In around 1500 AD Hampi had about 500,000 inhabitants (supporting 0.1% of the global population during 1440-1540), making it the second largest city in the world after Peking-Beijing and almost thrice the size of Paris.
Getting there: the 11-hour sleeper bus from Pune to Hospet
We paid about 1100 Indian rupees each way on a super comfy sleeper bus. Our bus left two hours late from Pune at around 12.30 a.m. I was blown away by how comfortable and clean the bunks were, and it wasn’t until I woke up around 4 a.m. bursting to pee and asked the driver to stop from a quick break that I saw how perilously he was driving. At one point as we overtook a couple of trunks on a one-lane road, we were driving head-on towards a massive truck about 250 metres away driving on the other side of the road. After that I slept very, very lightly.
The wrong side of the river turned out just right.
We got off at Hospet at 11 a.m. and took a INR 200 rickshaw to Hampi, and then got into a small boat that took us to the other side of the river where to our accommodation, with fewer tourists and fewer ruins. Since it was already 1pm we decided to hang out on this side of the river, renting a scooter to enjoy the beautiful scenery, near perfect weather, and stop at places that caught our eye. Highlights included:
Food: it all tastes the same?
The other side of the river: ruins, temples, and bike tours
The huge Elephant Stable in #Hampi, #India constructed during the reign of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century housed 11 royal elephants, and infused Indian and Islamic architecture. One of the chambers includes a secret passageway to the top of the central dome. Lara Croft would love it here. #Karnataka #TombRaider
Lotus Mahal, the highlight of the ‘Zanana Enclosure’ where the queens of the empire lived. I loved the Indo-Islamic architecture of this building:
The exquisite Indo-Islamic architecture of the Lotus Mahal in the Queen's palace, #Hampi, #Karnataka. The top floor of this 500+ year old building was air conditioned using water circulation through tiny holes in the ceiling and walls. The palace complex itself was guarded by eunuchs as the king didn't trust male soldiers hanging around his two lucky ladies.
One of the towers of the Virupaksha Temple in #Hampi, #Karnataka. This Hindu temple has been in use, uninterrupted, since the 7th century! What started as a small shrine to Shiva, the god of destruction, it grew and grew under the Vijayanagara empire from the 13th to 15th centuries. My weekend in Hampi, #India, left me in awe of the innovation and sophistication of ancient empires, and humbled by the nature of impermanence. This city was a Singapore, Dubai, London or New York equivalent, but is now reduced to dust and ruins. Nothing, no matter how "timeless" and "indestructible", lasts forever.
A reminder of the ever-changing nature of life
Hampi struck a chord with me. It reminded me that everything changes. Nothing, no matter, how great, how “timeless”, how invincible, lasts forever. This majestic kingdom with insanely luxurious palaces, dwellings, and temples (palaces had roofs made of sandalwood which took THREE MONTHS to burn and destroy when the Deccan empire took over the land in the 15th century) was reduced to dust and a stone over 600 years. I imagine Hampi being a Singapore, a Dubai, maybe even a New York of its time. A melting pot of culture, wisdom, and luxury. I wonder what the mega-cities of today will be like in 600 years. And where the mega-cities of tomorrow will be located, what they’re people will be like, and what their leadership will give its people.
If you’re thinking of visiting South India, make sure you stop by at Hampi! Accommodation is extremely affordable, transport readily available, and you’ll learn so much about South India and its history walking through the ruins. You’ll get to hang out with a bunch of friendly locals and fellow travellers, and create an adventure no matter which side of the river you explore!
Did this post about Hampi inspire you to visit? Have you already been? I’d love to hear your thoughts about your travels and adventures to Hampi in comments below!
Also, follow me on Instagram (@udhara) for photos of my travels, shot almost entirely on iPhone 🙂
Transport to Hampi: We took the 11-hour sleeper bus to Hospet, which is 30 minutes away from Hampi. Tickets with the best bus service, ‘VRL’ buses, can be booked ONLY with an Indian credit card online using redbus.in or makemytrip.com. One of our Indian friends in Pune was kind enough to use his card to book our tickets.
Accomodation: Gopi Guest House. Very basic accomodation with simple toilet. Friendly staff and affordable room rates (INR 800) for a double room.
Food: Laughing Buddha. Cheap, tasty, and clean food.
Bicycles: on the touristy side of the river, you should be able to rent bikes for INR100 or less if you’d a good negotiator.