The Kerala recipe for instant love!

What happens when 30 travel bloggers from across the globe sign up for one crazy road-trip in Kerala? It’s what you call the “Trip of a Lifetime”!

 

30 travel bloggers, 25 countries, 1 amazing adventure! Picture Credits – Jinson Abraham Kerala Tourism

And when, as the only Indian blogger in the bunch, you get a chance to see your own country through the eyes of 29 foreigners, you return home feeling nothing but immense gratitude and pride! India is such an enchanting amalgamation of culture and chaos, it’s hard to not fall in love with this place even as a foreigner (more so as a foreigner!) What with our “little spicy” food and deceiving head-nods – being a part of Kerala Blog Express with all these amazing travel bloggers made me see India for what it really is – a melting pot of beautiful traditions – a country that can mesmerize you as much as it can drive you towards the edge of insanity – the perfect recipe for instant love 🙂

Most of what I point out below might sound very redundant or cliche to my Indian readers, but I will do so anyway because I think we need a constant reminder of how beautiful such “cliches” are and why we should be grateful for our lovely country! On the last few days of our trip, I went around with my camera, asking each blogger three things that they will remember India for, and the answers were quite unanimous.

On going through those videos again, I noticed these are the 5 things that made all the heads turn, cameras click and pens scribble during the Kerala Blog Express 2016!

  1. Colors

    Kayaking at Kumarakom backwaters with bloggers Janet Newenham from Ireland, Céline Simon from France, Els Mahieu from Belgium, Tsvetelina Tsankova from Bulgaria! Picture credits – Jinson Abraham and Kerala Tourism

Even before I stepped foot on the coast, a birds-eye view of Trivandrum, looking absolutely glorious and unabashedly GREEN no matter where your eyes turn, made my heart leap with joy!

Kerala is so photogenic and colorful, and I’m not speaking only of the hill-stations like Munnar that are filled with tea plantations – even commercial cities like Cochin had much to offer. My fondest memory of Kerala will be of the Kumarakom backwaters, where we went kayaking, and even the water was lush green covered in water plants! Colors follow you everywhere you go – whether it is the breathtaking sunsets of Alleppey, endless lines of palm trees at Kumarakom, scenic tea plantations along winding road of Munnar, the stunning wall murals on the Cochin streets, or the traditional outfits of dancers at the Kerala Kalamandalam – that’s a blessing only a few places in India can boast about!

  1. FOOD!
Blogger Janet Newenham from Ireland enjoying a “sadya” meal at Wayanad, Kerala. Picture credits – Jinson Abraham and Kerala Tourism

“Is this spicy?”

“Little spicy”

(After one bite) “OMG this is too spicy!!!”

EVERY-SINGLE-TIME!

No, that wasn’t me! But that was every other blogger on this trip, and it was so amusing to watch these reactions! A quick visit to the spice plantations of Kerala gave us all a fleeting taste of how many spices actually go into a simple Indian curry, and most of the westerners had never heard of them before! While the 29 bloggers had a love-hate relationship with Kerala’s spicy food, the best part was seeing them asking for more by the end of the trip. Even more amusing was seeing pictures of biryani’s and curries being shared after they returned to their own country, and went scouting for authentic Indian restaurants!

  1. Animals
Blogger Patricia Schussel Gomes from Brazil admiring the mighty wonder in God’s own country. Picture credits – Jinson Abraham & Kerala Tourism

Cattle in the middle of the street, elephants leading religious processions, monkeys scaring the living hell out of you by popping up from nowhere – it’s amazing how animals are just about EVERYWHERE! As much as I dislike the domestication of elephants, I can’t deny being awestruck every time I saw one – whether it was in the wild at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, or on the streets during religious processions! Watching an elephant in the wild is one experience every single person in the world should add to their bucket-list; the sheer magnanimity and glory of the sight cannot be explained in words!

