Asia

Back to India: Kerala & Varanasi

Most of my friends and relatives wouldn’t believe me, if I was telling them that I’d travel back to India.

In 2017 I visited a couple of cities in the northern part of the country: Delhi, Agrar, Varanasi, Vrindavan. Back then, I wouldn’t hold myself back shouting out loud my disappointment about India on social-media, as I remembered the wise words of a friend “you either love or hate India, there’s nothing in between”.

Follwing my India trip in 2017 I stood rather on the “hating” side, than among the appreciating crowds. However I had never argued about the fact that India’s culture had so much to offer: the mesmerizing colors, the scents of spices and flowers, the fascinating beliefs and rituals of the Hindu religion, the mouthwatering indian dishes… India has a lot to give, even though sometimes it can hit your nerves in the roughest way.

Reaching the last days of the year on December 2018, I headed back to India. How did this happen?

  1. After my exhausting trip in 2017, I told myself, I would never again travel through India by myself.

  2. And the second condition would be the southern part of the country. I would give India a second chance, while visiting the south, famous for its beaches, palm trees, and yoga retreats.

A quick stop in Delhi at the Humayun Tomb

A quick stop in Delhi at the Humayun Tomb

We decided to visit the state of Kerala on new years eve.

The fact that my girlfriend is a total Sri Lanka aficionada, I felt like adding Varanasi to our India trip. Kerala doesn’t look that much different than Sri Lanka. Adding some contrast to our trip would make our journey across India more interesting and versatile.


Varanasi.

Writing a second blog-post about Varanasi would be pointless, as I mostly visited the same spots and areas as I did in 2017. We booked our 2 nights at the lovely Ganpati Guesthouse, the same guesthouse that I stayed at on my first trip. The room was flawless (for Indian standards)!

On the first day we checked out the surrounding area of the guest house. The "burning ghat” was located very nearby. As the darkness kicked in, the scenes of the flames dancing over the dead bodies covered with piles of wood, was rather surreal. I knew that we weren’t allowed to take any photographs during the cremation of the deceased.

Sometimes you gotta act very naive or stupid, to get lucky with photographs.

As we were standing long enough at the bottom of the stairs, observing how the flames were decomposing the body, a family started asking where we were from. Obviously, like many indians do, one of them asked for a photograph with us. We agreed, and as a returning favor, I asked if I could take a couple of photos of the cremation. I respected the ritual in the deepest way, took out my camera and shot a couple of photos. I was kinda happy that I managed to get some descent snap of that holy place.

The next early morning we headed to “assi ghat” around 05:45 am, to watch the sun rise, surrounded by chantings, pranayama sessions (breathing yoga) and watching the locals go wild during their morning rituals.

2017 I was blown away by the beauty of the sunrise and the diversity of the morning sounds that came with it (chantings, loud breaths during pranayamas, the fire ceremony, Bon Iver playing on my Ipod). All of this together made it to an unforgettable experience, as it felt like being ejected backwards in time.

2018 things had changed. “Assi ghat” looked less crowded. A peer down the river had been installed. The thing that blew me away this time, was the delicious masala chai that was served close to the main square. It was the best chai I’d ever had. Still being very cautious about what I eat and drink while traveling across India, I couldn’t hold myself back and bought 3 chais that day. The lovely gentleman explained us how to do the “best chai” in his own proper way. Just because of Varanasi I finally know how to brew the “best” masala tea.

I also learned, that if you travel with the least expectations, you will enjoy your trip a lot more. I expected to be really annoyed by boats-men and local salesmen. They were less hard on tourist than my previous year. Eventhough Varanasi blew my mind the first time, I even enjoyed it more on my second visit.

We passed by the “Vishnu’s Tea Emporium” as I read on trip-advisor it would offer a unique tea experience. I had the typical tea-shop image on my mind, the tidy western shops, with all kind of teas and smells. As we walked by the “Emporium” we missed it twice as it just looked like a small, dirty and untidy living room. It didn’t look like a tea shop at all. Following the recommendation of a friend, we stepped into the shop, and a couple minutes later Vishnu welcomed us. We got our second introduction how to make proper Masala tea, starting with a plain tea sample and adding each ingredient (ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon..) step-by-step. After our initial shock of the tidiness of the room, we appreciated how much love Vishnu put into his tea ceremony. We bought two tea bags and a masala-spice-mix to thank him for his time and service.

