoped, because the temples were quite touristy and our lack of knowledge about them meant we didn’t fully understand the history and traditions linked to them. That, and the fact that they all charged around 500 Yen (£4.50) per person for entry – a bit cheeky and a little pricey for my liking.

The next day Masato pointed us in the direction of a bamboo trail and off we went. It ended up being a lovely, calm walk where we stumbled upon a free temple (high five!) and had a relaxed start to the day.
Hey, free temple!
Next on our list was a shrine (again free!!) with a bajillion gates – I use the term bajillion, in all it’s descriptive glory, because no other word quite fits.
The first gate of many...
Interesting Bamboo hand washing thing
I'm seeing double. Four sets of gates.
Katie and gates
David and gates.
More gates!
Bill Gates!
This had an interesting story. You should imagine your wish,
and then imagine yourself picking up the rock and feeling
the weight of it.  You then pick the rock up. If it is
lighter than what you imagined, your wish will come true.

Here is a price list if you want a gate added to the row, with the biggest and most expensive costing around £11,000.
We tried to see another pagoda but we arrived after 4 and it was too late – we did sneak some photos of it from the outside though!
Sneaky Pagoda!
The evening soon came and we ended up exploring some of Kyoto at night, including the old Geisha district and what was described in the Lonely Planet as “one of the most beautiful streets in Asia”. You be the judge.

Not the best photos I admit.
But also not the most beautiful street in Asia.
Nightlife area!
Then we were back on a night bus and heading to Tokyo.
Woop woop.