No Hospetality in Hospet

Since we’re becoming packing geniuses, we have a lot of time to kill before checkout from Hema Guest House, so we sit at their restaurant and relaxed for a few hours. Then we move on to an internet café for an hour. Then The Laughing Buddha for a couple of hours as well. Today is our fourth day as accidental vegetarians!

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A group of aussies are also sitting at The Laughing Buddha and I basically just listen to them talk. I love the aussie accent and I miss it every day. India is like New Europe – full of Germans, Brits and the occassional Scandinavian. Well, it’s 3-ish and we put on our backpacks and get on one of the little boats to get to the other side of the river. This glamorous broad falls. On my knees. On a boat. That is just a little bit awkward.

We get on a tuk tuk and drive off to Hospet. Our bus stop here is basically just a pile of dirt on the main road. Mike from England is the first person on the bus to get there, and we sit there just the three of us for an hour until we start wondering where that bus to Mumbai is at. Robin from Canada and Victoria from Spain arrives and announces it’s delayed a few hours (of course), so we all go for some Thali, which is so spicy it makes me cry, but at least it’s only 50 Rupees. Poor Mike goes on an hour-long search for a bathroom, as only women are allowed to use the ones around the bus stop. People in Hospet don’t seem too helpful, I tell you that. Also, women actually have the upper hand here? That is new.

Finally our bus arrives, and it is a bit nicer than our last one. Still a bumpy ride though.

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A night at Ludu’s Guest house is like sleeping on the beach. Our room, or should I say hut, is located right on a giant rock, that’s attached to several others going out in the water. As we are slowly snoozing off, we can hear the waves from the ocean hitting the rocks, and we feel the cold air streaming through the windows – they aren’t completely sealed, as one could imagine. Definitely an experience.

By 11.00 we are all packed and ready to go, except we need to find that guy who showed up out of nowhere last time we needed him. Whaddaya know, he’s right there! It’s amazing! Truly magical! We pay him 600 rupees and head off with our heavy backpacks once again. Sara sneakily picked up an old edition of Lonely Planet at The Jungle Hostel that had recommended the Relax Inn restaurant, so we go there for breakfast (err, pancakes), which is nice. We still have a lot of time to kill before going to Mapusa though, so we go to a café close to the bazaar and the beach, and just abuse the Wi-Fi for travel planning (and Facebook, who are we kidding?)

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When we are super bored of that, we grab a shady-looking cab, but I negotiate a very low price, and there are no better options around. 30-60 minutes later we are in Mapusa and meet up with Selina and Angi at Ashkor restaurant. In the heat, eating this super spicy food with nothing but water to drink, our eyes are watering and the sweat is running, not dripping, from our faces.

The next couple of hours we all sit pretty much in silence by the bus station, waiting impatiently for our busses – theirs to Mumbai, ours to Hampi, which Angi recommended for us back at The Jungle Hostel. The sunburn is slowly turning into a painful scab on my face, and the Nivea cream Tal gave me helps, although the perfume stings a bit. I feel miserable and ugly. Lucky, our bus has a nice double sleeper bed in the front waiting for us, but calling it a bumpy ride to Hampi would be an understatement. Really.

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At one point, the bus stops to let the passengers empty their bladders. 10 rupees each, and you got this luxurious stall:

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Now, I don’t mind paying to sit on a porcelain throne, use silk to wipe my ass and water to flush with. Paying to squat in harem pants is just wrong. I can happily announce it went well though. Back to the sleeper for a ride that has me singing Mohombi – Bumpy Ride all night long.

At 7 or so in the morning, the roads get even bumpier, and nature outside is looking greener and more lush. We are finally in Hampi. As we haven’t booked a hostel, we get our backpacks and go straight on the hunt for a hostel, as do all the backpackers. It is like a race to see who gets the last room in a hostel first, so we are all taking big steps. We first go to Mowgli’s Guest House, but it is a bit too expensive and too long until check-in. We move on, and a few minutes later, as all hope leaves my body, we find Hema Guest House, which consists of a cozy restaurant and turquoise houses with bright hammocks. We immediatley check in and demand a hammock. A monkey is jumping around on the thin roof of our house, which gives off loud, thundering noises, so we name him Lars Ulrich.

