Hampi is a beautiful area! The train station is actually in a town called Hospet. It is a short 30 minute drive to Hampi, and my oh my, is that ride gorgeous! The streets are lined with banana trees, sugar cane fields, and palm streets. In the residential parts, beautiful white cows pull wooden carts full of hay and logs.
It is obvious when you reach Hampi, the terrain becomes rocky and then you see the ancient temples spread out across the landscape. This is the ancient ruins of Hampi.
Hampi was the original capital of Vijayanagara of the Hindu Empire during the 14th-16th centuries. The traditional folklore says, “Two local chieftains, Hakka & Bukka , reports to their guru an unusual sight they saw during a hunting expedition. A hare chased by their hound suddenly turns courageous and start chasing back the hound. Vidyaranya, the guru, tells them that the place is so special and asks them to establish theirs local capital at this place. The seed of an empire was sown.” 4 dynasties ruled during the 2 centuries. Hampi was a great place of commerce and trade. Eventually the Deccan Sultantes joined together and defeated the Vijayanagara army. The city was plundered and ransacked. Most of the population was massacred and the rest fled. Hampi was a ghost town and slowly turned into a jungle. There are over 1200 temple ruins covering almost 10 square miles. (Which I will chat about later!)
Squeezing our way through the small streets of the bazaar we made it to the river. From there we ditched the rickshaw and took a boat across the river. The feel is completely different here. The one main street is lined with guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. Each restaurant displays chalk signboards listing their specials of the day. There is a relaxed, hippie attitude here. Music plays from all the restaurants and visitors hang out like they live here. But the biggest culture shock was seeing the people-I have never seen so many white people in India! The mix of people was phenomenal- French, English, German, and lots and lots of Israelis. I saw more dreadlocks, mullets, and nose piercings than I ever have in my life (Emily, on the other hand, was right at home being from Asheville, NC). These were the kind of people who backpack across India. I loved the feel!
After doing some “shopping” for a guest house, we ended up at The White Elephant. An open-air restaurant stood in the center with the attached rooms surrounding the property. We were suite #4 at the end of the row. It was simple but nice; one large bed in the middle of the room and a private bathroom.
Earl likes the view from our room!
We took our first afternoon pretty slow, exploring the main road and lounging at the White Elephant. The owner, Moin, introduced himself and invited me to play a few rounds of Backgammon. Later, he took us to some rock formations along the river to watch the sunset. Ahhh….
Actually, the night times were my favorite part of each day. Like I mentioned, the main street is lined with guest houses which all each have restaurants. Each night we chose a new place. Not only did we have great food, but the ambiance was amazing. Every night we removed our shoes, entered a dark restaurant with bulbs glowing over each floor table, and sat down on the cushions and pillows. Often times the tables were covered with various colored clothes and the walls covered in painted neon prints. Lazy hindu music drifted through the air until the power would go out and all would go still. This actually happened every night. In that case, the owners would bring over candles and we would continue on as normal.
The menus were all very similar, containing dishes from every cuisine which were often times spelled incorrectly: taost (toast), borrato (burrito), macyato (macchiato). Haha! We stuck to mostly Indian dishes and shared all of our meals. Here were some highlights:
Vegetable Momos! (steamed dumplings)
We were surprised at how less-spicy the Indian dishes were compared to Hyderabad, but they were all very flavorful! One of my favorites was this vegetable dish with cashews and raisins!
Before and after the meal we playing cards and chatted our hearts out. We joked that we ate our way through Hampi because we spent so much time relaxing at restaurants!