Posts Tagged With: hampi

India… The good, the bad, and the downright evil

Well India has provided some of the best and some of the worst experiences of our lives. In some areas the scenery, people and food are among the prettiest, friendliest and tastiest (respectively) we have seen, met or had…in other areas …not the same story. Despite this we covered a lot of the country, saw a lot of sights, places, cities and have some insights that may prove useful to future travellers.

India certainly has a lot positive to be said about it and there are some must see items that make planning a trip very worthwhile. There are also some places that quite frankly are ruined by the people that you are forced to encounter along the way. Our trip was more low budget that some but higher budget than the typical backpacking style holiday.

We spent our money on the food, beer, accommodation and transport…choosing to pay that little bit more for the extra space and comfort and things like private bathrooms. That said…accommodation was generally about $20 a night for both of us and at its cheapest was $10. For not much extra (than our allowance) per day you could plan a very nice Indian sojourn and by paying the little bit extra can avoid some of the shonks that we hit along the way. You will be overpaying for what you get but the extra money takes away some of the headaches and surely that is worth a little more.

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Indian Must dos

With the beauty of hindsight this is where I would go to if I was to plan a short (2-3 week) holiday in India (in no particular order).

Agra – Taj Mahal and the fort…this one is obvious but they truly are that good. I suggest that 2-3 days is about the right amount of time here.

Amritsar – golden temple and the border show. Can be done in a one full day journey if time is tight but the people and food are so nice you will want to stay more.

Aurungabad – Ellora and Ajanta caves…absolutely stunning. Two days is about right. This was the surprise for me, had never heard of them but were the highlight of the trip.

Hampi – absolutely fantastic with so very much to see, need about 2 full days but will want more as the people and place are so good.

Jaipur – this has 3 forts, temples, a palace and all the old city walls and is again worthy of about 3-4 days depending on your schedule and timings. Jaipur is in Rajasthan and most of Rajasthan is pretty similar with forts and palaces etc. They are all different but are also very similar so if time is against you Jaipur would be my pick.

Ooty – the Indian blue mountains (Nilgiris) with a toy train ride to boot. Stunning scenery and clean by Indian standards.

Udaipur – we loved this place. The water and lakes make it very different to the other sights you tend to see. If you come in early in the morning you could see everything in a day and a bit so one overnight would be about right..add an extra night if you want to hit the fort and Jain temples which are a bit of a way out. We stayed for 6 days and enjoyed it all but most people will not have as much time.

The end.

My list would leave out 2 key ones on almost everyone else’s list and they are

Goa – a must for beach goers…we could have skipped it. It was nice and we had a good time but unless you are in dire need of sand and water it could be skipped.

Kerala – the cruise of the back waters was nice and a good treat. Our cruise was probably a bit long and one to two nights would be about right. There are afternoon cruises but you stay in the main channel with all the boat traffic.

Great if you have extra time

Now if you have a little more time available then these are my choices for good second tier spots with nice attractions, people etc

Darjeeling – tea fields, toy trains and the Himalayas on a clear day.
Hyderabad – an Indian city that is really trying to get it right.
Jaisalmer – desert, fort, safari. Nice if you have the time.
Jodhpur – nice place..very Rajasthan with forts and palaces.
Kanyakumari – the southernmost tip at the edge of 3 oceans
Mumbai – beautiful architecture, the gateway to India and Elephanta island.
Pondicherry – the French parts

Nice if you have LOTS of time

Mangalore – still the best food I have eaten in India (just not much to see)
Cochin – a nice afternoon but not too much to see
Trivandrum – good zoo and some nice architecture
Bangalore – not too much going on here

Don’t even bother

Bhubaneswar – caves and temples…not that fantastic and the experience is wrecked by the lying and cheating of what feels like almost everybody in the town. The worst that India has to offer.

I have left New Delhi off this list entirely because my experiences in New Delhi were entirely terrible. I came to Delhi 4 times (including transits) and had an atrocious experience each and every time. I may have been entirely unlucky…or it may well be the worst capital city on the planet, full of lying cheating scoundrels. Alas as New Delhi is a major transport hub you may just have to stop here to get to some of the nicer parts of India. Should you wish to do such a trip then I will let you form your own New Delhi opinion and would be happy to hear it.

