A Travellerspoint blog

Hampi

Sending parcels

Hampi was another lovely place - a boulder strewn landscape with a river, paddy fields and banana plantations, and lots of amazing ruins just everywhere. In the 16th century it was one of the largest Hindu empires with over 0.5m people living there only to be destroyed in 1565 by Deccan sultanates (whoever they were).

We stayed across the river from Hamp town which meant lots of boat trips on the ferry which grew more difficult as the river level dropped and we had to wade to the boat and a 6pm curfew for the last boat. But it was lovely and tranquil over there with much less hassle from rickshaw drivers and banana salespeople. We only planned to spend two or three nights there but stayed five as we succumbed to the relaxed life of a bit of sightseeing followed by lounging in our swing looking at the views and the birds and listening to the giant (and alarming) beetles gnawing into the bamboo supports of our hut.

Our hut

Our hut

Paddy field outside our hut

Paddy field outside our hut

Sunset from our hut

Sunset from our hut

Giant bamboo eating beetle

Giant bamboo eating beetle

Bee-eaters(?)

Bee-eaters(?)

Coracles on the river

Coracles on the river

We had arranged to be in Hampi at this time to meet up with our friends Malcolm and Linda who we met in Laos last year. After problems with mobile phones we failed to make contact and thought we would miss them but by some miracle bumped into each other at a temple. We had a great day with them - endless chatting and a visit to a sloth bear sanctuary where we even saw four distant bears.

Us with Malcolm and Linda

Us with Malcolm and Linda

Sloth bears (really those black dots are bears)

Sloth bears (really those black dots are bears)

And we even managed lots of temples and ruins.

Achyutaraya Temple

Achyutaraya Temple

Sule Bazaar

Sule Bazaar

Stone chariot at Vitala Temple

Stone chariot at Vitala Temple

Lotus Mahal in the Royal Enclosure

Lotus Mahal in the Royal Enclosure

Elephant stables in the Royal Enclosure

Elephant stables in the Royal Enclosure

Temples in the boulders

Temples in the boulders

Remains of aqueduct

Remains of aqueduct

Giant Ganesha

Giant Ganesha

Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Temple

Temple elephant at Virupaksha Temple - which blesses people for money

Temple elephant at Virupaksha Temple - which blesses people for money

So to parcel posting which we hoped would be easier second time round but how wrong we were. We wanted to send our newly purchased bedspread and some warm clothes which we hope are now redundant. After a long (nearly 24 hours) journey from Mumbai we decided to stay in a small town called Hospet before heading to Hampi. We'd seen a post office from the bus and walked to it next day - or in fact walked straight past it to the outskirts of Hospet. We turned back, found it and were re-directed to the main post office - back in town the other way. Yes they sent parcels but didn't wrap them - the helpful clerk drew us a map of the shop - back the other way - where it could be wrapped. The shop was shut but we were told it would open in an hour at 12 - we came back - still shut. So after carrying all the stuff for a couple of hours we gave up.

Then in Hampi at the entry to our guesthouse was a shop offering parcel wrapping and sending (no nearby post office here). We were just going to have it wrapped but seeing the size of it (and nearly 4kg of weight) we decided to trust the guy and handed over 20 pounds for him to post it for us. The wrapping was a work of art with white cloth, stitching and sealing wax - wish we'd taken a photo. So now it's either winging its way to the UK or he pocketed our cash and the contents are either up for sale in his shop or floating down the river - we live in hope!

Next stop - Goa and the beach - no snow here!

Posted by armrig 19:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mumbai

We really liked Mumbai especially after Delhi as it was much more accessible and much less hassle.

Our hotel was in a great location in Colaba - just behind the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (which is still being restored following the terrorist attacks) and less than five minutes from the waterfront and the Gateway of India. We could also walk to lots of the sights and had loads of bars and restaurants on the doorstep. Colin has been reading a book called Shantaram (read by every third tourist we've met) which is based in Mumbai so he recognised lots of the places and we drank in Leopolds, the main bar in the book.

