How about traveling with a guide book? On a bicycle? Sounds easy? Ever explored a destination which has all the places lined up so well that there's no pain in finding them? People, Hampi is one such place, all set up to discover! This is a place which can keep the tourists engaged with mystical rocks, stories carved on walls and much more. Also, a great option for your solo trip. This column is dedicated to all the questions which pop up in one's mind, whilst hearing a travel story.
Trip interview coming right up!
1. Train, bus or cab – which is the best mode to get into Hampi?
Hampi is well connected by road to Hospet, the nearest railway station, which is 13 km away for which the auto will charge you around Rs 150 and the bus will charge you Rs 12. You can find a bus in every half an hour, the bus timings are 06:30 am to 08:30 pm.
Overall information of journey from Bangalore
- Road Distance from Bangalore is 350 km.
- Train Journey will take 9 hours.
- Train Journey Fare will cost you Rs 350 (Non-Ac) Rs 500(AC).
- Bus Journey will take 7 hours.
- Bus Journey ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 700.
This will help you in deciding what mode to take, depending on the number of people travelling, time, budget and off course on your personal preference.
2. How to get the trip started?
Buy a guidebook that has a map. We bought Itagi Nagaraja Prakashana’s book, which had the description about all the places in Hampi and it was very helpful, as the sequence of places in the book is the same which you should follow. The shopkeeper also gave us a black & white printed map for free. We enquired on how to start our journey, he told us, ‘follow the map and do not take auto, as it cannot match up with the fun of traveling on a bicycle’. He also helped us in finding the cycle rental shop. We really got a pinch of advice to begin with.
3. You must be all tired from the journey, and there is nothing better than food to give you energy. Is there any place where you can gather the energy for the journey?
Everywhere on internet and the guides, there was a lot said about the English breakfast at the Mango Tree restaurant, which was opened by an Italian guy. The ambiance was pretty cool, with some beautiful printed-cloth art on the walls and elegant lamps hanging around in the restaurant.
English Breakfast consists of Tomato and Cheese Sandwich, Bread Omelet, Fruit salad and a cup of coffee or tea. Service is pretty fast, waiters are humble and the price is quite decent. Plus, there are ample of charging points inside the restaurant.
The waiter resolved our confusion as to which place should we start the trip from, by drawing a route on our map. We couldn't have asked for a better help on our way to start exploring the ruined remains of the Vijayanagara Empire of around 14th century.
4. So where to hire a bicycle and what is the price? Is there any fixed amount of time or day? Any other options like bike, cab or auto to travel? Hire any guide or something?
It’s available in the lane opposite to Mango Tree Restaurant. Please do bargain for the price, we got a cycle for Rs 75 for a day till 7 pm. Your pocket might be glad to know such low traveling cost in Hampi. You need to deposit a photo ID card to the rentals, which you can take when you return the bicycle.
You can hire bikes, auto and cab as well, travel agents can be found in Hampi Bazaar. Say NO to guide here, just the guidebook, going by Answer 2 above.
5. Being the lazy asses which we usually are nowadays, how did you manage to ride a bicycle, that too in a new place? Any hacks to pump up the stamina?
The initial kick off in the city was a pretty steep stretch of road approx.100 meters. Located right before the Ganesha temple, we saw many people dragging their cycle instead of riding them, and mocked as to how unfit these people are for not riding the cycle on what seemed a small slope of Hemakuta Hill. As we reached half of the stretch, our cycle and legs went out of sync and we became exactly like the people, whom we were making fun of. We somehow managed to reach the top. We just stood under the tree to catch our breath and it took 10 minutes for us to get normal. What a loser start it was.
Do drink Nariyal Pani (Coconut Water) regularly to rejuvenate yourself whenever you're tired and keep yourself hydrated in the journey. Also, a small trick to cover slopes - Drag your bicycle, play a nice song on the phone and climb it humming the song.
6. Can you take us through the UNESCO world's heritage?
Virupaksha temple – There is a big angan (open hall) first, which looks like some old style house from outside. The best part were the monkeys who were chilling all around, be it on the dome or on the God's palki or even the diya stand.
If you explore more, you will come across this big Gopuram, where you can find the inverted image of Virupaksha temple dome, which is formed by light entering from the pinhole. Perhaps, some sci-fi phenomenon.
On the other side of the temple, there was Manmatha Honda Tank, a series of small temples of Snakes, Ganesh, etc. In the end, you can see Tungabhadra river, where people were taking a holy dip. We were just gazing at the view of the river and was looking for coracle boat, which we heard takes you with your vehicle across the river.
Krishna Temple – The best thing about Hampi is that the name of places is written outside at a significant place, one can easily explore by themselves. Krishna bazaar had a small lake, with a small temple in between. Take a round, get some pictures, right next to this is Krishna bazaar, which had small blocks of stone, may be the kind of market in that times.
On the opposite side of the road was the Krishna Temple, in its entry you can find 9 avatars of Krishna and Vishnu. There are two snakes eating the moon on the entry ceiling of the temple, depicting how lunar eclipse takes place. When you walk inside you will find broken domes and interesting stories on the ceiling of temples.
One of interesting place in Hampi, Underground Shiva temple, which is a temple, with water on the floor, one has to walk through water to see the Shivling inside the temple.