  1. Culture
Blogger Raul Armando V. Cruz from Mexico getting a taste of the rural culture. Picture Credits – Jinson Abraham & Kerala Tourism

Ladies dressed in colorful sarees, men walking on the streets in lungis, young girls in bindis, people eating “sadya” with their hands – a reflection of how the locals take pride in their traditions! The streets of India are always bright with colors and celebrations! In our short 2 weeks, we witnessed multiple religious processions, carnivals, traditional dances, and musical performances! People at these functions will invite you to be a part of the festivities, join in the dance or take over the drums. Call me sentimental – but when I saw fellow bloggers give up the comfort of our air-conditioned bus and luxury suites, to stay back in Kochi on an excruciatingly hot afternoon just to get their hands painted with henna – I realized how we as Indians take our own culture so much for granted!

  1. Smiles
Blogger Carla Boechet from Brazil all smiles at a religious gathering! Picture Credits – Jinson Abraham & Kerala Tourism

Easily the one thing almost every blogger definitely took back with them! It could be because we stood out naturally being a huge bunch of 30, but it’s fantastic how we were greeted with smiling faces no matter where we went! It was nice to see how curious people were, to know where we’re coming from, what we’re up to! It was also funny to see how locals would be so excited about taking selfies with the bloggers, not knowing that the bloggers were actually more delighted about doing the same! People in Kerala know how to treat their guests – and this is one thing each and every blogger cherished the most during their stay here! “Atithi Devo Bhavah”, or the age-old Indian tradition of treating your guests as equal to your Gods, is a practice we should all be very proud of!

 

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PS: Thank you Jinson Abraham for letting me use these amazing pictures for the article!

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Dhaam, Baaja, Baraat (and LOTS of crying) – Inside a traditional Gaddi wedding!

Growing up in India, one does know that we love our overly-extravagant weddings. For those who don’t, here’s a small insight: the wedding industry in India is over Rs 100,000 crore and a regular person spends one fifth of the wealth accumulated in a lifetime on his/her wedding ceremony. Decorators, caterers, make-up artists, costume designers, choreographers, henna artists, hair stylists, it’s all so crazy! I saw my older sister organizing her wedding a year ago, and just the craziness of it all made me make a not-at-all-grand-wedding pact (I’d much rather splurge on traveling!)

And then I attended a traditional Gaddi-style wedding in Himachal earlier this year, which easily was the most beautiful, life-altering experience for me! The sheer simplicity and amount of love I observed at this one wedding, made me see more clearly how fickle and pretentious everything at our regular wedding functions back home is.

Minni Di, as she is known to everyone in the tiny hamlet named Khirku, is one of the most beautiful Himachali women I’ve met. She’s an independent young woman, working odd jobs to look after herself and her brother, while also saving for her own marriage. The first thing I noticed about her was her relentless love for animals, ALL kinds for animals! She can just naturally sense their fears and needs, like a psychologist of sorts for animals, and this positive vibe always attracted them towards her.

Minni Di - The bride-to-be! Ooo rhymes :D
Minni Di – The bride-to-be! Ooo rhymes 😀

Gaddi’s are a tribe in Himachal, essentially the shepherd tribe, people who move from one settlement to another with their families and flock of sheep. Things have changed for them over the years, and so you shouldn’t be surprised that most Gaddi men are not wandering shepherds anymore, but have settled in villages like Khirku to bring a little stability to their lives. Minni Di belongs to one such Gaddi family.

My connection to Khirku - friends beautiful little haven up in the mountains!
My connection to Khirku – friends beautiful little haven up in the mountains!

 

Minni Di ki “Chhayi”…

The excitement of attending her wedding began in April, when I was living in Khirku for a good fortnight, which was also when her first wedding function took place and got me hooked to the beauty of it all.

It was Minni Di ki "chhayi", a simple function that marks the beginning of wedding preparations, wherein all the men (and boys) of the village go into the forest to collect wood for the wedding cooking and ceremonies (hawan). 
It was Minni Di ki “chhayi”, a simple function that marks the beginning of wedding preparations, wherein all the men (and boys) of the village go into the forest to collect wood for the wedding cooking and ceremonies (hawan).

 

Chai and food being prepared over gossip!
Chhayi ki chai pe charcha!

