No, don't get me wrong. The place is beautiful. It's full of history, culture (both ancient and current) and traditions. Probably the only city full of temples where most of the atheists pay a visit. Okay, it's a lame line. But I cannot help it. I am writing after almost a year.
Let's concentrate on Hampi for now. A city of ruins, they call it. And it is indeed one. As soon as you enter the place, you get very calm vibes. Something that you feel in a temple. Something that you you feel at a holy place. And yet something just does not feel right. Let's come to that later.
The place welcomes you with greens (thanks to ongoing monsoon even in October damnit!) and rocks and structures. Every damn corner has some unfinished structure made from stone. And mountains are a collection of rocks. They seem to be leaning on one another. Like you move one and the entire lot will fall down and create another mountain? Yes, that's how they are. Naturally organised. Systematic.
Hampi is vastly divided in two parts - temple side of the river and the other side of the river. Temples or ruins offer you a historically rich and ancient experience, while the other side is called the hippie island. Temples. At least 10+. The ruins. Built in 14th century. 15th century. Weathering. Yet standing tall. And strong. You fall in love with them as soon as you set a foot inside. You marvel the art and the artist. You want to capture everything. You want to absorb every corner. You want to know and see more. You enter the temple.
And that's when things start going crazy. Batshit crazy. Like, literally. As soon as you enter the temple, you are greeted with bat shit and piss odour. That smell is so strong that you just cannot stand inside for more than 10 seconds. In some of the temples, you are even greeted with human shit. I could not enter a single temple because of this sole reason. It broke my heart. Something that's so precious, so ancient, and we don't even value it.
So yes, Hampi is all about appreciating the outer beauty. Appreciating those ancient stone structures crumbling. And people harping on them to get clicked. And it's not a pretty sight. As much as I had waited for years to visit these ruins, I was more eager to leave from there at the earliest.
If you ask me whether or not you should visit Hampi? Hell yes, you should. It's a wonder. The overall beauty is mesmerising. Coracle ride is an experience to remember. Rivers and greens and stones and mountains and roads - everything together makes Hampi a beautiful painting.
Tip - Try to take shortcuts and walk as much as you can to go from one temple to another if the path is passing by the river. You will come across some beautiful trails. Like the one we came across to go to the most popular viththala temple. The rocks that you see, you walk on them. You climb and cross small hills. You come across some more ruins. Abandoned temples. This entire experience is something else.
Now let's move to the other side of the river. The Hippie island. Now, this place came as a shock to me. I was expecting it to be a normal area with a few hotels and guesthouses here and there and a cafe or two serving regular food. But Hippie island lives upto its name. Cool and laid back cafes, bakeries, awesome food, easy to score nooks and corners and everything else that you would like on a holiday.
I had my fair share of good and bad food experiences. The most popular laughing buddha cafe was one of the most overrated places there. While the view is awesome, you will get the same chilled out vibes at other places, with far better food and services. By services I mean that if other cafes take 40 minutes to get you a sandwich, Laughing Buddha will take over an hour for the same. But it's the most popular place among Foreigners.
My favourite place was German Bakery. Awesome food, happy people and mattresses you can lie down on after a hectic day of roaming around the town. The evening when I went there, every table had a beer bottle and every second table had weed. The guy there was pleasantly shocked when I ordered for a hot chocolate (which was bloody brilliant) instead of beer. Advantage? He remembered me and would joke around every time he passed by our table. Yet we didn't get our order fast enough. No complaints though.
Another good place was Chilled out cafe. So, here's the thing. You get non-vegetarian food and alcohol only on the other side of the river, ie Hippie island side. Temple side serves only pure vegetarian food and no beverages. Chilled out was an exception. It served eggs, if no meat. And you are still allowed to smoke pot there.
Before I sign off, when you plan to visit Hampi, go with an open mind, don't expect too much from the ruins, carry mosquito repellant and brush up your bargaining skills. It's a safe place for women solo travellers. Food is so good that you don't have to carry thepla there. They will go wasted. And have hot chocolate at German Bakery!
Here are few more pictures of the place. I am not a dslr photographer. I click on my phone and yet they are bloody brilliant pictures. Yes, I take the full credit.
|Only this picture is not clicked by me. But well, it has me!