Tag Archives: temples

Kyoto – the Canberra of Japan

dsc08622

Kyoto has thousands of years of history, beautiful temples, and many links to a long-forgotten world when samurais roamed the land and ninjas chucked shurikens at any dickhead stupid enough to walk past. And while I respect that, I also found it to be one of the most boring cities I’ve ever visited. No, it’s not as bad as Huddersfield, but it’s also not a place I’d care to return to.

dsc08714

The main things to see in Kyoto are the temples. There are heaps of them dotted around the place, and it’s a unique experience to see these ancient buildings popping up amongst a modern city. Many were built more than 1000 years ago (although most have been rebuilt more recently), which makes them a similar age to the stupas of Bagan, but the experience of visiting the two sites couldn’t be more different. Whilst the ancient Burmese city has barely been touched by the cruel fingers of modern life, Kyoto is now home to 1.5 million people.

dsc08639

The thing is, the first temple is interesting, the second less so, and the third as boring as batshit. They mostly look the same, and all are crawling with disinterested schoolkids and tourists who look as if they’re only traipsing from site to site out of a feeling of obligation. Some of the temples cost money to get into, but fuck that, there are enough free around, so put your money towards beer and chicken nuggets instead. Trust me on this one – I’ve got a degree in history, so I’m an authority on these sorts of things.

dsc08650

There’s just not much variety between the various temples. The ancient Japs should’ve shown a bit more creativity by having one shaped as a banana, or one with heaps of naked chicks drawn on the side, but instead they just sorta went with the same design over and over. They were repeating themselves like a drunk in a bar.

dsc08704

The best way to describe Kyoto is that it’s a lot like Canberra. Sure, there are worthwhile things to see but, like the Australian capital, none of them are really all that interesting. Kyoto’s temples provide no more entertainment value than Canberra’s National Mint, Lake Burley Griffin or the Rock and Bark Museum – and that’s saying something. And at least Canberra has a really shit surprisingly good football team.

dsc08685

Kyoto even has a tower that’s every bit as underwhelming as Canberra’s Telstra Tower. The Kyoto Tower is only 131 metres from top to tail, but it does light up like a UFO at night, which is pretty cool. By the time I rocked up I was on my third Chu-hai and, believing a group of children dressed as Pokemon to be invading space aliens, started shouting for everyone to run away. I caused a mild panic and several dozen Asians were trampled – the majority not to their deaths – and then, after becoming bored with the situation, bought some friend chicken and went back to my room to watch a few episodes of popular reality television series Catfish.

dsc08749

 

Things to do in Bagan when you’re dead

koop

Today was a day that I probably didn’t need to spend in Bagan. I saw a bunch of temples yesterday, and didn’t have a burning urge to see any more today, but I’m stuck here till 8pm, so what did I do?

I looked at temples and got drunk. Shit, it’s Bagan, it’s not like I spent the day riding rollercoasters and dancing with robots or anything. As I said yesterday, one day is enough here. There’s really nothing outside of the temples to see or do, and nobody really needs to be climbing through ruins two days in a row unless they wear a stupid had, carry a whip, and made three good movies and shit one with that fuckhead Cate Blanchett in it.

beer
Pro tip: Go for the Mandalay Red. It’s got a higher alcohol content and costs 75% of a Mandalay Lager. That means you can get (counts fingers) 25% drunker for the same price. Dad, correct me if I’m wrong on this

I’m talking about Indiana Jones. If you’ve done all that but aren’t Indy, please don’t be offended.

I also crab danced in one of the temples, in front of a Buddha who was trying to sleep. But it’s cool, right? Buddha ain’t one of those angry gods, he’s a pretty cool dude. If he was any cooler he would listen to John Legend and wear one of those hats with the sticker still on the brim.

sleeping
Please don’t kill me, Buddha

Bagan has ace temples and is great to wander around, but the other highlight is the food. The local dishes aren’t anything amazing, but this is the first place I’ve been to in Asia where they’ve done western food properly. Last night I had Thai (I know, I know, it’s in Asia) and it had actual pieces of cooked chicken, rather than a bunch of legs chucked into rice, as I’ve become accustomed to. This afternoon I had a hamburger, and then a chicken burger, and they were proper burgers. Some of the burgers I’ve had over here were closer to arseholes on toast.

burgDSC05493

Oh, and after a day of walking around in 40 degree heat (in clothes that haven’t been washed in weeks) I smell like shit, which is an unfortunate situation for the poor Burmanian who has spent the last six months saving up to afford the bus trip to Yangon, only to get stuck next to me for nine hours. Guess what? I don’t think I’m going to have a happy fun time, either.

But as long as they don’t put the balding paedophile on the screen again, I just might make it through to India.

I broke a poor person’s bike and blamed it on a monk

arms

Bagan has more temples than Rebel Wilson has had meat pies. 2200 in fact (thanks, Wikipedia). And today I saw all of them… except for the 2100 I missed out on because I went to the pub. But there’s not a massive amount of variety between them, so I think I got a pretty good idea of what they’re about.

I’ve been eating well and drinking better over the last few weeks, so I decided to rent a pushie for the day rather than one of those poofy electonic bikes. And so, at 9:30, I slogged off on flat tyres into the 35 degree heat, hoping I could see some temples through the dust.

goooodDSC05415
Yeah, the view is half decent

It’s a bit hard to miss ’em. They’re dotted everywhere. Small ones, big ones, pointy ones, square ones. The more famous sites are crawling with peasants trying to sell souvenirs, but the rest are basically empty, save for a few monks. Biking it (whether the Cadell way or the softcock way ) is definitely how to explore this place. I didn’t have a map, but every time I saw something interesting off in the dirt I just toddled up there and checked it out. It’s easy and relaxing, and a great way to spend a day that other people are spending working.

temple1
I think this is where Batman lives

Things were going swell until I went to ride away from one of the temples and heard a loud crunch. At first I thought I’d ruptured a testicle, then I realised that I hadn’t taken the bike chain off before pedaling off. The chain was fucked, the wheel was bent, and I had to come up with a plan. I started coming up with plausible lies, but then I went to the pub and forgot about it, so when I took the bike back I told them that a monk did it.

A monk! No explanation, just that some rogue monk came up and damaged the bike, then sauntered away.

They apparently bought it, but I’m expecting a bald dude in a robe to stab me in the eye as soon as I step out the door.

1sttemp
This is the last photo you’ll ever see of me

It’s weird that Bagan receives so little recognition compared to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, because it’s every bit as interesting and far easier to explore due to how close together the temples are – sometimes there’s only a few metres between them, and from a high spot they spread out to the horizon. And, unlike Angkor Wat, I’ve managed to go a whole day without pissing or puking on the monuments. Gimme a break, when I was at Angkor I went out drinking till 3am, so I was lucky to even get out of the hotel room.

Just on that night that I got drunk in Siem Reap, it was the first (and, so far, only) time I have vomited on a frog. I didn’t know it at the time, but I filmed myself spewing in the street, and when I watched the video back it was clear that my partially-digested Mexican dinner landed on a hoppity-hop. I’m not even lying.

To wrap it up, Bagan is a top place and worth a visit, with my recommendation that you check it out on your own, without bothering with a guide or tour group. They’re expensive, slow and expensive, and half the fun of this place is discovering it for yourself, and walking around seemingly abandoned ruins with little idea of why they’re here. One full day is enough, unless you’re a total history buff.

Just don’t go to the similarly-named Bogan. There, monks don’t just bend your bike’s wheel, they steal the whole fucking thing and push it into a river when they’re finished with it and wanna go smoke some bongs.

night
The world’s largest night light