By Brian Johnston, the Sydney Morning Herald, November 2, 2013

Kyoto, Japan, is a joy to 1walk around and its beautifully presented streets, shops and many temples don’t cost a yen. Get a flavour of old Kyoto along narrow Nishikikoji-dori, crammed with stalls where you can get a hot bean-paste bun ($5) for breakfast, before heading to parallel Shijo-dori, the main shopping drag, for a modern contrast. Lunch on udon noodles at Omen (; $12), then head to the Golden Pavilion (; $5), a samurai villa turned Buddhist temple covered in gold foil. From here, walk through suburban Kyoto to the zen rock garden at Ryoanji Temple ( $6), where you can have a delicious tofu and vegetable dinner ($17) by a stream under the maple trees. Stay in a tatami room at Budget Inn (; $66), where very friendly owners are full of useful information.
TOTAL: $111

Make use of Kyoto’s excellent buses (; $7 day pass) to head to Silver Temple (; $5), a famous wooden pavilion set in lovely gardens. From here, it’s a semi-rural stroll along the canal-side Philosopher’s Path, shaded by bamboo and cherry trees, to several other temples. Finish at Kiyomizu Temple with a vegetarian set menu at Junsei (; $33). Then head to Nijo Castle (; $7), one of the last samurai strongholds, set behind defensive moats in the middle of landscaped gardens. In the evening, head along Pontocho, a pedestrian alley lined by old wooden shops, restaurants and bars, for a riverside beer ($5) and tempura meal at Fujino-Ya ($95). Stay at Hotel Granvia Kyoto (; $269), which has fine views over the city and a convenient location.
TOTAL: $421

Make the most of your time in Kyoto with Chris Rowthorn Tours (; $350 for six hours, including lunch); his outstanding local guides can customise visits to your interests, whether it’s gardens, geisha or kimono workshops. In the late afternoon, head on your own to cobbled Sannenzaka street, where shops offer beautiful antiques. Nightfall is a good time for atmospheric Gion, the geisha quarter filled with art galleries and antique shops. Rest in a traditional teahouse and appreciate a top-quality cup of green tea ($20). Dine at Minoko (; $170), where eye-popping prices get you a superlative dining experience in a gracious villa. Hyatt Regency Kyoto (; from $294) is a luxury hotel near the temples of the Eastern Hills and Gion.
TOTAL: $834

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