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We drop off our stuff and head to the river and buy a ticket for a tiny boat to take us to the other side, where Hampi Bazaar is. The elephant Lakshimi of the main temple is getting a bath in the river as we arrive, so people are gathered around the drop-off.

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Hampi bazar from our part of the town

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We are surrounded by drivers that offer to take us around to see the sights for the day. We get into a tuk tuk and start our day of sightseeing. It takes most people at least 5 hours, if not several days to see it all, but we are done in about two hours – we didn’t bother to get a guide book, so all of these pretty ruins are just that: pretty ruins. I took a 1000 pictures of them, though. Prepare to be visually bombed.

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Lotus Mahal, the Queen’s palace, in Vijayanagara

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The elephant stables in Vijayanagara

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Rice field across the street from our hostel

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A place to wash your feet at one of the temples

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The Queen’s bath

We go back home to nap, and then head to The Laughing Buddha for dinner. It has the best atmosphere yet, with candles, Bob Marley posters on the wall, chill music and pillows on the floor instead of chairs. The walk there through small paths seems a bit sketchy though.

The next day we wake up early to go see the main temple, Virupaksha, and the elephant. Absolutely amazing. For 10 rupees, Lakshimi will smooch (bless) you, which feels, uhm, funny. Sara takes the most unfocused picture ever, so I try going back to do it again, but an elephant never forgets, so it refuses to accept my money.

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The kid is obviously excited about this elephant. At home, we pay to see them. It’s called a zoo.  SONY DSC
There are so many monkeys around the temple, it’s (pea)nuts.

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Groups of young local people approach us and ask for pictures with us. It’s pretty common for tourists in India to experience this, but this is our first time! I feel like a celebrity! Actually, thank God I am not a celebrity back home, this will get old really fast.

As we are walking out of the temple, two men dressed up in God-know-what approach us and ask for a picture, too. We get the feeling that they want us to pay afterwards, just like the gladiators do at the Colosseum in Rome, so we politely decline. They don’t back down and we explain to them that we do not have any money on us, which they say they’re fine with. I take a picture of them with Sara, the one of me is too blurry to make out.

 

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After the pictures have been taken, SURPRISE SURPRISE, they want money from us. We just tell them the same thing we did before, and they let us go with the promise that we will pay them next time we see them. Yeah right.

For lunch we go to The Mango Tree, that unfortunately is not the same as in Vagator. It’s still very cute though. We also look around the bazaar and buy some stuff, and I meet a couple of kids and have a “sword fight” with them. So adorable. At this point, we are just a nose ring away from looking like every other tourist around here in our tank tops, harem pants, messy hair in a bun and colorful anklets and toerings. I swear I also have a Ganesh T-shirt now.

For post-lunch snack and dinner we go to Sai Plaza, which is close to our hostel and has terrible service and just alright food, but at night they show The Wolf of Wall Street, so we decide to come back for some entertainment. Although a sign in the restaurant specifically says “no drugs allowed”, a couple decides to pass a joint around, and the guy sitting next to us holds on to it long enough to finish it. It’s kinda off-putting when you’re eating, really.

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Goan at it in Goa – part II

I think The Jungle Hostel the Goan equivalent of The Pink Palace, Greece. Every morning we wake up, even more lazy than the day before, making it a habit to get several King Fisher beers from the fridge before joining the circle of people in hammocks. The dilemma of the day is which dish and cocktail to order from the huge menu at The Mango Tree, the restaurant right next to us.

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Today, we finally decide to go to see the beach – in daylight, that is. Our new German friends and Katherine from Canada join us. The beach isn’t quite the lonely tropical paradise one might assume, although it is rather empty. Still, we head toward the end of the beach to avoid onlookers. It is very common to get stared at and have your picture taken when you’re a tourist in India, but if you’re a tourist in India wearing a BIKINI, all hell breaks loose, and the video cameras are out. It’s not exactly pleasant to have your fat, milky white thighs on a strange Indian man’s cellphone forever… or until he breaks it and gets a new one.

