Kyoto’s Greatest Escape

If Kyoto was where Japanese nobility worked for over 1,000 years, Arashiyama is where they played. Thirty minutes out of the imperial city center and up the Oi-gawa river, shogun mansions and historic hot spring inns are perched on the cliffs and tucked into the red maple trees, including the ryokan Hoshinoya Kyoto. The inn’s history dates back to the Meiji period, but in 2009 Hoshinoya hotels updated the space to a new level of luxury. During our visit we were transported into a serene world where nobles play, artists dream, and couples revel in romance.

01_Hoshinoya_Kyoto-dock_HoneyTrek.com
The Hoshinoya Kyoto experience begins at their boat house. They bring you inside for a cup of green tea and a red bean pastry, then the captain escorts you to the river boat for a beautiful 15-minute cruise to their sublime spot on the cliffs.

02_Hoshinoya_Kyoto-garden_HoneyTrek.com
Hoshinoya Kyoto feels more like a series of homes than a hotel. The architecture maintains a low profile, letting the beauty of the surroundings take center stage. This rock garden mimics the currents of the river and fades out of sight like a waterfall.

03-HoshinoyaKyoto_suite-HoneyTrek.com
Our suite was so chic with graphic wallpaper, a cloud-like bed, wall-to-wall window seats, and a bounty of unique amenities. In the closet we found their signature leisurewear, in the bar a huge selection of teas, and on the desk a beautiful Japanese calligraphy set to help channel our creativity in this inspiring space.

04-HoshinoyaKyoto-Cuisine_honeytrek.com
Then came one of the best meals of our two-year honeymoon. The flavors and presentation of this traditional kaiseki meal were like nothing we’d ever experienced! There were nine courses, one of the most decadent and exquisite being this cocktail of steamed abalone, topped with green apple, fresh sea urchin and caviar osetra.

05_HoshinoyaKyoto-Cuisine-HoneyTrek
Presentation in Japanese cuisine is not just how the food is plated but the beauty of the plate it is served on. Each course was served on hand-painted ceramics in varying artful designs. This course of red beans and rice in a charming fish-shaped bowl was off the menu but given to us and all newlyweds for good luck.

06HoshinoyaKyoto-Bedroom_HoneyTrek.com
We went back to our room to find a honeymoon surprise of sparkling sake wine. The bed and bubbles looked all too inviting.

07_HoshinoyaKyoto-breakfast in bed
The next morning we woke up to the gentle sunlight streaming through our paper shutters and then the soft knock of the chef. He came bearing all the ingredients and cookware to prepare a hot pot breakfast was right in our suite!

08-HoshinoyaKyoto-breakfast-hiking
So full from our bounty of food, we decided to take a walk to the neighboring hillside temple. The views over the river, the fiery red hills, and Kyoto city were spectacular.

09-HoshinoyaKyoto-classes
The Hoshinoya ryokan experience is all about immersion in Japanese culture, inclusive not just of style and cuisine, but customs. They offer guests a number of classes so they can try their hand at Japanese arts, such as tea ceremonies and hand-made incense. Here is a look at our incense teacher, teaching us how to pack and sculpt ash into perfect mounds and position the sandalwood for long and fragrant burning.

10-Tenruji Temple_HoneyTrek.com
Though Hoshinoya Kyoto feels a world away, just down stream are some incredible historic sites. The morning we checked out of our little oasis, we went to the heart of Arashiyama to see the UNESCO heritage site, Tenryuji Temple. It was originally a summer home to a retired shogun but has since become a zen temple and gardens.

11-_Kyoto Skyline_HoneyTrek.com
Kyoto is one of the most spectacular cities in the world with over 2,000 temples, shrines, and historic buildings. We spent nearly one week exploring the imperial capital but found our appreciation for the dense city came to us once we arrived to Arashiyama, sailed up river, slipped into our robes, savored the cuisine, practiced the traditional arts and lived as the nobles did, even just for a few days.

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Anne & Mike Howard

Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Eco-Conscious Glamping

One of the many reasons I’m hopelessly devoted to glamping is the eco-factor, a by-product of staying in a natural setting. Having glamped on almost every continent, I’ve yet to meet a chic campsite that isn’t small scale, low impact, or energy efficient—a trend hinting at a green sensibility that’s becoming increasingly important to travelers.

It was during one of my first glamping experiences on a vegetated cay in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef that the chef at the upscale eco-isle pointed out fishing boats in the distance. “Today’s lunch (of pan-fried barramundi) was delivered ashore from one of those vessels”, he explained. Dining fish-to-fork at a table made of local wood has made every other meal (ever) hard to measure up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sustainable situations like this are the rule versus the exception when you choose to glamp. Such is the case at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, where upon arrival I was handed a guava welcome beverage in a cup chiseled from the local forest’s bamboo bounty.

Beyond bamboo tumblers, the luxury retreat also includes elephant treks through a conservancy they set up to rescue the gentle giants from a life of begging and forced labor. In a feel-good twist, a portion of every guest’s room rate is donated to protection efforts.