 

Watching all neighbors come together, taking an off from their work, to manually cut and collect huge wooden logs from the mountains, made me realize how beautiful the sentiment of a community belonging is. A wedding for them wasn't just about dressing up and showing up for 2 days, but they were all a part of it in spirit and soul, and isn't that a memory you would cherish all your life?
Watching all neighbors come together, taking an off from their work, to manually cut and collect huge wooden logs from the mountains, made me realize how beautiful the sentiment of a community belonging is. A wedding for them wasn’t just about dressing up and showing up for 2 days, but they were all a part of it in spirit and soul, and isn’t that a memory you would cherish all your life?

 

This was going to be a wedding where neighbors were family, men of the house were decorators, chefs and servers, women were makeup, hair and henna artists, and almost every person at the wedding was sans-makeup & jewelry – the true and purest emotions of a union came to the fore! And I wasn’t going to miss it for my life…

 

(A month later) First ceremonial shower!

Day 1: Food being prepared for the bride. So the wedding functions begin 2 days before the actual ceremony, by giving the bride a ceremonial shower. Here, the bride is made to stand between a circle of women in the kitchen / verandah, and everyone puts water over her head to help her "cleanse". This marks the beginning of festivities, and the bride must not step out of the house after this first shower!
So the wedding functions begin a month after the chhayi. 2 days before the actual wedding, the bride is given a ceremonial shower. Here, the bride is made to stand between a circle of women in the kitchen / verandah, and everyone puts water over her head to help her “cleanse”. This marks the beginning of festivities, and the bride must not step out of the house after this first shower!

 

After the shower, the bride is made to eat her food, because she won't be able to for the rest of the night (Mehendi ceremony begins right after!) Here, it was interesting to see little kids come to the bride and ask her to offer them food (like asking for prasad at a temple).

After the shower, the bride is made to eat her food, because she won’t be able to for the rest of the night (Mehendi ceremony begins right after!) Here, it was interesting to see little kids come to the bride and ask her to offer them food (like asking for prasad at a temple).

 

So, about the crying!

Now one thing I have to mention here, while the bride is being “made to shower” by the women, the brides only task is to cry! YES, to CRY HER EYES OUT! It is considered as some kind of a ritual almost, wherein the bride is intimated 2 mins before any ceremony begins, so that she can get into the mood and begin to bawl. I will be honest, the first time I actually saw this I was so taken aback (which explains why I have no pics of the showering ceremony). Ladies around me didn’t find this odd at all and no one tried stopping the poor bawling bride. In fact, I could overhear stories of women boasting about how they cried louder, or “almost fainted”, when it was their turn! And mind you, this continued before EVERY SINGLE FUNCTION until the wedding, and then there was the bidaai which was even more disturbing to watch.

So I tried asking everyone why is crying so important for the bride. No one could answer reasonably. And I was convinced that just like any regular Indian tradition, the original reason for the tradition has been twisted manifold over the years, and no one now knows what the actual reason is anymore! But one of the more sensible friend of mine offered the argument that maybe (and I kinda like the sound of it) the crying tradition began as a means of catharsis to allow the bride to enter her new life with a clean slate. What d’you think?

Ok, now back to the wedding…

 

Mehendi ceremony:

Cousin sisters and neighbors of the bride moonlighting as mehendi artistes, and doing a very good job at it! Also note here, the bride didn't wear a single new piece of clothing until the main wedding function (which is also a part of the many Gaddi beliefs)
Cousin sisters and neighbors of the bride moonlighting as mehendi artistes, and doing a very good job at it! Also note here, the bride didn’t wear a single new piece of clothing until the main wedding function (which is also a part of the many Gaddi beliefs)

 

Happy kids with happy painted hands!
Happy kids with happy hands!

 

Dulhan ki Sakhiyaan
Dulhan ki Sakhiyaan

 

Day 1: Mehendi - Done and done!
Day 1: Mehendi – Done and done!

 

Haldi…

Day 2: Haldi ceremony during the day. While the tiny house was choker-blocked with more guests than it could practically accommodate, panditji came in the initiate the haldi preparations. He collected all the havan samagri, hand-decorated the place with powdered inscriptions, and ordered for the bride to be brought down for the ceremony.
Day 2: Haldi ceremony during the day.
While the tiny house was choker-blocked with more guests than it could practically accommodate, panditji came in the initiate the haldi preparations. He collected all the havan samagri, hand-decorated the place with powdered inscriptions, and ordered for the bride to be brought down for the ceremony.

