Yesterday, after an 8 hour, 340 km journey through the most rural of rural India we arrived in Hampi. I must say, having a car and driver and being able to stop anywhere anytime is the only way to see the true day-to-day existence of the people of this fascinating country. Words cannot really describe the sites we’ve seen over the more than 1500 km’s of driving so far so hopefully some of our road pics with a few words of commentary will help but first, Hampi, another of the many sites in India designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main town of Hampi is a typical noise and exhaust filled cornucopia of chaos. It lies about 3 km from the Village of Hampi (Hampi Bazzar) which has slowly grown into a funky little tourist area in the heart of the boulder strewn and incredibly beautiful surrounding hills and ruins. In the heart of banana plantations, palm groves, paddy fields and a meandering river the area is dotted with “chill” restaurants and small family run homestays offering private rooms with toilet, bed and shower, it was such a nice change from the hectic to the relaxed. Only motorcycles and auto rickshaws/tuk tuks are allowed on the very narrow roads that make up a small grid in this village of 1,000 people. Alcohol is prohibited (but secretly available as are the “special lassies”, cough cough). However there is a big problem here that to date looks like the demise of this little Hampi haven. According to the Indian government, all of the businesses that exist to serve the tourists here are illegal. All of them from tiny Mom and Pop window shops selling soap, water and toilet paper and all of the home stays and restaurants. Everything. On the day we arrived we were told the court process had been exhausted and the next day the locals would find out their destiny. The worst case which most were expecting was everything would be bulldozed. The second worse was they could keep their homes but must immediately close all business, their livelihoods. Not much of a choice and it was heartbreaking to have this conversation with the locals. What do you say to them? The next morning around noon the verdict was in. Close all businesses immediately and don’t lose your home or face demolition. The vast majority of these businesses are run out of adjoining sections of their homes so the cost of defying the closure is the very real prospect of having your home demolished. And the government isn’t kidding. In 2011 they moved in and over night bulldozed homes and businesses into oblivion leaving 1,500 people homeless. Plots of land a few km’s away and compensation was offered and we’re told many are still left waiting. Again in 2016 they did the same to another small village in the area. There are over 3,700 monuments scattered over 36 sq. km’s and it seems if you live amongst these ruins your lively hoods will be ruined. People blame the UNESCO designation but we’ve also heard some big hotels in the area are pushing for this, they are losing business and we’ve also heard (according to the gov’t) the concern is about encroachment into the ruins so best to Google Hampi and read up about it. We think the best solution is the status quo. No more construction, keep what is there and move on. It would be a terrible loss to the people and tourism. Very few people aside from organized tours would stay in the stinky, noisy and totally uninteresting main town of Hampi and the boring, bland so-called 5 star but barely 2 star hotels.
Road pics to Hampi (iPhone pics)
Hampi became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century and by the 1500 was the world’s second largest medieval-era city after Beijing. The empire was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by a coalition of Muslim sultanate armies in 1565 after which Hampi remained in ruins. The majority of sculptures were partially destroyed by breaking off the hands, feet, trunks, tusks, paws and some heads.
The amazing ruins of Hampi
Below are a few pics of our room, our chillin spot at Ravi’s Rose and Thali dinner.