Since we travelled from Bangalore, we rode the Hampi Express that leaves Bangalore at 9 PM and reaches Hospet at about 7 AM the next day, on the way to Hubli.
A swarm of auto-rickshaw drivers and hotel agents surround you as soon as you get out of the train platform into the parking area. Many of them thrust their business cards at you, very colourful, made of a strange material that appears not to be bio-degradable. So you need to look casual, been there, done that, walk casually past the throng. Some of them follow you, giving you time to get your bearings and sort things out in your mind.
Our reservation was at the Malligi Hotel in Hospet.
We decided that one of the auto-rickshaw drivers from among the crowd that greeted us in front of the Railway Station would be our charioteer. He also offered to drive us around Hampi. So he became our sort-of-guide around Hampi, at least point to point. He also dropped us off at the Railway Station for our journey back. Junior was the navigator, sharing the front seat with the driver.
The Restaurant in the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari was a convenient place for lunch, being located very close to the Royal Centre area. A trifle disorganized, but not particularly injurious to health.
Our auto-rickshaw driver-guide also drove us to The Mango Tree restaurant, set among a grove of banana plants.
It was an upmarket restaurant located fairly near the Virupaksha Temple that provided great views of the rocks and the river. From reports on the 'net, it appears that the Mango Tree restaurant has been shut down.
Well, that was a glimpse of Hampi. There are a few sites that we did not visit or did not spend adequate time in. Besides, the Anegundi area across the river remains on the to-do list.
One can only imagine the sights and sounds of about 600 years ago, the engineering skills, art, music, discipline, trade, wealth and fame. Travellers from other countries documented their experiences in the Vijayanagar Empire. Add to that the enmity and greed of the neighbouring kingdoms that led to wars, defeats, and cities being destroyed and abandoned.
Allow me to salute, in my opinion, the trunk-less and tusk-less 'National Animal' of the devastated Vijayanagar Empire.
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We did not know at that time that we would be visiting Cambodia less than 4 months from then. We took a quick look at the ruins of the famed and incredibly wealthy Khmer Empire that existed several hundred years before the Vijayanagar Empire.
The seeds of the Khmer Empire had blown from India about 1,000 years before the Vijayanagar era, driven by the Trade Winds, a peaceful, economic, trade and culture enabled expansion. The Khmer Empire developed along the Tonle Sap lake, along with an extensive irrigation system. The Vijayanagar Empire developed along the Tungabhadra River, aided by a sophisticated irrigation system. The temples in both the Empires were Cities by themselves. The Khmer Empire got reclaimed by the dense, tropical jungles. The Vijayanagar Empire has all but merged with the dry, boulder strewn landscape. Both Empires were victims of greed and war.
From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust....
You may be interested in these glimpses of Cambodia:
Cambodia - Part 1
Cambodia - Part 2
Cambodia - Part 3
Cambodia - Part 4
Cambodia - Part 5