Varanasi is very picturesque old city that comes with “that special vibe”. You can feel the holy spirits within the city. You will see hundreds of very poor people, you will see too many smiles, you will hand out unlimited change and tips, some people will annoy you, others will make you happy with their grattitude, but in the end Varanasi will leave a unique memory within your heart.

During a tea-break we had a short conversation with an older british lady, she told us that she’d stay in Varanasi for 2 weeks. I asked her if she could recommend us some hidden gems of the city, however all we got was the answer I had expected. She told us, that she would spend most of the day along the ghats next to the Ganges River. It was my second time in the city, and all we did, was spending time on the river-walk. That must be the magic of Varanasi, being happy with almost nothing, just enjoying the views and having a masala chai.

While traveling as a couple, you will get used more easily to the poverty, the dirty streets, the endless honk sounds, after one day you will go with the flow, and witness the uniqueness of the probably oldest city on earth.



Kerala.

If you start talking about the south of india, about their beaches and yoga-beach-bums, Goa normally would pop up in most people’s heads. Kerala is just the state below Goa.

The main reasons we were visiting South-India, were the summer-ish weather, the local cuisine, and the glimpse at the indian culture. It could have either been Goa or Kerala. We opted for Kerala as it seemed less touristic than Goa. And we could get a change of scenery within hours.

Kovalam and Varkara are beach destinations, 150km further north you can explore the back-waters of Alleppey, from Alleppey heading north-east you’ll reach the greenish hills and mountains of Munnar. All this sounded very convenient for a 10-day trip through India.

I decided to write a seperate blog-post about the single stops on our journey through Kerala. Writing down our experiences in Varanasi took more lines that I expected.

Briefly I can summarize Kerala as a wonderful experience, as my expectations of India were very low. After bumping into too many rude and unwelcoming indian people in the north, I witnessed how lovely the indian people can be in the south of India. During our 10 days we didn’t experience one single unpleasant moment while interacting with numerous locals.

The local people we bumped into, were very friendly, welcoming, generous and helpful. Especially taxi-drivers were super friendly. Their job wasn’t the easiest, as traffic in india can be a severe pain in the ass. Some of the drivers had to drive 5 hours straight to drop us at our next destination. The drives were chaotic, the cab-driver had to stay attentive during those 5 hours. And the maximum we paid for 4 to 5 hours rides was 4500 indian rupees {50 euros/dollars}. We decided the use taxis to move inside the state of Kerala. Besides doing shorter trips with a rental scooter, taxis would be the quickest way of transportation and we wouldn’t lose much time during our 8 days in the south.

Obviously bus and train rides would have been cheaper and would have offered much more of a backpacker-feel, however some trains only leave once a day (early in the morning) and the rides would take up to 9 hours. As we wanted to visit 4-5 different areas within 8 days, taxis with a driver, was the optimal choice.

Prior our departure, I was convinced that we’d rent a car and do a roadtrip on our own across Kerala. I knew that traffic could be very harsh in Delhi and Mumbai. I didn’t expect this to be the case in Kerala. The main roads weren’t as congested as in the north, however the streets in Kerala were at some points very narrow. While driving around on our rental-scooter, we had to swerve buses driving on our lane towards the oppostive driving direction. Animals and peoples were sharing the road with us. Long story cut short, driving in india is very adventerous and be quite dangerous sometimes.

As we reached the middle of our trip, we were involved in an accident. That moment I thought that we would get in serious trouble, because it actually was our fault, that someone got injured. Surprisingly the police officers that showed up didn’t even ask for our passports. The locals surrounding the spot of the accident almost ignored us. Without any hesitation we paid cash for the damage we caused, and the taxi driver moved on and dropped us in Alleppey.

In Trivandrum we met up my friend Vinoy’s family. They picked us up and dropped us at the airport, they invited us to their house were we got cooked a delicious indian dinner. The whole family was very welcoming. We even got presents after leaving their house.

During our whole stay in Kerala we felt like - King & Queen. The hospitality of the locals was out of this world.