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A very nice old lady with a big bucket on her head stops by and offers us various fruits, like mangos, papayas and coconuts. I have always wanted to drink out of a coconut, so she hands me one with a long red straw, along with a smaller coconut to eat. This is just amazing, soaking up the sun and overdosing on coconuts!

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After a few hours of tanning, throwing sand at each other and crashing into the huge waves, we go back for a shower and some lunch at The Mango Tree. Being out in the sun always gets me so light headed and tired, so we take a short nap before going back to the common room. We’re leaving tomorrow, so we need to figure out our next step. After that and a meeting with a travel agent on the other side of the road, we grab dinner at – drum roll – The Mango Tree (surprise, surprise) with Selina and a guy named Tal. We have a pretty amazing feast of fried rice with eggs and a thai dish of vegetables, walnuts and almonds. So much yum. With full stomachs we join the circle of people on pillows at the hostel, where drinks, beers and joints were passed around – we thanked no to one of these, but we wont tell you which one it was ;-)

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Will you look at this trippy panorama I took!?

It’s around 1.00 and it’s time for bed. I am exhausted.

Several hours later, I wake up with the worst sunburn. I am one huge sensitive lobster – but the worst part is my back. At this point, I could just go to The Pink Palace and stand with my face to the wall and no one would notice me.

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We pack our stuff and meet with a travel agent across the street to get some bus tickets for our next three destinations. In India, a travel agent is just really the way to go. But always go to more than one before booking anything, as one might tell you there are no available busses or trains to your desired destination, or they could overcharge you. a lot. We end up going back there three times before actually getting our tickets, due to whatever reason there could possibly be. It’s not too much trouble though, as we can spend more time in the common room with our friends. One guy from New Zealand is sitting in a hammock and playing the ukulele – or, at least trying to. Tal is offering me his jar of Nivea creme for men for my sunburn. There is just a good vibe and nice people, and it’s hard to leave.

In the taxi from the airport to Vagator, we met two American girls who were going to Arambol. They let us take a few pictures of their Lonely Planet, and painted a lovely picture of the place they were going to, so we decided to give it a try.

At 1.30 we get in a taxi and head to Arambol – it’s only 600 rupees. We are dropped off at the end of a looong bazar, and at the end of that, there is an even longer walk with our backpacks through the beach, another bazar and then a few huts. It has been the worst hike of my life – so far. We arrive at Ludu’s Guest House, and a man shows up out of nowhere and shows us a room and that’s it – no reception, no money, no check-in. It’s a bit shady, but whatever. We just lock our bags to the windows to be extra safe, and we head out to explore the shops – of course, we spend way too many rupees. This place has so many shops full of everything that a hippie could ever want, so of course Arambol is filled with white people with dreadlocks, stretches and wifebeaters with Ganesh printed on them. They’re all probably into yoga, too.

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We’re about to go find some dinner. It’s funny, but we almost have to force down our three meals a day. It might be the heat, it might be the food, or it might be the fact that we are too busy, but we only feel hunger in small waves, and quickly get over it. We rarely finish our food, unless it’s something familiar and bland, like a vegetarian burger or pizza. Indian food is just not for us, I guess.

Well, off to find something edible we go. Right now, I’m blogging from our balcony at Ludu’s Guest House, watching the waves hit the cliffs underneath us while the sun sets. This is life.

 

 

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Goan at it in Goa – part I

Check out at hostel in Delhi. Go to Delhi Airport. Fly to Goa. Share a cab to Vagator Beach with some fellow backpackers. Get lost on our way to the hostel. Find hostel, which is full of young people, just staring at your red sweaty face. Drop new expensive camera and therefore break it. Look for new chargers for computer online, and fail. Get mad. Have a fight. Go to bed. Discover a gecko in the room. Name him Fredo. That pretty much sums up our day. Needless to say, it has sucked.

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Dat cute charge tho

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This should be a sign that you’re heading in the wrong direction, and into a poor neighbourhood. We were sooo sure this was the way to the hostel.

