Sri Lanka was beautiful but we couldn’t deny that we were quite excited to get back to India, as there was still so much to see and in a strange way we missed its chaos. We flew back from Colombo to Bengaluru (the official name for Bangalore), the capital of the state Karnataka, to continue our Indian adventure.
We landed at Bengaluru airport at 2:30am after the 1-hour flight from Sri Lanka and very conveniently there are buses that go directly from the airport to Mysore, which avoids that you have to travel into the city and then out again and saves lots of time. Even more conveniently, there was a bus at 4:30am and I could book it online and pay with a foreign credit card (cash is still an issue in India after the demonetisation).
The bus was super comfortable and Harry and I both passed out pretty much before we even left the airport as we didn’t sleep all night and were exhausted. It took about 4,5 hours to reach Mysore and our hotel was a short walk from the bus terminal and luckily they let us check-in early so we could go to bed straight away and ended up accidentally being asleep for most of the day.
Fully rested, we visited the Mysore Palace the next day. We could walk to the palace from our hotel and at the entrance of the palace we found an ATM with no queue. When there is no queue at an ATM in India these days, that makes you suspicious and almost certainly the ATM will have no money. But what a pleasant surprise, the ATM gave me a fresh brand new 2000-rupee note! I tried again and another 2000-rupee note came out! I would have never thought that getting EUR28 out of an ATM could make me this happy.
The current Mysore Palace is the fourth at the same location and was designed by British architect Henry Irwin after the previous palace was destroyed in a fire in 1897. The palace is now made from stone, so it can’t burn down as easily anymore, and was completed in 1912 and is huge! The entrance ticket for foreigners includes quite a good audio tour device and we took our time walking around and listening to all the explanations. It’s a beautiful palace and the areas that are open to the public are very well kept. No pictures inside the palace are allowed however I did manage to take a cheeky one…
The exterior of the Mysore Palace
Sneaky picture inside the palace
After the palace we walked around in Mysore and went to the Devaraja Market, which was really fun. The main things being sold here were fruit and vegetables, flower garlands and dye powder. Nothing of the normal tourist stuff so no hassle by vendors that want to sell to you, which was really nice. In the evening we had a train to catch to our next destination: Hampi.
Or onions maybe?
Charming flower garland seller
This flower selling lady had it all under control
Happy in Hampi
After 12 hours on the train we arrived in Hospete in the early morning. From Hospete it’s about 30 minutes in a rickshaw or bus to Hampi. The guy (Rock) who runs the homestay that we booked in Hampi, picked us up from the station. There are no ATMs in Hampi so before leaving Hospete we had to find an ATM with cash. Rock knew one and luckily it had cash and the queue wasn’t too crazy.
On the drive from Hospete to Hampi, the landscape changes quite quickly to something that looks like a film set and very unreal. It’s dessert-like landscape with mountains from big boulders everywhere, banana plantations, and a small river. Hampi is very small ancient village but used to be the centre of the Vijayanagara Empire, now all that is left are the ruins and some more or less intact temples, all of which are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage. The river divides Hampi in two parts, Hampi Bazaar and Hippie Town. We stayed in Hampi Bazaar, which consists of a dozen or so guesthouses/homestays and a few restaurants and small shops. Hampi is very small but a big destination for backpackers and a lot of them get stuck in Hampi for weeks as it is so relaxed and chill.
Directly behind our homestay was a big temple (Sri Virupaksha Temple) and after we checked-in and had some breakfast, Rock’s brother (who didn’t speak much English but trying very hard to learn) tried to explain us something special about the temple. He was drawing pictures, trying to build something, speaking Kannada (the language from Karnataka state), but we didn’t get it. Until he gave up and signaled we had to follow him to the temple, he was going to show us. Unfortunately the temple was closed for a break so Rock’s brother took us up the hill next to the temple and showed us the ruins there and where the best spot for the sunset is. After half an hour up the hill, the temple was open again and we finally got to see what he had tried to explain for over hours now. Inside the temple complex you can find an inverted shadow of the temple created by an ancient pinhole camera in the wall. Super cool, so look out for it if you ever find yourself in Hampi. I don’t have a picture as it was too hard to capture. Thankfully Rock’s brother showed us this, as we wouldn’t have bothered with going into the temple and we would have never seen it. On our way out we said hi to Lakshmi, the temple elephant. For the sunset we went of course up the hill again and it was spectacular! The landscape looks from a different planet and when it all changed colour, it’s just so pretty.
Sri Virupaksha Temple seen from the sunset hill
The beautiful sunset over the Hampi landscape
The next day we took a small boat to the other side of the river to rent mopeds for the day and off we went. We just drove around without any destination. There are lots of temples and ruins you can visit but we just enjoyed the landscape. What made it really nice was that it’s really in the countryside so no crazy Indian traffic and we didn’t feel unsafe on the mopeds. We passed through villages, got stuck in a traffic jam of goats, stopped a few times for some climbing up the mountains of boulders and enjoyed the views. On our way back to Hampi, we stopped at the Anjaneya hill, 575 steps take you up to the top to the Hanuman temple where it is believed that Lord Hanuman (Monkey God) was born here. On top of this hill you have a great view all over Hampi and its surroundings and it’s a great spot for a sunset too. But it didn’t really look like there was going to be a sunset so we returned our mopeds to Hippie Town and took the last boat to cross the river back to Hampi Bazaar. And then it started to rain, so thankfully we didn’t wait for the sunset.