Kamu Lodge
Across the Mekong River in nearby Laos, Kamu Lodge may be remote, but the modest wilderness escape doesn’t skimp on eco accoutrements. Each of 20 thatched-roof tents is topped in solar panels to light each abode at bedtime, and keep the fan running during hot jungle nights.

longitude 131
At a lower longitude, Longitude 131 to be exact, the namesake resort sets a different example of social and environmental responsibility in the form of extensive consultations with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to support the cultural heritage of the area—only 6 miles from Uluru—as well as the World Heritage Site’s flora and fauna, so precious, the entire 15-tent camp can be dismantled and relocated if need be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Back in North America, my most recent brush with wilderness lodging took me to the sun-drenched beaches of Tulum, Mexico where at Papaya Playa Project, boho-chic beach bungalows built using local materials go so far as to fashion free-standing towel racks out of wind-swept branches and string. I took a photo in hopes of making a similar structure for a rainy-day DYI project.

It’s incredible how contagious stewardship can be when paired with passion and creativity.

Urban Glamping with Hazel

I understand camping isn’t for everyone. There are bugs, variable temperatures, sleeping on the ground, no wifi – that’s why they invented Glamping! However, I also understand that glamping is still a little too roughing it/outdoorsy and remote for people – but what if you could ‘glamp’ in a city? Get the feeling of camping but have a vibrant urban landscape at your doorstep?

ovlmp-FQcfD0FdGswNxId_gEiGWT-XDozBaEVmht5fU
I have found the solution – tucked away between brick buildings in the European capital of Brussels – urban glamping. The boutique Vintage Hotel in Brussels not only went vintage in their décor and room design, they took it a step further and brought in a refurbished vintage Airstream camper and parked it on their front terrace. Poof – urban glamping!

dhhEgSxyO-1aClVq5PBTagW72VGs5NypIRYhhrq-_6A
I was pretty excited to try out this unique accommodation and still have the joy of easily getting to the bars, restaurants, and nightlife of Brussels.

68EDCnyzC2RN3fApJU1CeHl2yJYUYXkNq_nNJOOJFEU
The vintage Airstream was built in 1958, but has been fully updated with queen size bed, funky sitting area, TV, wifi, and shower.

CZcesO9dHtU79LVkgLrttjCD56X4dwINVozSdmbkeDk
It even came with a name, Hazel. In a previous life Hazel was a functioning camper that was used to travel the U.S. – oh, the places Hazel had been!

mb1cUSbHhHV5xC1q6GyAfqNzI0GrYzlBxDUlv1Dwg4Q
As I stepped up on the metal step and entered into my camper I sort of felt like Austin Powers was going to be lying on the bed greeting me! The décor was straight out of the 1970’s, colorful and graphic, which made the Airstream fit in seamlessly with the rest of the Vintage Hotel décor.

0-oAYOpwIuGH8vkxIuKEv1W6fHxWY1Pfw3O3wP9oEmE
You are not just in the middle of a bustling city; you are also in the middle of the courtyard and entryway for the hotel. At first, I was a bit freaked out feeling rather exposed with the Airstream sitting right in the entrance with little tables around it so that people from the wine bar could sit around you, but it also felt very city like. I was in the middle of all of the action, and honestly once you closed your camper door and pulled the shades, you were in your own little camper world anyway.

vXgiUqDoUuRpl6Iy5Kl50Gx4PEm6IHKOihoJuXXgT_8
And if you start to feel a bit claustrophobic, you can hang out on the terrace or inside at the wine bar at the hotel. The indoor wine bar also doubles as the breakfast area in the morning.

_lWuSJ032Zh5nP88E3k7RJwcwu1pOmMApbcIlwqMCdc
If you are urban glamping, then it’s all about the city and luckily the Vintage Airstream was located in one of the hippest neighborhoods in Brussels – Saint Gilles. You are surrounded by great restaurants, friteries, coffee shops, bars and shopping, all within a few blocks.

H1dY45aiCO-mxEP0dfJaPs5KCobInrsnh3jfvgbm4dM
I enlisted the help of my friends who live in Brussels and we started our evening at the Vintage Hotel wine bar. Then, we went for Tibetan food at Momo’s in the neighborhood.

cJaRTsMIrhe_c7W-05eCibKY7KiRU73rV13BENb7rjA
As we were strolling to the next bar, we came across a gallery exhibition opening and soon were sipping champagne looking at Jimmy Nelson’s “Before they Pass” photography exhibit that transported us to the far reaches of the globe. See – urban glamping can be quite adventurous!

KCW3n06PF6DJPzNRWN7SGL9cJFHHuYNMaV-RVDWJGkY
I spent the next morning walking around the neighborhood taking in the cobblestone streets, Art Nouveau architecture that Brussels is famous for, and of course had to stop at the well-known neighborhood Friterie de la Barriere. I took my large cone of frites and mayonnaise and sat at an outdoor café and ordered a Lambic beer. Sure, this wasn’t hiking in the woods and cooking over a campfire – but urban glamping was a fun way to get the rustic with the modern. Sometimes you just need a little urban glamping pampering.

Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott is a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer with one goal in mind – to make you wish you were somewhere else.  She seeks out epic adventures to intriguing places and writes about her around the world adventures on Ottsworld.com. You can also follow her live travels on Instagram and Twitter.