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I obviously cannot get over this whole cow thing

We wake up the next day with an entirely different attutide, though – it must have been because we’ve had an amazing nights sleep. Our hostel, The Jungle Hostel, is very tiny and modest, but it’s full of young people, who sit barefoot on pillows in the common area with a beer in hand all day and night long. It’s just so cozy.

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The main hang-out area, with pillows and sitting hammocks

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Sitting hammock and 50 rupee Kingfisher beer? This is the life

Breakfast is included, so we start off the day by going into the kitchen and grab some toast with jam and butter, and some mini bananas. The mission for today is to look for a charger for the computer in Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa). We get a taxi to the city center, which is also by the entrance of a big street market. While checking out the market, a young local woman follows us around. She seems very nice, and pretends to think Sara has Indian roots. What it all comes down to is that she wants us to check out her shop. I end up buying some toe rings and a scarf, which is way too expensive. We continue our mission to find the charger by visiting dodgy shop after office that sells electronics after dodgy shop, with no luck. Someone suggests we go to Panaji, so we get on a Tuk Tuk. After almost finding the right charger, we decide to go to lunch at a very local place, as in no one here understands english. We have to just point at random dishes and hope for the best. We end up being fairly satisfied with our choices, except we really need to get used to how spicy the food is everywhere.

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There is some garlic naan, fried rice with vegetables and some sort of spinach puree with paneer up in here.

We finally conclude that our mission is impossible, and give up on the whole charger treasure hunt. Back at the hostel in Vagator, we start talking to a few German girls, and even go shopping at the little stalls on the streets with one of them, Gül. I need to get me some India pants! Gül is an amazing negotiator, and thanks to her, we save a lot of rupees on our purchases. We walk back to the hostel together, and I suggest to her and her friend that we get some seafood and then have a bonfire on the beach (see my bucket list). All 6 of us have dinner and drinks at Tin Tin (yes, that cartoon guy), which is a really nice restaurant.

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Gül, Saskia, Selina and Angi

After dinner, we all head for the beach along with our roomate, Jonas, and 12 beers, rosé wine and marshmallows! We pick up some wood and branches on our way, to the amusement of some locals. An old Indian lady starts grabbing branches and hands them to us and I could just die. She’s so cute.

We find a spot on the beach that is as far away from the restaurants as possible. Saskia and Jonas are skilled fire-makers, so we leave it to them to start this thing. A group of people join us, and we all sit and enjoy the big, warm fire with our beers, rosé wine and roasted marshmallows. Even though we have a lot of wood, we constantly have to split up in groups to go look for more in the grassier areas, bringing our flashlights. As the fire is dying, the wood group comes back and lets us know that a lifeguard saw the fire from his tower (what is he doing there in the middle of the night?), and apparently what we’re doing isn’t exactly legal. So we let the flames die, and we head back to the hostel.

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Safe Delhi-very

We didn’t sleep too well last night. A few horrifying screams from the bazaar outside woke us up. My legs are red, itchy and bumpy, and it’s probably from those bed bugs Sara was on about. We had to get the receptionist to get the lights to work again, and to ask for some warm water. This is how you take a bath here:

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Complimentary breakfast. I am falling in love with masala chai.

At this point, we don’t really want to go out and be scared and stared at, but we do have to go do something with our day, at least eat some food. We pack a few rupees each and my iPhone. Right outside our hostel is the main bazar – something we apparently weren’t aware of until we step out of the alley that was so dark and creepy a few hours earlier – and it’s super busy, crowded and aggressive – it’s scary. A few months before we ended up on this very bazar, a Danish woman was raped here. People are staring at us, yelling and honking because we are in the way no matter where we are, and some guys even follow us a little bit. Suddenly my entire right side is wet – someone has thrown a bucket of water on me. I much later realise that it was probably unintentional – people often throw buckets of water on the drying streets – but as I look down on my bright red tunic and my 40 denier tights that are drenched in water, I feel as if I have offended a lot of people by dressing this provocative – and it’s the most modest thing in my backpack!