 

When I went to pass the message to the bride, she was happily chatting with her cousins, but like I knew would happen - the moment she heard that she has been called - she started crying again. Her friend helped her put on the traditional luan-chhari (which was passed down from the brides grandmother), and we took the crying, bawling bride to the puja.
When I went to pass the message to the bride, she was happily chatting with her cousins, but like I knew would happen – the moment she heard that she has been called – she started crying again. Her friend helped her put on the traditional luan-chhari (the gown) – which was passed down from the brides grandmother – and we took the crying, bawling bride to the puja.

 

The puja to initiate the haldi ceremony
The puja to initiate the haldi ceremony

 

Haldi is an important ceremony in our tradition, wherein the bride (and the groom over at his place) are caked with turmeric paste on their bodies. This helps add a tinge of pre-wedding glow to the stars in focus!
Haldi is an important ceremony in our tradition, wherein the bride (and the groom over at his place) are caked with turmeric paste on their bodies. This helps add a tinge of pre-wedding glow to the stars of the moment!

 

The haldi ceremony was about an hour long, and my heart went out to the bride who kept crying throughout! At one point, a lady actually came next to her and asked her to stop by saying "Itna kaafi hai" (This much is enough) I was like WHAAAA?
The haldi ceremony was about an hour long, and my heart went out to the bride who kept crying throughout! At one point, a lady actually came next to her and asked her to stop by saying “Itna kaafi hai” (This much is enough) I was like WHAAAA?

 

Preparing for the feast!

While the haldi ceremony was happening inside, the men of the household were busy in the verandah, chopping and cooking for the big evening feast! I found this so fascinating, as all the women at this moment were, well, you'll see in the next picture.
While the haldi ceremony was happening inside, the men of the household were busy in the verandah, chopping and cooking for the big evening feast! I found this so fascinating, as all the women at this moment were, well, you’ll know soon.

 

Work work work work work...
Work work work work work…

 

Some women helped!
Some women helped!

 

This sight made me so happy...but not as happy as the next...
This sight made me so happy…but not as happy as the next…

 

Ladies party!

So, as I was saying, while the men worked and chopped and stirred the kadhais for the evening feast - the women sat in the balcony upstairs, drinking whiskey with chhole! Oh yeah!
So, as I was saying, while the men worked and chopped and stirred the kadhais for the evening feast – the women sat in the balcony upstairs, drinking whiskey with chhole! Oh yeah!

 

You go, girls (Um, ladies)!

 

The super pyaari (and only person who was supposed to be dressed up) maami-ji!
The super pyaari (and only person who was supposed to be dressed up) maami-ji!

 

Day 2: Ladies party

 

I told you there was no space!

 

Dhaam, Baaja, Baraat!

Day 2: Dhaam, Baaja, Baraat! The mandap is up, the food is ready, the baraat is enroute, and we're all set for the wedding to commence!
Day 2: Dhaam, Baaja, Baraat!
The mandap is up, the food is ready, the baraat is enroute, and we’re all set for the wedding to commence!

 

Preparing welcome snacks for the baraatis!
This is exactly 5 minutes before the wedding started. Everyone is busy making welcome snacks for the baraatis who will be tired after dancing their way up the mountain!

 

Swagat nahi karenge humara?

Oh, I had to look twice to make sure I was right. Yes, the groom is dressed with lightning from head to toe. Quite a sight, I must say! The stupid halogen light killed my thunder and I just couldn't get a shot of the heavily lighted attire!
The groom arrives! Oh, I had to look twice to make sure I was right. Yes, the groom is literally covered with trippy lights from head to toe. Quite a sight, I must say! The stupid halogen light killed my thunder and I just couldn’t get a shot of the heavily lighted attire! PS: He also had nail-polish on his feet and mehendi on his palms!