Osaka never disappoints

In May 2017 I visited Osaka for a third time, and it definitely wasn't the last time. After visiting Tokyo twice, and Osaka twice as well (prior the recent trip), it was obvious that I was rather the Osaka-kind-of-person. This time I wasn't walking around all day with a camera in my hand. I enjoyed my little moments in the city, observing people, having coffee, eating street-food, and meeting up with old and new friends at night.

My recent trip to Osaka wasn't meant to bring back home the best photos or videos, to convince my friends and blog followers how awesome the city is. People who have been following my posts on this blog or on Instagram, should know by now that I'm a big fan of Japan. 

After being around most corners of Osaka, there wasn't much left to discover, however I never felt bored while walking through the streets of Namba. Let's start with the coffee places.

This was the first time, where I was hunting for good and hip coffee places.

The best coffee bars I visited were located in Amerika-mura (american-village). As you can figure out by the name, the neighborhood is heavily influenced by the western world. It's packed with western clothing brands, american bars, but the hippest coffee spots as well. My favorite bar was "LiLo Coffee Roasters" because of it's interior design; the staff was very fluent in english, and they had too many coffee-accessories for sale. Right next to Lilo's place, was another awesome coffee bar called "Streamer Coffee Company". At first sight from the outside I thought it would be a skateshop pimped up with a coffee-corner. I gotta admit that Streamer actually had the best coffee I tried in Osaka. It's not as cozy as Lilo's corner, but it's definitely worth a try.

Arashiyama

What would a trip to Osaka be without witnessing the beauty of Arashiyama? Arashiyama is well known for its spectacular bamboo forest. The bamboo forest actually doesn't take that much time to visit, think about 15-25 minutes. It's always hard to get a descent photoshot of the path leading through the forest, because there are just way too many visitors, any time of the day. However Arashiyama is always on my list, when visiting the Kansei region. I just love the whole vibe of the village: mountains, rivers, cute little shops, food stalls, japanese people dressed up in kimonos.

For the first time, I decided to visit the monkey forest. You gotta walk up a very steep hill for about 25 minutes, til you reach the top of the monkey place. You'll get a beautiful view all over Arashiyama and Kyoto. You'll get the chance to feed the monkeys, who'll be eating out of your hands. The coolest thing was that the visitors will walk into a cabin, that feels more like a cage, and you'll be feeding the monkey from the inside through the fences of the cabin. So it doesn't feel like a zoo, where animals are captivated for the visitor's pleasure. The monkeys are jumping and climbing freely around the cabin. Those monkey hands felt like baby hands grabbing for food, it definitely was worth the way up to the mountain.

If you're looking for the "kawaii" (which means cute in japanese) side of Japan, you should stop by at the Katsuoji Temple. I heard stories about it many times, but never made it to the very north of Osaka, because it takes about 90 minutes to get there. You gotta use two different trains which will lead you to the Senri-Chuo station. Outside of Senri-Chuo station you will have to catch a 40 minute bus-ride that will drop you at the entrance of Katsuoji-Temple. However the last bus will leave the train station around 3pm or 4pm. As lucky as I usually am, I had to use a taxi (single fare was 35 euro / us$). I left the temple about 5pm, and bad luck stroke again. No buses after 5pm, no taxis around the temple. Me and a 14 year-old chinese boy walked down all the way to the city. The walk took us almost an hour. I couldn't speak chinese or japanese, and the chinese teenager couldn't communicate in english or japanese. But at the end we somehow managed to jump on a bus, that brought us back to a train station after almost 2 hours. 

After visiting a couple of japanese cities, you easily get fed up with temples. Katsuoji however was different, in a funny way. The whole place is packed with daruma dolls, which creates a unique atmosphere. 

The daruma dolls at Katsuo-ji Temple are called "Kachi-daruma" (winning daruma). The darumas are eye-less goodluck charms. People are supposed to draw an eye on the doll's face when they make a wish, and draw in the other when their wish comes true. When one's daruma-doll gets both eyes drawn in, it should be brought back to the temple. 

Last but not least, the Taiko Bridge of the "Sumiyoshi Taisha" shrine. Again, after having witnessed numerous temples in Japan, it gets harder with each trip to be impressed about wooden temples. I have just seen to many temples in Japan. However I haven't ever seen a round bridge like the Taiko Bridge in Osaka. The first one I have ever discovered was outside of Asia, at the Japanese Garden in San Francisco. That's why I decided to jump on a train towards the Sumiyoshi shrine. In my opinion, the shrine didn't blow me away. However the bridge sourrounded by trees and a pond was worth the shot.

