After traveling for nearly 24 hours, I finally set foot in Cusco, and the altitude welcomed me with open arms. The once capital of the Inca Empire, situated at 11,152 feet in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco has become a necessary a pit-stop for travelers seeking to visit the world-famous citadel. I researched substantially prior to my trip about avoiding altitude sickness, yet I found myself still vulnerable to the effects of the sudden change in elevation. For the next few hours upon my arrival, my breathing was labored. It was a conscious effort to inhale and exhale. My chest felt heavy, as if a person has pressed their foot on my lungs.
Wide-eyed with enchantment, I stroll leisurely through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama District, overflowing with complete disbelief that I was not a) time traveling and/or b) lucid dreaming. The streets of Higashiyama are paved with cobble stones and are lined with wooden Japanese buildings. Cafes, restaurants, and traditional merchant shops are situated side by side along the historic area, selling local specialties including but not limited to the best mochi desserts you will ever taste and the best matcha ice creams you will ever taste.
Unlike its metropolitan counterparts, Kyoto is devoid of the hustle and bustle of city life, but rather possessing the quintessential Japanese charm. Age old temples and shrines can literally be found in every corner and the unique architecture invoke a feeling of old Japan. If Lost in Translation is to Tokyo, then Memoirs of a Geisha is to Kyoto.