Words || Kacey Martin
Place: South India
Hampi is a town in the southern state of Karnataka. I had heard positive things about it – even before leaving Sydney – but I was still unprepared for how much I would like it! There was a very relaxed and positive atmosphere in Hampi which was a nice change from the hustle-and-bustle of the busy cities. The surrounds are beautiful with a combination of stunning rock formations, lush-green rice fields, nostalgic ruins and sporadic blue-green watering holes. Both the locals and tourists of the area were of a more laidback sort. You can lie out in the cafes, and you’ll be surrounded by laughing bohemians, good music, tasty food, stunning scenery and the hazy smoke of shisha or local ganja.
Even though I was there for a short time, I was able to experience so much and that’s a huge part of what makes it great. Within twenty-four hours I had hiked up 575 steps to watch the sunset from Monkey Temple (this is a must do!); I spent half a day exploring the historical UNESCO sites; we went for a dip in a local swimming hole; we visited temples and finished off by sipping beers by the campfire, watching store-bought fireworks.
Five items that were an absolute must-have on your trip to India:
- Insect repellent – Aerogard simply will not do. You will need to bring the strong stuff or risk being eaten alive (of course, this one might depend on where you are in India). We used ‘Red Eye Gotcha! Insect Repellant’ from Kathmandu but any repellent designed for malaria zones should do the trick.
- Electrical Adapter – Be prepared and make sure you’ve got the appropriate electrical adapter. My friend and I only had one between us, and it was definitely a struggle to charge everything in this technological day and age. So make sure to bring one per person! And I highly recommend buying one prior to arriving in India, as we were sold very cheap quality adapters locally that either didn’t work or dangerously sparked.
- Cash – Most places we encountered did not take card, so having cash-on-hand is a must. Many places may not be able to break the bigger notes, so try and break your larger notes whenever you have the opportunity. It is best to have cash already prepared as ATM’s can be unreliable, and working ones that aren’t empty can be tough to find.
- Light, airy clothing – Winter in South India was quite warm so I can only imagine how hot it gets in summer. Because it is a more conservative culture, walking around in Aussie summer clothes is, in most places, inappropriate. Be sure to bring light clothing that at least covers your shoulders and knees. This goes for men and women!
- Wet wipes – These babies have so many uses. They can be used to cool down and wipe away the inevitable ickiness of the heat. They can be used as toilet paper (since many toilets do not have any). And they can be used for general hygiene, such as wiping your hands before meals or after using unhygienic facilities (in my case, a public squat toilet in a rural bus station). They are so versatile!
Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled in India?
Some of my favourite moments were the unplanned finds, such as a small art gallery in the Jewish Quarter of Kochi, which was showcasing a traditional but dying form of Indian art. It just happened to catch our interest as we were walking by and the gallery staff were so passionate; they kept talking us through the pieces, even after we expressed no interest in buying anything.
I also believe it’s important to cherish the simple moments, like watching the sun set into the sea, patting a cow on the beach, or having a local teach us Bollywood dancing while sipping on Indian rum.
Weirdest thing to happen to you on the trip?
Being treated like a celebrity. On one occasion, I was greeted by an entire class of children who wanted to shake my hand; they were thanking me and explaining what an honour it was to meet me. It felt very strange. If you’re Caucasian, this will happen a lot! They’ll also ask to have photos taken with you. It’s also very normal to be stared at.
What was the budget like?
India is not simply affordable, but very, very cheap. Even Thailand feels expensive in comparison. Be sure to practice your haggling skills before you get there as you will be originally thrown a hiked up price. We took a group tour which was $1200 for sixteen days, however, you could do the same amount of time for much less.
#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?
My biggest food tip? Eat where the locals eat! If you spot a restaurant with a lot of locals, it’s probably good. Most of my favourite meals in India were in local restaurants. Some of them looked dingy but we took the plunge and sat down anyway. Not only is the food more authentic and generally tastier, but it’s way cheaper than any restaurant catering to tourists! The staff at all the local places we tried were extremly welcoming and even seemed impressed to see us in there. My favourite dish was a dry tandoori style chicken, which we found it in a small side lane in Mysore.
What advice would you give to other people travelling?
I think travel can be enriched by disconnecting from our usual lives. This, for me, means severely limiting your access and use of social media which can often keep our minds at home. Disconnect for a while, and fully immerse yourself in your present situation, taking in all you can. Make the most of where you are, not just physically but by being mentally present.
My travel mantra is…
Open your eyes, breathe it in and take it home with you.