 

Nightlife in Osaka.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, that one fact that I really enjoy about Osaka is its nightlife. I mean it's not always that easy, to get in touch with japanese people. Some of them are too busy for a conversation, some are too shy or insecure to communicate in english and some don't understand any english at all. Most of the japanese people, that I had the chance to get to know, were having a drink in a bar or they worked as bartenders. It's just the perfect place to get into a chitchat. In Osaka it's even possible to bump into the same person on the same trip, which hardly ever happen in any other big city.

I wouldn't brag about Namba for being the best place to go out, because there are just too many streets or bars left to discover. Some bars or clubs will always remain undiscovered for many tourists, because they aren't barely visible from the outside. I remember a club called "Bambi", where a french expat took me to. We took an elevator to the 7th floor, and as soon as the doors of the elevator opened, we stepped out right into a club. It's very common in Japan to get on top floors for having dinner or a drink. That's why locals know the best places to check out.

As far as my experience goes, I'd recommend these places while going out in Osaka. They're all reachable by foot and only a couple of minutes separated from each other.

Bar Zerro {Namba}

The Zerro Bar is a bar packed with locals, tourists, and expats. It's usually very busy. Most of the bar tenders are pretty fluent in english. Every time I went for a drink I met people from all over the world. It's not the coolest place, but if every other bar is empty, you'll definitely find some people at Zerro.

Cinque-Cento (500) {Namba}

Cinque-Cento means 500 in italian. That's where the bar got its name from, because every drink or meal on their menu costs 500 yen  (4 € $). The drinks are served in average size glasses, and they don't look as fancy as in a cocktail bar. But you can get a Moscow Mule or a Maitai for a very fair price. All of the bar tenders were very friendly and easy to talk to. While drinking and talking to them, they could tell you some fascinating facts about Japan. "500" easily became my favorite bar in Osaka on my last trip. And yes, you also get some finger- & fast-food for 500 yen.

 Mustang-Bar {Amerika-Mura}

On my recent trip I didn't make it to Mustang, because I couldn't leave "500" and because Mustang is located in Amerika-Mura, the neighbor-area of Namba. But on my two first trips I had a blast at Mustang. The main reason was most definitely because of the bar-owner Neil (or Neal), an expat from Israel. Neal is high probably the craziest dude in Osaka. He used to be very entertaining and made every customer laugh with this harsh jokes. "Mustang" is a very small bar, recognizable by its ceiling, which is covered by hundreds of hanging bras. Apparently drunk women started to undo their bras, and hang them on the ceiling. I guess it's just another prove how crazy it can get at Neil's bar. 

Kamasutra Karaoke Bar

The last episode of my nightly adventures took place at Richard's Karaoke Bar called "Kamasutra". Richard is an expat as well. And it was damn funny coincidence that I made it to Kamazutra. Six or seven years ago work colleagues told me about their crazy night at a karaoke bar where they were introduced to the bar owner called "Richard". After a drunken night at 500, some japanese people took me to a karaoke bar. It was my first time ever at a Karaoke bar. After ordering another round or trinks and starting a chit-chat with the man behind the bar, I figured out his name was "Richard". I took out my phone, to check out if the photo of my friends at "that" Richard's place was the same one where I was sitting. Richard burst out laughing, because he was still remembering the night where my colleagues were visiting him. "Those crazy guys from Luxembourg... that was a hell of a  night!". Sometimes the world just seems so small, when coincidences like this one happen. I went back to Kamasutra one more time before leaving Japan. I had a blast every night!

Itadakimasu ! {ただきます}

Itadakimasu, is what japanese people say before having a meal.

Actually this article won't be a review, or a post about a random city. It will be a little tip, about what to eat in Japan. I remember when I got back from my first Japan trip, I noticed way too late, that I didn't focus enough on the local dishes.

The Japanese people put so much effort and passion in their cooking, even on the streetfoods that you get around every corner. At first sight, and as japan-newbie, you hardly don't see the soul behind their cooking. Most dishes are very simple to prepare, if you got the right ingredients, and that's maybe the main raison, that you can only achieve a high quality cooking through experience, and precise details on how to prepare the food.

