Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend in Hampi

This weekend I went to Hampi with Catherine who visited from Dublin. It was full of adventures but yet very relaxing. I will definitely go back if I ever have the chance.

We started the trip on a 12 hours train ride in a sleeper class. ouch. It was way too busy and way too noisy and WAYYYY too dirty. 5pm till 5am. I had no sleep all night and I will avoid traveling on a Sleeper class again.

Arriving to Hospet (nearest village) at 5am was exciting but still very dark. Having lived in cities all my life, I sometimes forget it can be dark out there when the moon is not in its full glory. With the usual ritual we bargained a bit and got an auto-rickshaw to Hampi for 100 Rupees. Hell the ride was scary. If you can - try arriving in day light.

Following the advice of Lonley Planet we looked for Gopi's Hostel to have a quick breakfast (they claim to be open at 6.30am) but it was still deserted when we climbed up to the restaurant. So we walked back to the main street around the bazaars and watched how the villagers are waking up. It was really relaxing and interesting to see. Remarkably were the ladies cleaning the store/home-fronts. They do it few times a day. But we couldn't figure out why don't they pick the trash and throw it away? With every slightest wind the dirt is back to where it was 5 minutes before...

We walked up to the temple and overlooked the street while planning our next steps.

With a sever hunger we headed back to Gopi where we had basic, yet nice, breakfast. (no Shak-Shuka for breakfast).

Happy with the food we then took a nice rickshaw guy to drive us around the ruins. We spent 4 hours with him and paid 300 Rupees (we knew we could get it for less but couldn't care less). He was super nice and tried his best to be a guide. There are many temples around that area but all the small ones looks alike and we got bored and tired after seeing dozen of 'em. There were few exceptions: the Zenana Enclosure where we could see the Elephants stables and Vitthala Temple which is quite impressive.

So cutting it short we asked our driver to skip few and headed to the Mango Tree Restaurant. This place is a must if you pass by, they served the best food I had so far in India, including a selection of Israeli dishes like Hummus and Falafel.

The ambiance in this place is so relaxing and it is super clean and cheap. The view from the stone seats is astonishing with the river and the Hampi rocks at the back. We loved the pancake with Nutella chocolate and bananas. yummy.

Stuffed with the food and tired after a long day we decided to cross the river and go to our guest house. For 10 Rupees each we hopped on a tiny boat with 15 more ppl and 2 bicycles. During a short walk from the river we came across dozens of Israelis and many restaurants advertising their Israeli food (in Hebrew). 7 minutes and we arrived to the Shanti Guest House. It was exactly what we needed. For 650 Rupees we got en suite double bed (w/o hot water) bungalow in a relaxing atmosphere.

After a short nap we dinned in the guest house restaurant which overlooked the rice fields. The food, once again, was super cheap and superb. The Menus 2 pages Israeli section included Zaknoon, Malawah, Shakshuka and many more Israeli dishes. Shalom-la-malka was unfamiliar to me but apparently is Israeli (where from??) dessert made of crushed biscuits, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cram toping it all. Without noticing we realized we spent there 4 hours! I guess the loudly laughing stoned young Israelis near by kept us entertained.

The next day we woke up to the quite and beautiful setting from our bungalow and asked the boy to bring us coffee. We got ready slowly and headed for another walk around the bazaars but this time for Shopping. It was a very successful day for both of us. In just few hours we got trousers, bangles, necklaces and even flip-flops.

With the awesome experience of dinning in the Mango Tree Restaurant, we decided to revisit and it was as good as in the previous day. Sad but satisfied we had to go and catch our train back to reality. We hopped on the A/C 2 class boogie and were the happiest people on earth realizing we will actually be able to have a peaceful ride back to Hyderabad.

Golden Triangle - Jaipur :: Day 2

The next morning our driver fixed a very busy schedule for us. Once again he picked another guide. This time it was a lady guide and she was the BEST. She took my email but never wrote, I'll try to get it and post it later.
She showed us around the Jantar Mantar where we could see old marble sun cloak and sophisticated star signs.

Then we were supposed to enter City Palace museum but preferred to skip and walk around the Pink City.

After a short walk around the main street and viewing some miserable cobras being charmed by their owners (no photos!) we headed to the Amber Fort.
On the way there we had to take out some money. We tried 2 ATMs without much success. the third one seemed fine (we tried taking out 100 rupees) and it was fine, but when I tried to take 8000 rupees we had power breakdown since it was electricity blackout (daily from 9-11 to supply power to the villages) for a while and the backup battery died. It was just shortly after the machine counted the money and was about to open up and deliver it to the happy owners :( we waited for 40 minutes till power was back just to make sure the money will no get into the wrong owners. After power was back the money didn't came out but later on I saw credit in my account for the money. I was shocked and HAPPY :)

It was time to move on and drive to the Amber Fort but couldn't resist and stopped to see the Palace on Water

Which we later heard was a Hilton :)

The Amber Fort was amazing. So beautiful. The only down side was the hundreds of visitors; both locals and tourists which made it less peaceful.

Although our guide was AWESOME, explained how ventilation worked that day, what the rooms were used for and highlighted really interesting facts, after half an hour we were tired, had enough and took the Jeep back down to where our driver was waiting for and headed back to Delhi where we had to catch our flight.

950 Km in great Toyota Innova - 10,000 rupees
Vanjara India Tours ( 0091-9810233739

Golden Triangle = Triangle with Golden Corners :: Day 1

2 weeks ago I went on a magical tour together with Vik. The tour is also known as the Golden Triangle and I think a more proper name will be "Triangle with Golden Corners". The spots we visited were golden but the way there looked pretty much like a huge garage with thousand of slums along the "highway". Seemed like people lived everywhere (on pavements, together with their cows, buffaloes and chickens). It was also very surprising to see the men wondering around while every single women and kids were busy working, carrying stuff and cleaning.

We arrived to Delhi on Friday night and got picked up by our company's driver taking us to the company's guest house where the cook and house boy were there to show us around and fix a late dinner for us :)

Then, 5am we were picked by our driver Davinder which was a great driver but honked non-stop!. He suggested we go as early as possible to Agra straight to the Taj Mahal before Sarkozi got there for a visit. On the way we picked up a Guide which was horrible. It's been a while since I met someone with such a horrible presence he was only useful with getting us tickets while we queued.
The Taj is definitely worth a visit. Not for nothing it is one of worlds wonders. It is a huge white carved marble structure in a beautiful setting with fountains and 2 forts one on each side, overlooking to a valley with dried river.

From there we traveled to Agra Fort which was not less impressive. Actually walking around so early was adding to the magical ambiance around this huge red-ish fort. Without too many people around we found few awesome spots for photos and Vik played around with few naughty squirrels.

We then hopped on our Innova and traveled few hours to Jaipur. We arrived quite early but were fatigue and stayed in our not-so-good hotel which smelled horrible.