Winter break 2014. I decided to take a solo trip to Hampi in Karnataka- a UNESCO World Heritage site. I had seen some pictures of the ruins and was very fascinated by the name- Tungabhadra river that flows through the region. I jumped on to a train from Bhubaneswar (my home at the time) to Hospete (the nearest railway station from Hampi) and booked a homestay there for a week. Well, Hampi island did not have any hotels, just quaint little homestays with local families. I decided to take the train, rather than a more comfortable flight to Bengaluru, to revisit my childhood of cross-country train rides.
After a long 24-hour journey passing through the changing landscape of coastal Odisha, rice paddies of Andhra Pradesh and farms of Karnataka, and many plates of Idli and coconut chutney, I arrived in Hospete just before dawn. I then took a shared autorickshaw for the 30-minute ride to Hampi. As we got closer to our destination, the landscape started to change into boulders, and more boulders and mountains of boulders. The last leg of crossing the Tungabhadra had to be done on a coracle- the only option.
I spent the next few days exploring the ruins, rock cut temples and monolithic stone carved statues – all accompanied by stories of the bygone Vijayanagar empire, either walking or riding my rented scooty. The homestay I was staying at was the home of an aged Kannada couple. They had a French bakery and café in the courtyard with a Nepalese chef (truly multi-cultural) who made the freshest and yummiest Croissants I have ever had in India! Luckily, he gave me lessons.
The tourists included a lot of locals as well as backpackers from Europe and Israel. This meant there were lots of little cafes serving Italian, French and Israeli cuisine along side traditional Kannadiga food. The evenings were spent in the company of fellow travelers sharing stories, playing music and enjoying good food. There was also an open-air movie theatre by the river, under the moonlight where I enjoyed movie nights. Here are some snapshots of Hampi and its many wonders.
Hampi was truly one of the most memorable and enchanting little towns I have visited. And really safe too! In my experience, it is one of the most tourist friendly and budget friendly destinations in India. One can be as busy or as relaxed as one wishes. Lost in the ruins, it seems time has stood still since 1500s- the Vijayanagar Empire. One does not need to be a history or architecture enthusiast to enjoy this magical town as it has so much more to offer. Sometimes, it is these little specs on the map that we do not really hear about that turn out to be such gems.
Anahita Suri, Assistant Professor, School of Fashion Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
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