On my second trip, I wanted to taste as much japanese food, and as many different dishes, as possible. There were moments, where I had 3 ramen soups a day. I went from cheap sushi to the top-notch chef's "Omakase". The term "Omakase" {お任せ} means that you get a sushi-menu based on a selection from the chef. The food you will be served, will have the chef's signature, which means you get the best sushi of the restaurant. And usually you will be able to watch the chef preparing the sushi, piece by piece. You will eat 1 sushi at a time.

While being in Japan, I also noticed that, it's hard for a traveler to discover japanese dishes. Great local dishes, actually don't look that fancy on the menu that they will hand you out, when having a seat at a restaurant. The names of the dishes will be in japanese, so you usually choose something that you know, or recognize on the photos.

But I was glad, that I made some friends in Japan, and they introduced me to the most famous and traditional food experiences you can discover in Japan. 

 

Ramen {ラーメン}

Ramen is a very popular noodle soup in Japan. There are millions of Ramen restaurants all across Japan, from fancy restaurants to street carts. Some are even open til late at night. After long partying nights, I always had a recovering ramen just before going to bed! People don’t mind lining up for hours to get in, as long as it’s good.  I can't imagine one single person who wouldn't like Ramen. There are many different kinds of soups, but there's three basic types of Ramen: Shyoyu (soy sauce), Miso, and Shio (salt).  Usually pork, chicken or seafood broth is used for the base of the soup, and that is then seasoned with soy sauce, miso, or salt. It's a fest! Try it, and love it! And another good point, it's a budget meal! The usual price you have to pay for a quality ramen is around 600 ¥ {4 euro, 5 US$).

 

Takoyaki {たこ焼き}

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese street food, made from grilled balls of seasoned batter with small pieces of octopus inside. On top of that you usually get some Katsuobushi, or Bonito flakes, spices and a twist of the local japanese mayonnaise. 
Originating from Osaka, Takoyaki is one of the most common foods you will see there, as well as at festivals and special events all over the Japan. In Osaka you will notice much more Takoyaki food shops than in Tokyo. In my opinion, it's not my first choice when it comes to the local dishes, however once in a while I will have some Takoyaki, just because all the Osakans or the japanese tourists are fighting to get a sample of those octopus balls. And again, another budget snack !

 

Okonomiyaki
{お好み焼き}

Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese food that is sometimes called "The Japanese Pancake". It's a savory dish that reminds you of an omelette and it's made with okonomiyaki flour, eggs, cabbage, pork, shrimp or other seafood, and topped with a variety of condiments. On top of that you get the sweet Okonomi sauce (which reminded me of our barbecue sauce), mayonnaise, dried seaweed and dried fish flakes. I know it doesn't sound THAT appetizing, but you can trust me, it's a just a food bomb with hundreds of different flavors. 
Florence, a girl I met in Hiroshima, introduced me to the Okonomiyaki, apparently you get the best one in Hiroshima. So she took me to a foggy, and rundown fastfood restaurant. It was hidden on the 3rd floor of an old building, impossible to find! The first thing I noticed was the huge cooking hotplate. The owner of the shop prepared the amazing Okonomiyaki in front of us, and we got it served on that same hotplate. No plates. All we got was a spatula to cut the pancake in even pieces, and some chopsticks. To me it first looked like another fast-food snack, but I was so wrong. Okonomiyaki was one of the eye-opening dishes I discovered in Japan. As an amateur cook, I love trying out japanese dishes at home. Okonomiyaki was one of the only dishes I totally failed at preparing. Don't get blinded by its simplicity!

 

Soba Noodles {そば }

Soba Noodles, might look like plain spaghettis without sauce. On my first trip I never ordered Soba at a restaurant, I just didn't see the point of ordering noodles without a sauce. And on my second trip, Maya took me out for lunch in Osaka. I ordered some Tempura, fried vegetables, and the Soba as a side dish. While waiting for our lunch, I noticed that all the people around me, were having Soba noodles as well. After reading an article about the Soba culture in Japan, I learned that Soba noodles, made out of buckwheat flour,  are healthier than the western spaghettis. They contain more essential amino acids, and antioxidants. Soba noodle can be served hot or cold. The cold ones are very refreshing on hot summer days. They're topped with scallions, wasabi, and a Tsuyu dipping sauce {made out of soy sauce, mirin, dashi}. The mixed flavours of the noodles, sauce and scallions, makes it all worth it. Soba is a traditional Tokyo dish from the Edo era. Budget again!

