Happy in Hampi

Welcome to pre-historic Hampi!

Hampi! This ramshackle village, divided by a river is surrounded with heaps of precariously sitting giant boulders, ancient ruins & is a backpackers haven. Our daughter likened it to the Flintstone era & very Jurassic Park, she is spot on!

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The area is really divided into two sites, the Hampi Bazaar, closer to the ruins & has many hostels, restaurants & shops. Virupapur Gaddi, is across the river & accessible by short boat ride from the bazaar area.

Hampi Bazaar River edge
Hampi Bazaar River edge

In full Laura Croft & Indian Jones mode we scampered across & through the various Hindu temples & ruins, marvelling at the intricate carvings & arcitecture, given that most date back to the 13th century.

imageThe ruins are spread over 36 sq kilometres & divided into two areas, the Sacred Center & the Royal Center. Our rickshaw drivers ‘Michael Jackson’ & ‘King’ (go figure) were not only knowledgeable but also very entertaining. We came to meet this pair as we stepped off the train on arrival in Hospate, about 15K from Hampi. Hospate is nothing to write home about & is dirty, dusty town with little to offer, except being a transportation transit point. They zeroed onto us & were unrelenting until we finally agreed to let them take us to our hotel for 20 rupees (~40 cents). After chatting with them for bit we figured they were reasonable guys so agreed to hire them for the next day to do the grand tour.

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We started off at the Vittal Temple in the Sacred Center, the undisputed highlight of the Hampi ruins. We were surprised at the lack of crowds & thus had great photo opportunities without hoards obstructing our views. There were however many school field trips visiting the area & the kids always wanted to shake our hands, take pictures, ask our names & enquire where we were from. We really enjoyed chatting with these polite, eager young folks.

Another temple photo op
Another temple photo op

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We won’t bore you with too many temple details, but suffice to say they are truly amazing & in really good condition, despite exposure to the elements.

Ugra Narasimha (aka scary bug eyed guy)
Ugra Narasimha (aka scary bug eyed guy)
Some interesting temple carvings
Some interesting temple carvings
No this isn’t Bob! 😅 A Sadhu (holy man)

The area is also a farming community. Lush green paddy fields, Palm, banana & sugarcane plantations dot the landscape. Our rickshaw dodged the many oxen-drawn carts of freshly harvested sugarcane, while shepherds herded their goats & cows lazily wandered the same roads.

Ladies in red
Ladies in red

Hampi is a definitely a recommended stop for those visiting southern India. Some come for a few days but end up staying much longer. We however are on the move again heading to Mysore. Our only option for transportation is by sleeper bus. We first experienced this means of transportation in Vietnam & swore we would never travel this way again. However, with a national holiday (who knew) & tardiness in booking (again) we will discover if Indian sleeper buses are any improvement over our previous experience.  Hey, who needs sleep anyway! 😴

Sunsegad (Hindi for laid-back) in Goa

Latin quarter, Panjim
Latin quarter, Panjim

Our one-hour flight from Mumbai to Panjim, Goa was a much better alternative to the 12-hour overnight train, for similar cost. The state of Goa is a popular tourist destination for many reasons. Panjim, the current capital & Old Goa, the previous capital & now a UNESCO World Heritage site, boast old world colonial influence, whitewash churches & beautifully restored buildings. The relaxed culture & endless beaches were certainly appreciated after the hustle & bustle of Mumbai.

We stayed & wandered the tangled streets of the Portuguese-era quarters in Panjim, enjoyed the delicious Goan cuisine (a blend of Portuguese & South Indian flavours), strolled the tree-lined boardwalk along the Mandovi River, enjoying the twinkling lights of the many floating casinos, each evening. A beautiful church watches over the Panjim city centre where shopkeepers hawk their wares & cafes line the streets. We were fortunate to discover a festival on our first day & although loading up with the beautiful handmade crafts from the various areas of India was such a temptation, it is definitely too early in the game to entertain such purchases. We did enjoy the evening shows highlighting music & dance from around India.

Casino boat, Panjim
Casino boat, Panjim
Indian festival/show
Indian festival/show
Henna hand paint
Henna hand paint

Antonio, our Air B&B host organized a driver to take us to the historically & culturally significant sights. Old Goa, once considered the ‘Rome of the East’, was a highlight. This old town boasts 16 churches & cathedrals within 3 kilometres, many still in use & in remarkable condition. One famous church, Basilica of Born Jesus, contains the tomb & still intact remains of St. Frances Xavier, the so-called Apostle of the Indies.

Two local buses & a rickshaw ride later we arrived at our current location, Palolem Beach, located in southern Goa. This continues to be a fishing village with wonderful fresh seafood & fish available in restaurants. Beachfront huts, restaurants & shops line the curved beach, which surprisingly isn’t overrun. Many huts sit precariously on stilts, are ridiculously overpriced & dismantled at seasons end. Regardless, they are booked solid & offer wonderful views of the Arabian Sea. There is a good mix of the young & ‘more mature’ traveller, a haven for back(flash)packers & those who prefer longer stays. The weather is perfect, around 23C morning & evening, however the heat builds early afternoon. Our daily walks in & around Palolem, quieter Agonda, Putnam & Raijag beaches keeps us in shape & provides excellent exploring opportunities.

Namaste – New Year, New Adventures

Our love affair with Asia continues & 2016 begins with us heading back to that part of the world, this time to India. As you read this we are in Toronto, patiently waiting for our plane to depart.

WHY India? Well, that certainly is the million dollar (or most frequent) question we get & to be honest our biggest motivation is to experience a culture very different from our own & of course escape the cold Canadian winter. Anyone who has ever been to India has told us to expect the unexpected, the bureaucracy will frustrate, the food will take us on a wild culinary trip, traditions will thrill & it will definitely be a life-changing, enriching, spiritual experience. So WHY not go?

Our 3-month trek starts in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) & the Bollywood capital of India. From there we will head south to Panjim the capital of Goa, Hampi, Bangalore, Mysore, the backwaters of Kerala, Chennai, etc. before heading north to the sacred city of Varanasi & then the region known as the Golden Triangle. Our mode of travel throughout the country will vary – train, plane, bus, automobile, tuk-tuk, & perhaps even camel!  While we have a general game plan, we will still ‘wing-it’ along the way, so who really knows where we will end up or for how long. We are certainly wiser from past misadventures, but will no doubt be tested by new ones.

Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge

You will once again be treated with interesting tidbits of the various places we shall visit (some more history lessons for you James) & of course pictures, lots & lots of pictures!

With that we will leave you with a favourite quote from the essay ‘Why We Travel’ by author Pico Iyer.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Iyer

~ Namaste ~