A bit away from all the noise and people, we find a fast food place that seems busy and filled with locals. That’s usually a good sign, so we go in. At this point though, all the people and the business of the place are making me feel very anxious. I don’t want to be stared at anymore, and especially not when I have no idea what I am doing. What are all these things on the menu? Where can we sit? How do you even order? I get it together, and we end up having a Chinese platter, out of all things. Our first meal in India is Chinese! And it is beyond spicy! We can’t even eat more than like 1/3 of the whole thing.

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We study our map with great frustration, and end up asking two young girls at the table next to us to point out our location on the map. Then we head out to find some things that are worth to look at. We meet several guys that walk besides us, asking about us and giving us advice. While this is certainly nice of them, these men are strangers, and the warnings and bad stories we have been offered prior to coming here, are constantly in the back of our minds. We try to ignore them as much as we can, and never reveal anything truthful about us, just to give ourselves a sense of protection. We end up having this whole story made up – we’re sisters-in-law from Norway, who are going to meet up with our husbands in Southern India.

While trying to find our way to the temple Laxmi Narayan Birla Mandir, I not only step in dog poo, we also meet Naresh, a very helpful guy studying in Delhi. He takes us some of the way and says he hopes to meet us later.

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Beautiful place, unfortunately photography isn’t allowed inside.

We go to our very first temple. It is beautiful, but odd. For one, I am not used to walking around barefoot in public. Witnessing religious acts like praying also make me super uncomfortable, especially as I have no idea how to behave around a man on his knees. Do I avoid the entire room he is in so I wont disturb him?

On our way back, we run into Naresh again. He is telling us that getting some traditional Indian clothes will be a good idea, and we agree. He then takes us to a “hard to find” factory with Indian clothing by the RK Ashram Mark metro station. It is a small alley that leads to a tiny, dirty street full of buildings that are probably shops just like the one we walk into. An older Indian woman welcomes us, sits us down on a comfortable bench and offers us masala chai and cold water. She is very nice, asks us what we’re looking for, and has her young assistants pulling out one beautiful piece of fabric after another. We decide on a few pieces, and she sends us and some young girls into her office, where we can try them on. We absolutely have to come out after every wardrobe change, so everyone can see and compliment us. At one point, I am trying on a Punjabi dress that Sara has just worn, and the older woman isn’t afraid to tell me she doesn’t think it’s my color. Well, at least she’s being honest.

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Naresh claims that it is much cheaper to buy clothes at a local factory rather than in a fancy store, which is the reason we’ve followed him this far, but I end up spending 7500 rupees on a purple Punjabi dress and a red sari (just the shawl though)! It has been a great experience though, and I even learned how to do the sari.

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Naresh – who patiently has been waiting for us this whole time! – calls his uncle who is a Tuk Tuk driver and takes us to India Gate and the President’s House. His “uncle” is also super nice, and they give us plenty of advice on safety, saving money, culture etc. Of course I don’t remember anything well enough to pass on to you guys, sorry. What is really cool about this ride around Delhi to see the sights, is that we see monkeys running around in the streets, and bats hanging in the trees – all this is just like one giant casual zoo. An expensive one to get into, may I add.

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As the sun is setting, and we are too paranoid to stay out after dark in this mad city, we need to find some dinner and get back to the hostel. Naresh recommends a local vegetarian restaurant, and takes us there to get a thali plate to go for 120 rupees each. We offer Naresh some too as a thanks, but he declines. With our white bags of food, we get dropped off by the alley to our hostel, and we tip the “uncle” 200 rupees. As we hand over 500 rps to Naresh as thanks, he yet again declines, saying “then we wouldn’t be friends, and I wouldn’t be happy“, even though he had earlier joked that he’d rather have money than dinner when we offered. We go to our room and have our first Indian meal in India – amazing, dirt cheap thali:

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Super photogenic food

What started as a scary trip to see a temple ended up being a great experience. We have new, India-appropriate clothes, we’ve seen monuments and buildings we wouldn’t have bothered to go see otherwise, and we met a great tuk tuk driver and Naresh, who made us feel safer and a lot less lost. Thank you Naresh!

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Next stop, Goa!