22 April 2013

Hampi- treasures of a fallen Empire

Virupaksha Temple
A friend who travelled in India some years ago recommended Hampi village in Karnataka as an absolute must-see. I had therefore decided I would go there even before I landed on Indian soil. Amongst the ruins of a fallen Empire lies a cultural treasure that left me in awe.
Hampi is located within the ruins of the old Vijayanagara Empire's capital with the same name. The Empire ruled South India from 1336 till 1565, and it's grandeur is blatant in the area. Over a large area the mesmerizing structures, intricately built and decorated, lay scattered. The ancient city is surrounded by gigantic boulders and located on the banks of Tungabhadra river.
Tungabhadra River

We came to Hospet, which is about 10 km from Hampi, in the early morning. It had been a long and exhausting journey with little sleep. An English couple, Aaron and Kat, that also went with me to Munnar, had agreed with the two girls, Josie and Rachel, who stayed in Varkala while we were in Munnar, that they had to get two hours early in order to get our beds on board the sleeper train. They ended up forgetting the whole thing and just barely made the train. In hindsight I'm not sure if we would have gotten beds either way because the train was pretty full. To make a long story short, this meant that we didn't have a bed to sleep on for the night and would have to share a bed with someone else. In my case, being the odd out of two couples(Josie and Rachel were really close friends), had to approach an Indian woman with a child in her hands sitting opposite her elderly mother, who was in my seat. The woman in my seat got up and gestured for me to sit down. I sat down for a bit, but soon got overwhelmed by my conscience telling me it was wrong to separate a young woman with a baby in her arms and a grandmother. So I took the first available bed I saw, knowing that someone would wake me up in the middle of the night claiming their bed. About one hour later someone tapped me on my feet. I had to get up, and go in search of another bed. This time however I somehow succeeded and slept for the rest of the trip. The sleep I got on these trains was limited. First of all the benches/beds are hard. Second of all, because I planned to travel as light as possible thinking it would be hot everywhere in India, and because I wasn't planning to go on sleeper trains, I only brought a thin sleeping bag. Shoulda, would, coulda brought a proper sleeping bag and saved my self some pain(my hips and back was in serious trouble for days afterwards), and when we eventually went up north, protect myself from the cold.

Bangalore Palace

After 13 hours we had only made it to Bangalore, the most sophisticated city I saw in India. Modern, organized and clean. We had 12 hours in Bangalore before we had to get on the next train to get to Hospet. So we had breakfast at one of the very few coffee shop/restaurants that was open that early in the morning. After that Josie and Rachel were approached by some auto rickshaw drivers that offered to take us to the most important places in Bangalore for suspiciously little money. Aaron, Kat and I knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we didn't really have any other plans, so we came along. We were taken to four different of those really classy souvenir shops that were trying to sell us expensive jewelry, perfumes, scarves, Indian traditional clothing, metal or wooden statues of gigantic elephants and hand made furniture. It was ridiculous really, and except for Josie, who bought some bracelets, we simply had a quick browse at every place just to avoid getting into trouble with the auto rickshaw drivers who we were pretty dependent on in a city that was completely strange to us.
Vidhana Soudha

We did see the Bangalore Royal Palace and Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature of Karnataka(which was partly hidden behind a construction site). Of course at the Royal Palace we would have to pay to take photos, even from far away. I still managed to take a pretty sneaky one from behind the guards. (Like I'm gonna spend 200 rupies($3,50)on taking a photo).
Garuda Mall

After the pretty exhausting auto rickshaw drive we got back into the city center where we found a huge shopping mall(one of so many in Bangalore), Garuda Mall, with a cinema on the top. And guess what? It was one of the very few places I saw in India that had English movies( not dubbed anyway). To make a short story long: Bangalore is where I enjoyed Daniel Craig's second interpretation of James Bond in Skyfall.

On the train to Hospet we did have assigned beds and even though I woke up a couple of times, I finally had a decent sleep. On arrival to Hospet we sat down for a bit to catch our breath after going through the hundreds of auto rickshaw drivers who wanted to take us to Hampi. Josie and I(the only ones who weren't suspicious about street food)had some interesting deep fried chilis with chai before we started haggling to get a driver to take us. The driver we found was one of those people who had dealt so much with tourists that he could speak some German, Swedish and Norwegian, and of course English fluently. In the most touristy places it was interesting to see that even the people who had never attended school(not even to learn to read or write) spoke great English. He took us to a guest house(he gets paid from the guest house to take tourists there) and even though it wasn't fantastic, it was good enough and had a cute little restaurant/chill out zone on the roof. What I remember best about the place unfortunately was Josie throwing up for two whole days after food poisoning.



Hampi itself though was absolutely adorable. We went for a long walk the first day. Actually the auto rickshaw driver said there was no way we could get around Hampi without a rickshaw taking us around. We soon realized he was wrong. You can easily walk to the most important sights in Hampi unless you want to see temples that are across the river(but a rickshaw wouldn't be able to help you there anyway)We went to find a "waterfall", but because it was a dry season it was more like a little stream running into a lagoon. However, we did get to climb some big boulders and enjoy the extraordinary view as we followed the sound of the sizzling stream of water.

The day later we rented bikes(also completely unnecessary because the places we wanted to see was in walking distance). We saw strikingly beautiful temple ruins, they must have been amazing in their heyday. The ruins of Hampi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Sad to say that my camera ran out of battery before we went to the most interesting temple. Travel lesson number one: Always charge your battery before venturing out to explore!

Hampi is a remarkably more relaxed place than most others, the street sellers wait until you approach them, and they're happy and chilled even if they don't make the sale.
Hampi is not only the fallen capital of an Empire, it also has an impressing population of monkeys everywhere.
We were supposed to stay one more day, but by the morning after Josie and Rachel left to go up north and Bombay by themselves. Aaron, Kat and I wasn't able to get a bed on the same train as them. Us leaving Hampi one day earlier than we planned, turned into one of the most thrilling and exhausting parts of the trip. More on that later. Even though Hampi was one of the nicer places we went to, we were all ready to go that one day earlier. Evidently it is possible to get enough of ancient temples and monkeys.




2 comments:

  1. How little I know about Indian empires and culture. A bit of that should have been part of our teaching in school. I have to read up on that. The train culture gets you into good contact with people. Bangalore seems cool, and that is where a lot of the world software is made. I said it before - keep writing Ingeborg, I like it.

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  2. hi..thanks for the post.Are you planning any holiday trip with family.i will suggest you the places br hills resort and also near by place k gudi resort..its a nice place to enjoy with family..do visit..

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