“Hampi”, as soon as I heard this name, courtesy a trip planned by my friends back home, I googled it up to realize it’s about some old historical ruins and architecture. So, initially, I was a bit skeptical if I would enjoy being at a place like Hampi, as I am someone who does not have the eye to appreciate architecture much. But, nevertheless, I did want to visit this place and see how different it was from the rest of the historical places I have already been to in the past. And thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. So let me take you back to the pages of history enclosed in my beautiful diary of exploring this scenic destination of Hampi.
To start off with the planning, my friend had done the hotel bookings using Tripadvisor.com, and after checking a number of options like bus from Hyderabad to Hospet bus stop (which is the nearest city to Hampi at a distance of 13 KM) or trains for the same route, we decided to add an exciting angle, a fun-filled road trip! My photographer friend’s car was what took us to the ruins of Hampi.
This is where we felt like we were passing through the road not taken, while blindly following the Google maps and some roughly scribbled notes brought by another friend ( thanks to the advice from someone who had already completed a successful road trip to Hampi). So the road from Hyderabad takes us on to National highway 44, making our way through Mahbubnagar, the narrow paths of Raichur, curvy lanes of Gangavathi leading us right to our destination Manju Guesthouse.
The final road to our guest house was more like a road which never existed or probably was hidden all this while. So approximately at a stretch of 2 km before reaching the guest house all we could see were foreigners (or you could call them hippie’s or Firangs), I could hardly spot an Indian among the tourists. This hidden stretch was covered with stalls selling colorful hippie stuff like harem pants, flower tiaras, beads, and dream catchers etcetera.We also saw German bakeries, riverside eateries and a lot more fancy places that somewhat gave a feel of suddenly being in a Goan flea market. The guest house was right in the midst of green paddy fields with a huge cliff right opposite to it, which was filled with people during sunset watching the pink stained sky and enjoying the slight warmth accompanied by the chilled breeze. As it was way too crowded we decided to occupy the same spot during sunrise.
Our first lunch at Hampi, was surprising, as our small guest house, had this menu that served every cuisine you would have ever heard about, right from Mexican, Italian, French, Thai, Spanish, Chinese and of course all-time favorite Indian. So but for obvious reasons, we decided to go for the food we don’t get to feed on often during the other days like Hamas, Lasagnas, Steak etc. As these places here were used to cook for their foreign visitors the food generally is quite bland (Including the Indian food), so just in case you are someone like me whose taste buds always crave for Spices, you would have to mention it clearly to the waiter.
After a long 7 hours road trip, our first day was extremely casual and laid back, as we had decided just to explore the stalls, restaurants by the Thungabadra river while enjoying the view of temples on the other side. We also took a lot of pictures and played UNO (as we always did every time we grouped up).
The Following day began with an extremely delicious English Breakfast at the Goan Corner Hampi, which was rich as we took the famous old Quote “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!” very seriously. After which, we headed off to finally visit the famous ancient temple town of the ruined city Hampi, for which we had to cross the river in round basket like boats called Coracle. The feeling of being in this huge floating cane basket was highly amusing but it just lasted for few minutes, that I didn’t get sufficient time to enjoy the ride.
Once out of the boat on the banks of the river, we had to book a TUK TUK (Auto) that would show us around, and yes the driver of the Auto is multi-talented as I say, because he not only drove us around but also played the role of guide describing the historical importance of every single plae and volunteered to serve us a sumptuous lunch. It took us 6 hours to visit every single place, starting from the Mustard Ganesh Temple, which is famous for an 8 feet monolithic Ganesha statue. Then we got to see the most articulated Hampi Bazaar, located in front of the Virupaksha temple, spread across more than 1 kilometer. It is said that today’s barren series of pavilions of this bazaar is just a shadow of the Vijayagara Empire’s glorious past where precious stones, jewelry, silk clothes etc., were sold by the merchants from the foreign lands (Seemed like a Historic movie for me while reading its description). From What I have heard is that this very place is all decked up and looks vibrant during the Hampi Utsav, that happens once in a year in November (Hopefully I’ll plan my second visit to this scenic place during that time). This place ends with a statue of a huge Nandi Bull.
Passing through the narrow lanes of this temple town, we happened to see Krishna temple which was also built by the King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara Empire. The walls of which held carvings of the Hindu epic stories. FOllowing which we made our way towards the Vittala temple. The main temple was 1.5 KMs away from the entrance. One way to reach the temple was cover this sandy path via battery cars but one would have to wait in a long queue to get a place in these cars or, you can always choose the easier way, by foot. Thus we walked our way to reaching the temple premises, on our way we saw a Pushkarini (In the olden days, every single temple in Southern India had a Pushkarini-symbolic to holy waters built in the temple premises as a rule for all the visitors to wash themselves before entering the temple). As every other temple, this one too was magnificent and was built in the typical Vijayanagara style engraved with beautiful carvings on its pillars. It is also known for its huge Stone Chariot, (every tourist trying their luck on clicking a customary selfie opportunity with the stone chariot as their background!) a unique fact about this temple is “The Musical pillars”, the outermost slender black pillars carved out of the giant ones are popular for emitting musical tones when tapped.
By this time, of the day we were already exhausted as the sun was shining brightly above our heads, literally draining all the water off our bodies, hence we decided to break for lunch at the tamarind tree restaurant, I call it the most pocket-friendly special thali I have ever eaten for just Rs. 150/- a plate. The food was typical south Indian, being served by waiters, and some local boys and auto drivers (like our’s) volunteered to serve during rush-hours. Right after a filling lunch, we immediately moved to our next pit stops just to ensure we reach the banks of the river before 6, past which it is difficult to find a boat to cross the river.
The latter half of the day was a quick one where we covered Queen’s bath and Lotus Mahal. Both of them had a unique style in architecture and decorations, they were a mixture of both, Islamic style and the Hindu style. As it was already nearing sunset we decided to head back passing through the Hampi Bazaar lanes again, so being in the exact location, we also visited the Virupaksha temple, it is the oldest and the main temple in Hampi and surprisingly is also known as the oldest functioning temple in India. Now, the sight which might take anyone by a surprise is, that as soon as you enter the grounds you would find baboons outside the temple, while inside you would just find the monkeys which are extremely alert and on their marks, all set to snatch away anything from a tourist’s hand, could be a banana, biscuits or even a hat.
Once out of the temple, we then took a coracle back to the hippie island, where after some good tea by the river side, my friends drove me to Hospet from where I had to board the bus to Bangalore taking me back to the hustle bustle of my daily life. This brings me to the end of a lovely weekend trying to discover a new place, helping me add a few pages to my travel diaries.
Looking forward to more such weekends in 2017.