 

Would you look at that gorgeous, gorgeous outfit? Yes, it's a kurta with an embroidered ghaghra / skirt, and a beautiful sehra / headdress!

Would you look at that gorgeous, gorgeous outfit? Yes, it’s a shirt with an embroidered ghaghra / skirt, and a beautiful sehra / headdress!

 

Sister of the bride performing the rituals with the groom. The bride is sitting with her friends in a different room at this time.
Sister of the bride performing the rituals with the groom. The bride is sitting with her friends in a different room at this time.

 

So at this time, while the ceremony was taking place downstairs, I went to check how the bride is doing. And my first reaction was, why is she not dressing up!!! At any other Indian wedding (atleast the ones in our cities), the bride starts dressing hours in advance, and by this time is already too tired of the makeup and jewelry. Well, not in this one. This is exactly how the bride walked to her wedding. Isn't that amazing!
So at this time, while the ceremony was taking place downstairs, I went to check how the bride is doing. And my first reaction was, why is she not dressing up!!! At any other Indian wedding (atleast the ones in our cities), the bride starts dressing hours in advance, and by this time is already too tired of the makeup and jewelry. Well, not in this one. This is exactly how the bride walked to her wedding. Isn’t that amazing!

 

And well, while the groom is in the mandap, and the bride is busy waiting for her turn to be called in, of course everyone else was busy hogging on the delicious homecooked dhaam / feast!
And well, while the groom is in the mandap, and the bride is busy waiting for her turn to be called in, of course everyone else was busy hogging on the delicious home-cooked dhaam / feast!

 

The bride was finally called to join the party, and it was a good thing her face was covered, because, guess what, she was crying all through the ceremony! The panditji actually had to keep up to be louder than her.
The bride was finally called to join the party, and it was a good thing her face was covered, because, guess what, she was crying all through the ceremony! The panditji actually had to keep up to be louder than her.

 

Bidaai…

Goodbye's are always the hardest, and this was no different! It was nice to see the entire village come together to say goodbye to Minni Di, but it was equally heartbreaking to know that she won't be around the next time I'm visiting.
Goodbye’s are always the hardest, and this was no different! It was nice to see the entire village come together to say goodbye to Minni Di, but it was equally heartbreaking to know that she won’t be around the next time I’m visiting.

 

This picture speaks for itself.
This picture speaks for itself.

 

By this time I was hoping this should be the last time I see this woman cry!
By this time I was hoping this should be the last time I see this woman cry!

 

And it actually came true! Minni Di's doli left the village 15 minutes before we did, and by the time we reached the caravan, she was surrounded by all her friends, smiling and looking so happy, for the first time in the last 3 days!!!!
And it actually came true! Minni Di’s doli left the village 15 minutes before we did, and by the time we reached the caravan, she was surrounded by all her friends, smiling and looking so happy, for the first time in the last 3 days!!!!

 

And so was everyone else!
And so was everyone else!

 

Over at the grooms’…

As is tradition, some members of the brides family accompany the procession back to the grooms and join the festivities there!
As is tradition, some members of the brides family accompany the procession back to the grooms and join the festivities there!

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Back at the grooms house, Minni Di was welcomed with another ceremony, another feast, lots and lots of dancing, and no more crying!
Back at the grooms house, Minni Di was welcomed with another ceremony, another feast, lots and lots of dancing, and no more crying!

 

 

Laada-Laadi! <3

Laada Laadi (Husband-Wife) - Never crying again! :)
To the happy couple, for a happily ever after 🙂

 

PS: I thought I should add that this is a love-marriage. So please don’t think that she’s crying because she was forced to marry someone she didn’t approve of!

Also, this post is nothing but my observation of a Gaddi wedding, as a total outsider, and someone who was witnessing the culture for the first time. So if I have made some errors, feel free to write to me and I’ll be happy to edit (and learn!)

 

Untraveling Hampi – Yabba-Dabba-Doo!

Untraveling Hampi
Untraveling Hampi!

