a few weeks ago i visited hampi with an american co-worker (MS) in town for 3 weeks.
it was my first overnight train ride in india. 2nd class sleeper: cheap and a bit grubby, but it's supposedly the full indian train experience... lots going on, curious friendly travelers, hawkers galore, strange smells and noises, the occasional mouse, cockroach, etc. 1st class is air-con and upper class indians. someday i'll try that.
we arrived in hospet on time. i hadn't slept well in my upper bunk. it was a bumpy, noisy night. fear of thieves also kept me from a deep sleep. feeling lazy, we negotiated for an auto-rickshaw from the train station into hampi, 30 minutes away. too much trouble to find the bus station and catch the bus.
on our way into town, the auto stopped and some random guy wanted a 5 rupee "parking fee". felt like a scam, especially since we weren't parking anything, but being only 5 rupees, i decided not to fight it.
upon arrival we were assaulted by the room hawkers. prices fell as we moved from place to place. they fell so far we each got our own room for only 100 per night ($2.30), complete with attached bath and mosquito netting, with a nice rooftop area to hang out and look out on the city & ruins.
hampi is a tiny town, nearly devoid of vehicle traffic, though sometimes you get stuck behind a cow jam. all accommodation is basic, family run stuff. no big hotels or resorts. backpackers, myself included, appreciate this sort of environment, but indians generally don't, and tend to stay in hospet. so the petruli oiled goa-loving crowd was out and about, but in small numbers, this being low season.
all in all, it was the perfect antidote to bangalore.
surrounding the small town for miles around are the ruins. vast, atmospheric, and nearly deserted, they were probably my 2nd favorite "ruins" of all time, dwarfed only by angkor wat.
we started at the temple in the center of town, where i gave an elephant 1 rupee in exchange for a blessing (i.e. a smack on the head from his trunk). a guide forced himself on us, and gave a tour in more detail than i cared for. and monkeys were everywhere, sizing us up for bananas and other pilferables.
this first day we stayed in the immediate vicinity of the town, covering what we could on foot, then napped through the afternoon rains. dinner presented a challenge--how could we have a beer in a holy city where all alcohol is prohibited by law? answer: go where the white people are. not hard, as there were basically ONLY white people in the main street restaurants. we easily found beer alongside surprisingly tasty food. there were offers of a lot of other "unholy" substances as well.
it being a full moon, it seemed the perfect opportunity to wander the ruins at night, something we were advised not to do, increasing its appeal. we climbed a nearby hill and looked out on the temple and surrounding ruins. beautiful. thankfully, the power went out in the city while we were up there, extinguishing the few fluorescent bulbs marring the otherwise perfect moonlit landscape. we finished the evening on our rooftop under the bright full moon, playing cards and drinking a bottle of california wine MS brought along with him, accompanied only by the sound of the river flowing nearby. my most romantic evening in ages. if only MS were a girl, unmarried, and far far bustier. sigh.
the next day we rented bikes as explored the more far flung ruins. i'll let the pictures speak. it was a long but rewarding day.
in addition to the ruins, we had several very nice interactions with the locals. on the way back to town some kids hitched a joyride on our bike racks. in general, the people of hampi were extremely friendly.
day 3 we walked up to a hilltop for the sunrise and amazing views.
later we crossed the river by boat at which point the ass of my (literally) cheap-ass indian jeans ripped open. as the day progressed the rip went from suggestive to provocative to downright slutty. still, i managed to enjoy the day. this side of the river had a different feel to it, kind of like a tropical island, banana trees swaying in the wind. we managed to climb the huge staircase to the famous hilltop monkey temple. surrounded by aggressive holy monkeys, a giant ass-hatch open in my pants, i was feeling a bit vulnerable. but nothing happened beyond a lot of monkey posturing.
we tried to catch a bus back to the train station, but it was late. on top of that a very affectionate cow kept harassing us, demanding we rub her. she smiled, impressing me with her beautiful teeth. surprising myself, i pulled back her gums to show MS her pearly whites and he agreed. by the time she started head-butting me it seemed appropriate to grab a rickshaw back to the train station. this time i slept in a bottom bunk and fought off aggressive cockroaches most of the night. very, very unpleasant.
(thanks to MS for several of the pictures)