Lotus Mahal Next, comes the most awaited, Lotus Mahal. Grab some drinks or pack of lays outside at a small shop near the toilet complex and hit in with a ticket of Rs 10. While entering inside, this place gives a feel of Purana Quila complex in Delhi, with some of the finest monuments inside (a mall of monuments). Zanana Enclosure, which was a kind of women's quarters at that time, it will just give you the idea of architecture, that's it.
There was Elephant's Stable again like Bada masjid in Purana Quila, located behind some big wall which you cannot even imagine could exist there, the nice big complex of 11 chambers. You are not allowed to enter inside.
7. How many hours did this cycle tour take, how much distance did you cover?
We cycled for around 5 hours, covering almost 20 Kms in the round trip till Lotus Mahal.
Auto walas told us there are two routes to Vithala temple - 10 kilometers cycle ride from Lotus Mahal (my legs and cycle giving tough looks to each other) or go back to Hampi Bazar and take 2 km walk through the small rocky area. The easier, the better, we definitely picked up the second route.
8. After reaching Hampi Bazaar, what was the further course of action?
We reached Hampi bazaar in hardly 20 minutes, it was a fun ride, coming back again with a recap of all places. We found a place called Funky Monkey, a small cafe with tables made by putting a slab over two crates of cold drink. You can sit on the mattress and enjoy the charm of the place, read books (they have a small collection) or play indoor games and use free Wi-Fi.
We had a funny incident when we ordered a ginger tea and got a glass of hot water with some small pieces of ginger in it and tea bag in the plate. That was a shock, as ginger tea is always safe side for all tea-lovers who prefer milk in tea.
But interestingly it was very refreshing, really relieved us from the tiresome journey. Lasagna and Funky Monkey's special pizza taste almost the same, may be due to their special recipe, but we loved the natural touch that they have which added to the taste, which makes the place incredible. The guy serving us over there was so confident about the taste, that he admitted 'Jo bhi khaoge, Bangalore Se toh alag hoga'. Thanks man for suggesting food and the route and timings of Vittala temple.
9. So, How was the hustle to Vithala?
We returned our cycle and literally ran the path to reach Vitthala in time, as it closes at 6:30 PM. It is basically on the right side of the gate which you would have seen as you entered Hampi. Still, we had to keep on asking everyone on the way for the route to the temple. A few people were there at that time, there was a time in the journey when we couldn’t even see a single person in the vicinity. Keep the faith and just keep walking in the hope of finding someone or the temple itself.
10. What's so special about Vithalla?
By the time we reached the temple, all the buses and scooters started leaving for Hampi, everyone shouting this is the last trip to the city, we were like, 'oh, we missed it'. But no, our trip was kind of blessed, we got to see the temple from inside. It is a big temple and should not be missed. There is one big cart wheel whose wheel used to rotate once and some very good architectural milestones.
There are ornate miniature projections with a sculpture of different forms of Vishnu at regular intervals. Around the temple you can find 56 odd musical pillars, which produce melodious sound, when struck by finger. You can roam around and find the seven pillars which are still musical(pun intended).
11. The day is ending and any last thing you can discover?
Visit any of the hippy restaurants, and shop and relax in Hampi Bazaar. We visited Gopi restaurant, the place was a good romantic rooftop place.
12. Any regrets?
In the hustle of covering all places, we missed the coracle boat journey and places on another side of the river. Sadly, we skipped some places on our journey too. We hope that we get one more chance to go Hampi and cover it all. DO plan a minimum of two-day trip to Hampi.
13. What do you think would be the perfect time to visit Hampi?
Winter would be preferred, as in summer you can't cycle with an oh-its-too-hot thing in the brain and not even monsoon, to avoid slipping on roads whilst riding cycle.
- For Bangaloreans or those who are coming from Bangalore, train is the cheaper option but it takes 13 hours, less number of trains are available and they are till Hospet (13km away from Hampi), whereas buses are around double the price but take 7 hours, enough buses are there and you can even get direct bus to and from Hampi.
- If you really want to sink in the flavor of Hampi, hire a cycle, just 75 bucks for a day and explore.
- Buy a travel guide book and map, rest of the trip will follow.
- We saw many groups traveling to Hampi, we remember only one name, Tiger group as their guide was too loud, we even eavesdropped, when the guide was telling them about the history of the place. Join them, if you're traveling alone. You'll get enough knowledge and a chance to meet people from different cultures too.
- Carry water bottles and pack of chips or biscuits, you will definitely need as you may lose stamina while cycling.
- Plan at least 2-day trip to Hampi to cover the city in whole.
- Bus runs to and from Hampi from 6am to 8:30pm. As We made a big mistake by taking rest in Hampi till 9, thinking of that bus is at 11, we will chill and then go. That's why we had to pay auto wala, exactly double the amount to reach hospet bus stand. Last bus leaves at 8:30 pm. Keep this in mind if you're returning during night. So be little afraid of this.
- The network is really bad in Hampi, go to any restaurant as most of them offer free Wi-Fi.
- Drag your cycle on slopes, else it may incur a problem if you are unfit like us.
- The washroom is there outside like a small hut, mostly outside a big tourist spot, so chill.
- And finally, the secret of our energy during trip was Nariyal Paani (coconut water)
Next time ask such questions when anyone is bragging about their trip, it just filters out travel thoughts so well in minds of a traveler and also keeps the listener engaged.