I spent the last weekend (the Easter weekend), doing absolutely nothing in the humble little village of Hampi, and I can’t wait to go back! Having done my research, I traveled to Hampi prepared to be amazed by the “Land of boulders”, as it is popularly known. Once there, feeling ant-like in front of those giant, enormous, life-size, ancient boulders – here there and everywhere – where every rock, every boulder, and every ruined structure has a story to tell; Hampi took me back to my childhood days when I would be glued to my TV screen watching Fred and Wilma in their caveman outfits, riding in that tiny car with stone wheels, living in the cute little boulder’ish houses, taking pictures with the camera that had a hidden pecking ‘Da-Vinci’ bird. Is there any way to be sure Flintstones wasn’t shot in Hampi?

Hampi - The land of boulders
Hampi – The land of boulders

I won’t talk about the 500+ monuments Hampi is most famous for, because A) I’m not much of a sight-seeing person and you can easily read the zillion articles about it’s history online, and B) Hampi has much more character than just being a land of rock structures, and that’s what pulls me back! Situated in north Karnataka, a trip to Hampi – which is an overnight affair for Mumbaikars and Goans and just a 7 hour business from Bangalore – has something to offer to every traveler. Seekers of adventure may indulge in bouldering, cliff-diving, cycling on the treacherous hill-slopes, or taking a swim in the Tungabhadra (while being constantly alerted about the presence of crocodiles). It wins over off-beat travelers with its old-school charm maintained by preserving the flavor of a regular Indian village, and keeps history buffs entertained with centuries’ worth of stories. While on one hand it is a hippies’ paradise, filled with backpackers from around the globe, on the other it’s safe enough for you to travel with your family without feeling uncomfortable or out of place. If you’re bored of people suggesting Goa as a place to unwind (really guys, PLEASE be bored of Goa already!), I suggest you give Hampi a try!

Kids in Hampi posing for the shutterbugs!
Kids in Hampi posing for the shutterbugs!

Just throwing in a mythological fact here, Hampi is also known as the land of the Vanara Sena (Planet of the Apes) – a significant part of the Ramayana.

People here have very strong religious roots. The annual Rath Yatra of Hampi drew participation from each and every village in and around Hospet.
People here have very strong religious roots. The annual Rath Yatra of Hampi drew participation from each and every village in and around Hospet.

Oh, and did I mention it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Just a small, very insignificant detail.

Hampi - A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hampi – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

I made the mistake of visiting Hampi in the scorching summer heat. Be warned, it really is the worst time to visit, unless you’re chasing an easy sun-tan. You can’t cycle, sight-seeing will test all your patience, you don’t feel like eating because you just want to keep drinking lime juice ALL the time, and walking on the boulders is like walking on red hot iron. But even despite the heat, my 30 hour journey to reach Hampi due to a bus break-down, my ego-crushing attempt at cycling, and my phobia of water – I came back to Mumbai with a resolve to revisit Hampi after summers. Here’s why:

  • Read to your heart’s content – So one thing unique about Hampi is that this village has absolutely no network. And I’m not speaking about 3G, but general cellular network. Being a heritage site, Hampi can apparently not allow cellular companies to set-up mobile towers in the village, which though annoying at times, can really be a boon once you welcome the change. No calls, no msgs, no whatsapp, no twitter, no instagram! And if you’re lucky enough to be traveling alone, this means spending some genuine undisturbed quality time with books! Step into a Café, order a nice glass of banana coconut milkshake, dive into your novel and just don’t come out.
  • Perfect place for solo travelers – While meeting fellow travelers always tops my bucket-list while traveling to any place, doing so in Hampi was all the more treasured. With absolutely zero connection with the world outside this village, it’s very easy to go out of your way and join tables, or hitch rides with other backpackers. Add to that, the locals, who are so friendly and welcoming, that you won’t miss home in their presence! From a guesthouse owner who offered to let me stay for free, to a kind family that opened their home for a famished me after cycling in the heat, to people at a make-shift refugee camp who let me have lunch with them because they were so excited about seeing a solo Indian female traveler – I had the best experience with locals over my short stay.

