Before I continue, I would like to say…
I am such a horrible, horrible, lazy blogger. I have been home for almost three months now but yet to finish my journey updates. Gah! Yup, I am horrible.
The first day in Nara was grey and cloudy, with the occasional light rain. Our accommodation, Guesthouse Narakomachi, is actually 5 minutes away from JR Nara Station, but when I booked the room, I did not know that there were two separate railway stations; JR and Kintetsu.
So, you can sort of imagine my bewilderment when I realised that fact while I was on the train from Kyoto. Anyway, to solve the problem, we took the local bus from Kintetsu Nara Station to JR Nara. It was only about 10 minutes by bus. From there, we walked to our room, which is across the road from the East entrance, somewhere in the vicinity of Comfort Hotel. The guesthouse itself is really clean and cosy. I think you can look it up on Expedia. The owners and staff are also really friendly and helpful, ready to assist. For example, the male owner (I forgot his name!!!) brought our luggage to our room upstairs while we were out, as we arrived before check-in time. Anyway, he also helped to bring our luggage down when we checked out. The room is small with bunk beds, but there is enough space to walk in the room.
There is an attached shower-toilet at one end with glass sliding doors which one has to pull down the blinds to get some privacy. Good quality shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel is provided in the shower. Downstairs in the common area, there is a kitchenette, fridge, microwave, toaster oven, and hot water dispenser for guests to use. Also, there is free coffee and tea, with mugs/cups, for guests too. Only things that are not provided is a washing machine and dryer. However, if you are used to washing your own clothes by hand, then the well-ventilated and airy attached bathroom in your room should suffice. There is a super-market at the JR station, so if you want to cook your own meals after days of eating out, this is a good change. I am quite happy with this place. So, if you are in Nara, and happened to be using the JR line, you can consider this place to stay. We did not really do much on the first day due to the weather, so we just explored the surrounding area, got on a bus back to Kintetsu, shopped around there, found a super-market, cooked dinner, planned for the next day, and turned in early.
The second day was a totally different story. The sun was up and out, shining all over Nara. We walked to the bus terminal at JR Nara where we took the 100¥ Red tourist bus.
Tip: There are 2 of these buses, 1 red, the other blue. Both buses ply different routes. The Red bus goes east, to Nara park and Todaiji. The Blue bus goes west, to the site of the old Nara City Palace. 100¥ per boarding; every time you go up the bus, you pay. These cute and small buses also stop outside Kintetsu station.
So, yup, the first day we took the Red bus and went to Todaiji and Nara Park. It is a wonderful park, and a wonderful respite in the form of the towering trees from the strong summer sun. Truthfully, it was a bit difficult to imagine that it was raining the whole day previously, what with the sun blazing down on us. With a map that our guesthouse owner equipped us with, we just walked and walked and walked… And, if you have not known beforehand, Nara is famous for its Deer.
There are so many of them in Nara Park, roaming about, or being clever and eyeing the humans buying Deer Biscuits (at 150¥/packet) for them. The deers there are very tame; they would not attack you without reason, but be smart, [TIP:] DO NOT hold their beloved Deer Biscuits for too long or tease them with it. The deers would chase you for that.
We took the bus and got off at a shrine somewhere near the top of a hill and slowly made our way down. Since it was also the summer holidays, there were many tour groups of students about, from elementary to high school. A lot of people!
Share with you something amusing: the elementary students were tasked to ask foreigners, especially Caucasian tourists, a series of questions which, ultimately, leads to the most important question – favourite place of interest. (I wonder if I can put up the video here…) You must be thinking what’s so amusing about these groups of students going around asking tourists questions. There was this particular group who practically did synchronized chorus reading and acting to get there message across. Kawaii! The Todaiji and its complex is quite impressive, it itself being the biggest wooden structure on earth even though it is, at present, only 2/3 of its original size. The original building was burnt down centuries ago. There is this hole in one of the supporting pillars in the main temple which attracts a long queue. It is said that if a person can go through this hole, quite small, he/she is a virtuous person (or will be blessed, something like that). Anyway, as the queue was really long, especially with so many students, I, naturally, did not join in, but stood by watching those who did. 😀
(A Caucasian woman going through the hole. No problem for her!)
My Mum and I managed to walk all the way back to our guesthouse, with quite a few stops in between. There are quite a number of rebuilding and restoration projects going on in the area, such as Kohfukuji. Parts of the area has been rebuilt. Maybe, I will return in another 10 years to see the glory and splendour returned to Nara. 🙂
Day 2 in Nara was just as sunny as the previous day. We took the Blue Bus this time, and alighted at the site of the Imperial Palace of Nara. If you take the train from Kyoto or going into Nara, you would probably pass the back gate of this place.
(This railway cuts across the site.)
Basically, you do not see much in this area except for the rebuilt Audience Hall and some gates. Rebuilding efforts are still on-going, but you must applaud the efforts gone into the reconstruction of ancient times. Everything, from the foundations to the roof tiles, were painstakingly remade, done to the very last detail on the ceiling of the Audience Hall. You have to be there to believe it. Entrance is free, and there are voluntary tour guides present. Even though they do not speak English, they would get you a quite-detailed English information pamphlet. These tour guides are senior citizens, committed to the rebuilding process, so it would definitely be worthwhile if one can speak and understand Japanese for they would gladly share loads of information. As for me, I could just nod my head whenever I could understand something they said. After that, we took a long but slow walk northwards, to the main road.
(The North Gate. School children on a day out with their teachers, eating on the plain under the hot sun.)
While walking back towards the JR station, we came across a big Daiso (108¥) shop and a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant next door to each other. After we shopped, we went to have our lunch there. The food is really affordable and of good quality. It was quite an experience eating there, quite different from that in Singapore. You require a certain technique, which is easily mastered, to taking the plates off the conveyor-belt. There is a touch-screen and lots of guesswork for ordering the specially-prepared food items. I like. 🙂
(Receipt: 100¥ x 10 plates, Unagi-don 580¥, Chawanmushi 180¥, Tempura-don 400¥, + tax, =2332¥. :D)
We had a short rest back at the guesthouse before heading out to the shopping street at Kintetsu Station. The back lanes of the station is also interesting to explore. There are shops, cafes, restaurants, a mini-mart, and such in the area. Can easily spend a lazy day there.
Nara has been quite a relaxing time and place, even more relaxing than Kyoto, a good place to unwind for a few days before heading back to into the big city. 🙂 ~*