Kyoto & Osaka & Nara

In my last two years I visited 8 cities in Japan. If you plan on spending only a couple of days in Japan, I totally advise you to visit these 3 cities: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara. 

 

Osaka would be the best city for your hotel. It's located inbetween Nara and Kyoto. Both cities are reachable with a 40 minutes train ride. Osaka is the most laid back city of all three, and it offers the most entertaining nightlife. Beautiful nights are spent just next to the Dotonbori river, which is surrounded by a universe of neon-lights and the longest shopping gallery I know. Both sides of the river are packed with restaurants and bars, and several bridges that connect both parts of Dotonbori. Not to forget about the famous Glico-Man neon sign, which attracts too many people for some photos & selfies. Another famous area for nightlife or day-time shopping would be Ameri-mura, a fusion of an americanized japanese neighbourhood.

Osaka hasn't as many sights to offer as Kyoto or Nara, but still Osaka is a very charming city. Visiting the Osaka Castle, will easily take half of a day. The castle is surrounded by a huge beautiful park,  a very lively area. Familydays are spent in the park, group activities, mediation groups, or just sit back and enjoy the different fountains across the park.

There's another area I'd recommend after sunset in Osaka, the Tsutenkaku Tower. The neighbourhood of the Osaka tower, is prettiest at night, because of the street-lights, infinite lanterns, and the crazy neon signs. The alleys are packed with restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. Some locals told me that it would be the run-down area of Osaka. Frankly I didn't have that impression. 

For cultural daytrips and unforgettable sceneries Kyoto is the right place! Kyoto is often refered to as the cultural heart of Japan. Not less than 2000 shinto and buddhist shrines & temples are spread all over the city. Ok, I gotta admit, after I've visited the 10th temples, I had enough.  

For my self the most memoral sights in Kyoto were the following places:

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine: The world famous path of orange torii gates, leading you to the top of mount Inari which is 233 meters above the sea level. 

 

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Groove: The bamboo forest of Ashiyama is one of the most beautiful forests I've ever experienced. It isn't the largest forest, it only takes you 15 minutes to follow the path across the bamboo forest. But it's all worth it. Expect lots of tourists on the path, and it isn't easy to get a decent photo of the bamboos without any visitors on it. Enjoy the village of Arashiyama, and the lovely alleys packed with shops, and delicious restaurants. Everytime i'm in the area, I plan on spending half a day at Arashiyama, such a divine place.
     
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple: It's not the biggest temple, but one of the few I highly recommend to visit. It's not the size of the temple, but rather the golden coating of the temple, surrounded by a beautiful natural environment. The mix of nature's green, and the temple's golden shine, is just the perfect spot for your photo camera.
  • Gion & Kiyomizu Temple: I'd recommend visiting the Gion neighbourhood, better known as the Geisha district, and from Gion walk towards the Kiyomizu temple. Very likely you will run into a couple of geishas or maikos [apprentices], or probably just japanese tourists dressed like one of them. Some shops offer a kimono-rental-service, which gives you the possibility to look like a geisha for a day. In Kyoto a geisha is also called a "Geiko", a geisha from the western part of Japan. The Kiyomizu is a big impressive buddhist temple on top of a hill, it's worth the visit. But as I mentioned before, after 10 different temples, I had enough.

 

Last, but not least! Nara.

Nara is a mix of Kyoto and Osaka. A very laid back and quiet city, which feels different than the city-life of the two previous mentioned cites. Lots of natures, temples, lakes, and too many deers. One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Nara, were the deers. I wanted to get a selfie with a deer so bad!

The parks of Nara are filled with over 100 deers. You're allowed to pet and feed them. The deers are so tame, that even little kids aren't scared to touch them. The funniest part would be the bowing [a sign of showing gratitude], if you start bowing in front of the deer, they will bow as well... well, mostly if they get a deer-cookie in exchange. You gotta witness Nara in real or just through images, words can't describe how beautiful that place is. I had the chance to visit Nara during the sakura season [cherry blossoms], it was an unforgettable daytrip. When I got back to the hotel, I noticed that I still had missed so many spots in the beautiful city. I need to get back one more time!