Monday, June 4, 2012

Japan2012: Nara 3D/2N Itinerary - Day 5,6,7

Date of travel: 6-8 April 2012
Wait, where are you going??!!

Everyone knows that Nara = Deers (no, not literally). What's there to do in Nara? Visit the deers. What's there to buy? Souvenirs shaped like deer. What's there to eat? Pancakes shaped like deers. Aside from deers, what else is there? Spending 2 nights here was more than enough to discover what Nara has to offer.

Getting from Kyoto to Nara is pretty straightforward. What you have to realise is that there are 2 major train stations in Nara: JR Nara station and Kintetsu Nara Station. We had selected our hotel based on it having a hot spring pool inside and close to the JR Nara Station. My review of Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara can be found here. We loved the hotel very much, yes. But on hindsight, we would have preferred to be closer to Kintetsu Nara Station, where all the action is. Walking from JR Nara to Kintetsu Nara took us maybe 30 minutes in freezing weather. Yes there is the bus, but we are cheapskate and didn't want to spend on buses anymore since we wouldn't be able to make a bus pass worth the while.
Famous Nara snacks

So what's there to do in Nara?
Todaiji Temple is the most popular. To get here, you will pass many other smaller temples. We started out about 9am and we walked through the old quarters, found the 3-storey and 5-storey pagodas which was also another attraction. Then we reached the Toshodaiji Temple and found a few deers in front. Oh so happy, and started being trigger happy. Getting fed up of chasing after deers, we continued on and found the actual deer park. My guess is about 50-80 deers were roaming around here, all begging for food. Tens of vendors will sell you this 10 thin round crisps for 150¥ which deers would hound you until you surrender it to them. Something I passed on. I did not like seeing how hungry the deers were.
The main road from JR Nara to Todaiji Temple

Getting to the 5-storey pagoda
Aiyer..  will you bite me?
"Gimme my food, man!"

"No, I don't have anymore food"

"Then I'll just eat your paper bag!"

Moving on, we found one of the most famous restaurants in Nara, called Shizuka. When we walked past it, it was only 11:15am, a bit too early for lunch. So we decided to stop by the temple beside it for more photos, since it has cherry blossoms in full bloom. By the time we exited the temple at 11:35am, there was a queue of 8 people outside. And the restaurant was already full inside. What's so special here? Nara is famous for a dish called Kamameshi. It looks like a rice served in a metal pot. Check out the menu here The portion looked really small from the photos, and a set was about 1500¥. With a queue of 8 in a restaurant that looked like it has only 10 tables, plus having to pay 1500¥ for a small pot of rice, we decided to pass again. If any of you got to try it, do let me know how it tasted!
The temple that caused us to pass on dining at Shizuka

So pretty, on the way to Todaiji Temple

We hiked all the way to Todaiji temple, where crowds and deers (and their droppings) were aplenty. By the time we reached the entrance gates, it was only 12:00pm. What? I have to pay 500¥ to go in? What's there to see? Dunno .. more temples? Sigh .. sorry a bit too much of temples and deers for one day. We called it a day and headed back to our hotel.

As you can see, 9am - 12pm was enough to cover the main sights of Nara. For us to have spent 3 days / 2 nights here, what did we end up doing? We visited the hot springs 4 times. We slept a lot. We ate a lot. It was a good place to unwind and breathe in fresh air. Would I do it again? Not on your life. I would have skipped Nara altogether, and spent 3 days in Kobe instead. But that's another story coming up next.

If you are near JR Nara station, look out for this restaurant at the food street. Bill came to 3100¥

Grilled cheeks of tuna!

This was one of my favourite dish of the trip

Grilled mini gyozas

Clams in alcoholic broth
Related posts:
Japan2012: Top 5 Favourite Restaurants in Kyoto - Part 1
Japan2012: Top 5 Favourite Restaurants in Kyoto - Part 2
Review: Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara, Japan
Japan2012: What Did I Buy Back?
Review: Hana Hostel, Kyoto
Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 1
Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 2
Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 3
Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 4
Japan2012: Kyoto 5D/4N Itinerary - Day 5
Japan2012: Nara 3D/2N Itinerary - Day 5,6,7
Japan 2012: Osaka 4D/3N Itinerary - Day 7
Japan 2012: Osaka 4D/3N Itinerary - Day 8
Japan 2012: Kobe Day Trip - Day 9 & 10 (Final) 

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