01.02.2012 - 02.03.2012
On our third night in Hampi, the breeze abandoned us and the heat took over. Another bout of illness had struck us, no doubt a combination of intense exercise in the 30+ degree heat and poor restaurant selection. Days like these call for plenty of water, rest and repeats of The Sopranos. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our time in Hampi, where the ruins amongst the backdrop of boulders create an electric atmosphere.
Uniquely, the owner couple of the rooftop café specialise in Korean dishes. They are featured in the Korean version of the Lonely Planet, so here the medley of accents consists of a Korean overtone, above the usual French and German.
Hampi is a firm favourite for us. As recommended by our friends Erik and Suzanne, we had been looking forward to visiting and have not been disappointed. The ruins are easy to visit by scooter but much more fun on a bicycle. Getting lost (as we often seem to do) has been rewarding, we have enjoyed following dusty red tracks as our 20 rupee map/comic failed us.
Our return to India has been busy as expected. After spending time with Dejan and Tjasa in Kochin we were bound for Ooty on the Toy Train. What we imagined to be a romantic ascent aboard a classic steam train included an Indian twist, with 12 people for each pair of benches. Least to say that our views were obscured by bodies, with knees intimately locked as a dozen strangers faced each other as we covered the 42km track in 5 crawling hours.
The hill station Ooty seems unprepared for the cold, for most accommodation is poorly insulated and hot water not readily available. Gripped with cold and fatigue we decided to go on an easy trek for fresh air and photo opportunities. Fortunately the day was clear, a temple festival was taking place and we had great company. Jonathan also introduced us to fellow travellers Tom (at the end of his inspiring London to Goa bike ride) and Pen, and later we indulged in the western comforts of Willy’s Coffee Pub in our weakened states.
A stomach churning bus ride tested us all the way to Mysore, with 5 of 13 passengers in our minivan requiring several “resting” stops. After buses in Myanmar and Sri Lanka our stomachs had no problems on this occasion. We also ended up in the middle of another religious celebration, and stared eye to eye with a giant elephant as the procession engulfed our minivan on the road.
Mysore appeared to be like any other mid-sized Indian city, but we were truly impressed by the splendour of the Palace. A mash up of Islamic, Indian and European architecture, it took decades to realise the vision of its British architect. Indian bronze pumas flank the entrance made of British pillars, which in turn support Islamic arc shaped windows and bulbous dome roofs. The psychedelic coloured walls, and delicate mosaics of lotus flowers and peacocks are unmistakably an Indian influence, crafted with European style.
The market district of Mysore is vibrant and its hectic pace is one that we have come to love. The undercover bazaar with sections dedicated to fruit and vegetables, luminous dye powders and glittering alleys of bracelets and accessories are a thrilling sight – we even found ourselves swept up in bartering for random pieces of Indian kitsch.
After Mysore we spent a short time in Bangalore. This city is bustling with trade and is a paradise for shopping, food and drink. Big brands compete for signage space in the chaotic MG Road and Commercial St, alongside elegant mosques and temples. We were particularly fond of the old town, known as Majestic, as the streets were less organised and more exciting for finding clothing bargains and delicious street food. Before we realised it we were on the train to Hampi.
Arriving in Goa after 3 nights in Hampi, we were reacquainted with Kylie and Vince. By now we were ready for a slower pace after 5 cities in two weeks. As we had heard before, Goa has an irresistible charm and we were hypnotised in a sunny daydream for over 2 weeks. With bicycles and our own apartment, we were a happy family and relished making our own meals and having a routine everyday. It wasn’t surprising to hear that many foreigners had been hanging around for months in this tiny piece of paradise. Before long, we parted ways and headed north to Mumbai.