Mumbai Waterfront

Mumbai Waterfront

Fisherman at sunrise

Fisherman at sunrise

Gateway of India before the crowds arrive

Gateway of India before the crowds arrive

We did lots of touristy stuff - walking round the old colonial streets, visiting Chowpatty Beach on New Year's Day and having ice-cream sundaes with the locals, watching cricket at the maidans (open spaces) in Churchgate, visiting the Haji Ali Mosque and Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat which has 1,026 troughs for washing laundry - all done by men.

University Clocktower

University Clocktower

St Thomas's Cathedral

St Thomas's Cathedral

CST Train Terminus formerly Victoria Terminus

CST Train Terminus formerly Victoria Terminus

Chowpatty Beach

Chowpatty Beach

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat - doing Mumbai's laundry

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat - doing Mumbai's laundry


Sunday afternoon cricket

Sunday afternoon cricket

Sunday afternoon cricket

Sunday afternoon cricket

We took a boat out to Elephanta Island - more temple caves but a quiet (quiet!!) green place with no traffic.

Our boat to Elephanta Island - which were we?

Our boat to Elephanta Island - which were we?

Looking down to the jetty at Elephanta Island

Looking down to the jetty at Elephanta Island


The Gateway of India from the harbour

The Gateway of India from the harbour

Taj Mahal Palce hotel from the harbour

Taj Mahal Palce hotel from the harbour

It was easy to get around by bus, train and taxi (once we persuaded drivers to use the meters). Colin even acted like a local, hanging out of the doors of the train - very alien to a Brit.

Colin on the train

Colin on the train

It was really good was that most of the restaurants were a mix of locals and tourists rather than just tourists. We threw caution to the wind and ate meat from an amazing street vendor Babe Miya. Walking past in the day you would never know the place existed but at night they set up a stall to cook chicken tikka and kebabs and chapatis and the place was packed with people sitting at picnic tables or turning up by car to have a takeaway.

The crowds at Babe Miya's

The crowds at Babe Miya's

Making chapattis at Babe Miya's

Making chapattis at Babe Miya's

We saw a hugely popular film which has just been released called Three Idiots. We asked a local who'd seen it what language it was in and he assured us it was mainly English. He was either having a laugh or so multi-lingual that he didn't really notice that it was nearly all in Hindi with a few English phrases. Despite this it was good - we could follow the plot and got some of the jokes although obviously most went straight over our heads and we were the only people not in hysterical laughter.

The cinema was an old Art Deco building still with a dress circle and stalls and the whole thing had a old fashioned feel with the National Anthem played at the start and an interval for ice-creams. An unfortunate modern note crept in with one announcement that in the event of an explosion we should remain calm and render assistance to the injured and a second saying that you couldn't leave the building during the film - not even in the interval - so suicide bombers only.

We went to the Gateway of India for New Year's Eve - there was loads of security and the two roads to the Gateway from our hotel were "men only". We had to go the long way round to a family enclosure separated by a temporary fence. Oddly all the big screens and music were on the men's side. It was all a bit low key with just a few fireworks and no official countdown. According to the newspapers, couples were "cosying up" against the cold - we were in t-shirts!

New Year's Eve - what's happening on the men only side?

New Year's Eve - what's happening on the men only side?

We even managed some shopping at last! We found a really nice shop with hand block-printed fabrics and fixed prices - so no need to haggle. Colin bought 2 Kurtas (Indian-style long sleeved shirts to keep the mozzies at bay), Sue bought 2 tops and we even bought a bedspread after a few previous abortive and stressful attempts elsewhere.

Escaping from Mumbai was the most difficult part - all the trains were booked up and we didn't fancy a 20 hour bus journey. The online train booking system is tortuous (maybe an opportunity for a software company there?) but works - there is a variety of special 'quotas' for various different groups and a peculiar waitlist system where you might get a seat if other people cancel before the train departs. We finally got our tickets from the Tourist Quota (unhelpfully not available to online bookings) after queuing up at Victoria Terminus for 90 minutes - each transaction at the only tourist counter (of 30 counters) taking about 15 minutes.

Next stop Hampi.

Posted by armrig 10:51 Archived in India Comments (1)

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