At the centre of Hampi lies the bazaar, a hectic and touristy place with stalls selling the usual hippy clothes
. Towering over the bazaar is the wonderful Virupakshar Temple, built in 1442, which has a resident elephant, who we saw having her morning bath down at the river ghats. We decided to stay across the river in the quiet little hamlet of Virupapur Gaddi, reachable by a little ferry that motors back and forth across the river. We stayed at Mowgli Guesthouse and had a room with a fantastic view overlooking rice paddies stretching down to the river. At night the paddies come alive with the chorus of hundreds of croaking frogs, perfect for being lulled to sleep. The river was one of our favourite things about Hampi and we spent nearly every afternoon there, resting in the shade of a giant boulder and cooling off in the water. It was a beautiful spot and there were birds everywhere including exquisitely coloured bee-eaters and kingfishers. Apparently crocodiles are sighted here occasionally but they are likely to be small and only interested in fish so we tried not to let that put us off our swimming!
On our second day we visited the ruins. They are spread across quite a wide area so we hired a rickshaw to ferry us from one temple to the next. Considering their age (13th to 16th century), many of the temples are in good condition with intricate carvings on the walls. We were struck by the fact that some of the temple features, such as certain carvings, seemed to share similarities with those of other temples we have seen at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Burma. But unlike those places, we had the temples of Hampi mostly to ourselves. Maybe because we started out quite early to avoid the worst of the heat, we were able to explore more or less on our own which allowed us to really appreciate the enchanting atmosphere of the place.
Another day we visited Anegundi, an ancient village which is part of the Hampi World Heritage Site and contains a number of temples
. There is none of the touristy commercialisation at Anegundi like at Hampi bazaar and it was really nice to wander around a village of rural India and see how life goes on. People said ‘hello’ rather than ‘you want rickshaw sir’ and there was hardly any traffic just cows and chickens.
From here we had originally planned to head into the chaotic throng of north India but the urge of the beach is drawing us back so we have decided to head back to Goa for a few more days before taking the plunge.
We had heard a lot of good things about Hampi from other travellers and so had high expectations. A World Heritage Site, Hampi contains the ruins of one of the largest Hindu empires in Indian history. To get there, we caught the 7.45am train from Margao. It was an interesting seven hour journey passing through lushly forested valleys and on into a much drier terrain of brown fields, some planted with corn, interspersed with small trees. We pulled into Hospet station and took a twenty minute rickshaw ride along the narrow lanes to Hampi. The landscape around Hampi is beautiful and quite unique. Gently undulating hills are composed of piles of giant boulders all balancing on top of one another. Between the dry brown hills, lie verdant paddy fields and banana groves. And snaking past Hampi bazaar is a lovely boulder-strewn river.