The view for most of the day when we explored Hampi and surroundings by moped
Stuck in a goat traffic jam
One of our stops at the riverside
View from the top of Anjaneya hill
Hampi is famous for all the ruins and temples that are spread around it and many rickshaw drivers really want to take you on a tour around to see them all. It’s the only annoying thing about Hampi, the endless hassle from anybody who owns a rickshaw or is trying to sell you hippie-pants. We saw a few of the ruins and had seen already quite a lot of temples so we were not interested in a full day tour seeing more ruins and temples. So on our last day in Hampi, we walked a little out of town to nearby important ruins of a temple complex (Achutaraya Temple), but we went there more to do some hiking than to see the ruins. The ruins were really nice though, but we hiked farther up the hill (Mathanga Hill) next to the ruins and halfway we got to a viewpoint and the view was just breathtaking. A little more uphill we finally reached the top where there was a small temple. There was nothing to see at the temple, so we made our way down via steps on the other side of the mountain. At the bottom we were inside banana plantations, we hiked the paths through them and eventually got back on the road that leads to Hampi. Very tired and hungry (as we didn’t plan on such a full-on hike) we got back to Hampi and just relaxed the rest of the day, took a bus in the evening back to Hospete as the following day we had an early train to catch to Madgaon, better known by its Portuguese name, Margão.
View from the halfway viewpoint on the Mathanga hill. Down below you see the ruins of the Achutaraya temple.
We could have stayed a lot longer in Hampi but the train was booked and it was hard enough to find a train with space in the first place so we couldn’t miss it. The train ride from Hospete to Madgaon took about 8,5 hours but went quite fast. Especially the last part was very nice with views of jungle and waterfalls.
From Madgaon we took a taxi to Benaulim, a nearby beach town, where we had booked accommodation (Woodstock Village Bamboo Cottages, avoid at all cost!) right at the beach. At least that’s what we thought, as when we got there, the owner of the guesthouse came up with some lame excuse about no electricity and said he couldn’t check us in. Secretly he had just overbooked the property as he said a few times, ‘I had hoped some people were no-shows but it looks like everybody has turned up and now I have no space’. Idiot! So he started calling some colleague guesthouses in town (not anywhere near the beach, the main reason why we had booked in the first place) and a lot of them were full or well above our budget. Finally he found one, called something like ‘Antonio’s’, the owner came to pick us up but when we got there it was awful (see picture)! As we had no other option, we didn’t say anything and just put our bags down. As soon as the owner was gone, we went out to find something else. Luckily we found something, a lot more expensive, but much better.
None of the (used) toiletries and dirt are ours. So gross!
We had planned to stay a few days at the beach in Benaulim, but since we were now not very near the beach, 15 minutes walk instead of 30 seconds, we decided to take a bus to south Goa. A good choice! We ended up in Agonda, a lovely little town right at the beach with a very good vibe. Our hotel was lovely and 1-minute walk from the beach. The next few days we didn’t do much, just sunbathing, reading, Harry did lots of yoga and we enjoyed good food.
First Goan sunset with one of our many new dog friends
Agonda beach is very long and wide and there is space for everyone
Still part of daily life, queueing for the ATM. This queue took ‘only’ 2 hours…
Goa has lots to offer and there are few places with a rich colonial history but we were ‘bad’ tourists and didn’t see any of that. A lot of the colonial buildings make you feel like you’re in Portugal and we didn’t come to India to feel like we’re in Portugal, haha, so we skipped them. Don’t judge us!
Although we could have stayed in paradise forever, it was time to move on, as we really wanted to see some of north India as well. From Madgaon we took a 12-hour day train to Mumbai. A very long ride but we had some interesting conversations with other people on the train, about politics and demonetisation, so the time went quite fast. Harry’s sister-in-law is from India and her sister lives in Mumbai and we stayed with her in the family house. Which was so nice and really lucky as it made our stay in Mumbai very pleasant and a total different experience than if we had stayed in a hostel/hotel.
We spent a few days in Mumbai and visited the amazing Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (the oldest museum in Mumbai), walked around in the Fort area where you can find many colonial buildings, went of course to the Gateway of India, saw the famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel and enjoyed some delicious food (in restaurants and home-cooked (not by me as I have no skills)).
The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
The famous Gateway of India
Don’t miss this restaurant: Britannia & Co. Delicious food!
Just like with Agonda and Hampi, we could’ve stayed in Mumbai for much longer as we enjoyed the home comforts and the city, but we decided to fly north to Udaipur to start a two-week adventure in Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi and just enough time to be back in Mumbai to spend Christmas with Harry’s family so we are not missing Mumbai for too long.