I will leave the India topic with a few of my favourite moments…

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And my all time favourite moment…was…

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Farewell India…it has been an experience…

 

 

 

 

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Hampi

Ok…we like India again…

Hyderabad healed the wounds…Hampi fixed it all. We arrived at 8:30 after an 11 hour overnight train ride and were met with a tuk tuk driver welcoming us to Hospet and asking if we were headed to Hampi. When asked how much he quoted the local going rate which happens also to be the recommended rate in the 2009 guide (which is about half of everywhere else in India). We found that the hotel had actually sent a driver for us free of charge. We walked outside to the usual onslaught by other drivers… But this time nobody was trying to rip us off…everyone was offering the accepted rate…and everyone was friendly and welcoming. We got into the hotel arranged tuk tuk and immediately came to the realisation that Hampi The is set amongst some spectacular natural beauty.

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Hampi is a UNESCO listed heritage site and is stunning. The area was the site of the former Vijayanagara Empire which existed between the 13th and 17th centuries. It has buried temples, palaces and the town infrastructure that goes with having an entire civilisation. So far they have only uncovered about 50% of it and there are those that believe that it will rival Angkor Wat in Cambodia in both size and significance. Hampi however is a tiny town of about 16,000 and is spotless. The entire town is in some way employed by the tourist trade and they respect this and work together to ensure that the revenue stream stays strong. Very civilised. No shonks, no rip off merchants, in fact you must check in at the police station on arrival. There are big signs out the front with free call numbers if you feel you have been ripped off or badly done by.

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The town is in the midst of a boulder desert and is surrounded by temples, palaces and some pretty spectacular natural scenery. Sadly it is also vego and alcohol free (but the town 3 km away is not). Our tuk tuk driver from the train station offered us his services for the remainder of the day to see all of the sites. His rate was excellent, as was his English, as was (as we later found out) his knowledge of the local area history. We took him up on this and after checking in at the hotel and the police station we were off.

We headed to the Vittala temple, Achyutaraya temple, elephant stables, lotus mahal, hanuman temple, queens bath, Virupaksha temple, underground shiva temple, zenana enclosure and the sule bazaar. All of these temples and the natural beauty of the area meant that we had a big photo day again.

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A good night’s sleep and we were off exploring on the other side of the River. Our morning started by watching the local elephant have a bath and a frolic down by the River…a very pleasant way to start he day. We hid through the heat of the day and went for a sunset walk through the Virupaksha temple which was about a kilometre away. Then we headed across the River on the ferry to eat non veg food and drink beers.  Alas the last ferry goes at 6pm and we landed at 5:45. We knew this and by negotiation, and for an extra fee, the ferry dude will wait and take you back. Rather than the motorised ferry that got you there, you go back in an upside down fruit basket covered in a tarpaulin. We had our meals and beers and headed back at the prearranged time only to find an empty and pitch black riverbank.

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We rang the dudes phone number, we yelled his name, we whistled we searched by the glow of our phones…crickets…10 minutes later and just as we decided to forge the River there was the subtle splash of an oar in the water. It was our dude…I have no idea why he did not answer to our yells etc…but he didn’t. We hopped in our upturned (leaky) fruit basket and off home we went. We arrived mildly moist but considerably dryer than we would have been had we waded.

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An all day bicycle hire here is 50 rupees (about 95 cents) and the scooter or motorbike hire is 200 rupees from when you wake up until 6pm. We settled on the scooters and motorbikes for the next day…until we found out all of the add on costs…petrol, safe bikes, brakes, mileage, maps…we took a tuk tuk and away we went to see the 4 temples and the lake on the other side of the River (monkey temple, anjanadri hill, Durga temple, and the ranganatha temple).

The lake has apparently been the site of many alcohol related deaths over the years, as drunks go swimming and are unable to climb up the mossy rocks on the banks and therefore drown. The obvious Indian solution to this is to paint big signs on the rocks saying that there are crocodiles in the lake. For those reading the blog this place is a must see for both India and generally. It is fantastic.

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