Hampi is one place ,which has fascinated me for a long long time. I always wanted to visit it. Mainly because of my interest in historical places. But Hampi being the World Heritage site (UNESCO) made me feel even more inclined to visit it. After the visiting the place I can only say that I was stumped,bowled ,awestruck and enriched. What a PLACE! The travel story of Hampi I would like to write it in a separate piece. Here I would mention some standouts from the place which I found quiet unusual considering its rich history and monuments.
1. The place is absolutely isolated and virginal : Yes, the world heritage site is isolated. The place is 4 km from Hospete , the main town nearest to Hampi. The civilization is quiet sparse and even the Hampi village is very small. And all this is a plus point! You will find yourself in between huge boulders of rocks and hillocks , with thousands of monuments scattered . You would be confused to figure out , where to start first. The ASI does make our life easier with the Hampi map(found everywhere!) . Using the map , you can navigate through Hampi like a treasure hunt in Amazing race contest. But it is not so easy as you think. We need a guide to help us through the map and places.
2. The place is STILL NOT commercial: Yes , this I found shocking. Because in India , anything "touristy" is definitely a place for business.There are so many monuments in Hampi and yet there are no shops (not many at least) , apart from the cucumber seller and ice-cream seller near them. The shopping street is not even 100 meters and the souvenirs are not remotely connected to Hampi. There are lots of dresses(which we can find all over India), jute bags(found everywhere) and brass items. The only souvenir to take home were the Vijayanagara Empire's coins , which are collected from the basin of Tungabhadra river (when the water recedes during summer). No fridge magnets shaped like the chariots, no Virupaksha temple picture, no three headed Nandi statue. Nothing. Hampi could earn so much more but for some unknown reason it is not the case.
3. Food : Hampi is visited by many foreign tourists as well as Indian tourists and yet the food options available is quiet meager. We ate at a place called Mango Tree , where the meal was decent enough but nothing great to talk about. The eateries are also very small. That's why I saw many families actually get their own food and eat on the lawns of Lotus Mahal or Queen's Bath!
4. The main transport is a auto or cycle !: In Hampi, the best transport used is cycle or auto. You can see whole of Hampi by hopping onto an auto and asking the driver to take you to places. You can easily get an auto driver's number at the Hospete bus stand. There will be many touts eager to share their number. You choose one of them and call him wherever you are! The other way is by cycling. This is a favorite option for the foreign tourists(considering their fitness levels) . A map in hand, water and a cycle and you are ready to conquer Hampi with two wheels and a pedal! The best part about cycling is , you can stop anywhere you want and take how much even time you want , to see the place.
5. You need a lifetime to understand and visit whole of Hampi: Yes , this is correct. Hampi is a civilization on its own. It is like exploring a city with thousands of landmarks. Every monument has its own story and its own identity. You will not feel like leaving any one of them. The monuments are so many that even ASI have given up. There are some monuments lying in neglect , hidden in some corner(like the Achuytaraya temple , Varaha temple) and ASI has not done anything to highlight it. I don't blame them. They are simply too many. You will know what I mean when you visit Hampi.
There are so many more , but whatever is the case, Hampi is one place I will always cherish. The guide told us one interesting thing. He told us that he always thanks the Vijayanagar empire because their foundation in stone in Hampi is still feeding the current generation's stomachs. What a profound truth indeed.