    Goat curry with rice offered by the people at the camp set-up by villagers traveling for the Rath Yatra in Hampi.
    Goat curry with rice offered by the people at the camp set-up by villagers traveling for the Rath Yatra in Hampi.
  • Cycling trails – If, like me, you come from a city where cycling is only an activity you’ve left for the time you travel to Amsterdam – say Hello Hampi! You can go rent a cycle for a day for as cheap as Rs. 100. Full dislosure: Let me add here, the only reason I went to Hampi was because I read an itinerary that said you could cycle everyday, and despite all that excitement I failed miserably, as I couldn’t cycle to save my life. While I can blame the Hampi heat for my tragic attempt to re-ignite my love for cycling, I’m actually taking this up as a challenge. Next time I return, I’ll be fit enough to cycle around the village. Or at least I’ll try.
My rented ride parked at someone's house after I finally gave up trying to cycle
My rented ride parked at someone’s house after I finally gave up trying to cycle
    • Light on that wallet! – Rooms for Rs. 300 – 500 (will be highly hiked up during season time i.e. October onwards), cycle for Rs. 100, a plate of idli for Rs. 20, a large glass-full of mango milkshake for Rs. 90, a complete meal for under Rs. 150 – Hampi is a budget travelers heaven! If you’re traveling from Mumbai, you can take the bus for Rs. 1000 all the way to Hospet, a bus from Hospet to Hampi for Rs. 20 (or a rickshaw for Rs. 200), rent a cycle for Rs. 100 or a moped for Rs. 150 (goes up to Rs. 250 in season)­­­, cross the river by boat for Rs. 7 to the other side of Hampi, find a cheap guest-house / hut for yourself, and spend the weekend being absolutely lazy. A solo traveler can easily spend a weekend in Hampi in less than Rs. 4000, inclusive of travel; but if you really want to soak in the experience, I’d suggest you extend your trip to at least ten days!
Ancient yet modern, soaked in history, culture and travel tales – there’s a lot to see in Hampi!
  • Hippie heaven – As I mentioned earlier, Hampi is divided into two parts by a tiny lake, which can be crossed by a ferry ride which is shorter than the one between Versova and Madh Island. While on one side is the Hampi Bazaar, the Virupaksha Temple and all the possible major ruins of Hampi, the other side of the reservoir houses the quaint Anegundi village, endearingly known as the “hippie island”. You won’t see the Goa nonsense that’s usually associated to hippie’ness among Indian tourists, but a genuine, laid-back, peaceful life, underlined by the perfect co-existence of locals and backpackers. Anegundi has good roads (a singular road actually), perfect for taking your biking lessons, and view points where you can sit-back with coconut water and relish a perfect sunset. Indulge in activities like dread-lock making, lend a hand to the rural women making baskets and other handicrafts, take part in drum circles and impromptu jam sessions, or enjoy quiet evenings by the rice paddy fields. Café’s here let you smoke (not just cigarettes), and the music scene is not just playing music on speakers. It’s also common to come across foreigners who have been staying here for decades at stretch, which again speaks about how very comfortable this place really is. Meera the Belgian nun, staying here since 30 years, or the Italian baba – Ceaser – these foreigners are now Hampi locals, and so famous that travelers from across the world take appointments to meet them. Unfortunately, owing to my advance bookings, I had to stick to the bazaar side of Hampi, but my second visit will surely be an extended stay by the rice fields of Anegundi!
Trees, farms and perfect sunsets! Hampi – a land not just of boulders.

 

Notes:

  • The Land Out There organizes great weekend as well as extended backpacking trips to Hampi. If you don’t want to make the trip alone, I would highly recommend you get in touch with them!
  • Season time in Hampi is actually winters, i.e. post October, but I think monsoons here will be really beautiful. I will be basking in the glorious Himalayas this monsoon season, so I’ll give that experience a pass for this year. But if you’re looking for a monsoon escape, give Hampi a try!
  • The one guest house that stole my heart was the Shanthi Guest House, even though it’s slightly on the more expensive side.
  • The Hampi Festival, that takes place in January every year, seems to be a great time to visit this place, especially if you’re into travel photography.
  • To be honest, I didn’t make any efforts to try out the many food joints on both sides of the river. But from whatever I tried, and heard of, Mango Tree Cafe hands down wins the title for the best place to be.

 

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