The Void

Suppose I wrote a song of the universe,
each word for a galaxy, music as grand as the ages,
and every pause a breath a different life-form takes.
Suppose I sing it in a secluded corner of an unknown planet.

The song takes birth, stretches and spreads across the heavens.
Like water flowing into an empty bowl, like air sucked
into vacuum, it flies to places far, to beings unheard
and through black holes to all time streams.

In that single moment it is sung in galaxies galore and days
past and yet to come, and the entire universe reverberates.
So that in a single instance it truly becomes
the song of the universe.

The song in that moment I would give
to you so you won’t feel empty anymore.

The Greens and The Grays of Salzburg

The impression I went with to Salzburg was that of a mini-Vienna, a bit more beautiful, a bit less inclined towards music (what with the absence of any Opera house) and a bit more closer to Mozart. And boy, was I wrong. Salzburg is so beautiful that it becomes difficult to even start writing about it.. Going with low or ground to earth expectations of a city is usually a good strategy, but with Salzburg I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered. When I look back, this is what I remember the most.

The view from Salzburg Fort

What you define as the best view is highly subjective to your own personal preferences. I usually like views that are a bit closer to the city, not at too much height. Rather than a top view where most of the architecture is reduced to menial spots of barely recognizable color, I like a lateral view that allows you to look at spires, and sometimes even throngs of people roaming around. And the winner for that among the free views in Salzburg is the fort! Or more accurately, the view just before the entrance to the fort, just at the right height. You can climb to the top for free, it is the entrance to the fort that requires a fees. There is also a funicular that runs to the top with a fee of euro 2. But really, the climb is not very difficult.

We lost count of how many hours we spent here

Another interesting hike is Kapuzinerberg. The deal with the hike is that there are a number of paths through the hill and all of them have a different view, so you’ll be taking on some risk in the degree of picturesque your pick is. Just don’t take the white path shown on google maps by default, as it has the least views with a very steep climb. I would advise going on the trek only if you have a lot of time in Salzburg. It takes at most 3 hours and there is a restaurant at top which is open till 5 pm and feels very relaxing after the hike.

View on the way  to the top
I also got to see a dandelion.. !

A Day Trip to St. Wolfgang

Hands down the best day trip from Salzburg. The town is absolutely charming and peaceful. You don’t really need to take the guided tours. I’m not a huge fan of these as they do not give you time to explore the town at your own pace. There is a bus that goes directly to St Gilgen (bus 150). It leaves every half an hour.

If you go during summers, you can take a ferry ride from St Gilgen to St. Wolfgang. It costs euro 20 for a day trip and euro 13.5 for a return trip between St. Wolfgang and St Gilgen. The benefit of the day trip is that it allows access to another town Strobl from St. Wolfgang. St. Wolfgang, from where Mozart’s mother hails, is a quaint little town with beautiful views of the lake, a market with shops selling handmade marmalade, punch and soaps, and scenic restaurants and cafes.

The last ferry from Strobl leaves at 16:20. So you need to leave Salzburg early. Infact if you’re early enough, you can go to both St. Wolfgang and Hallstatt in the same day. To get to Hallstatt, you need to get to Bad Ischl through bus 150 and then take a train to Hallstatt. The total journey from Salzburg to Hallstatt takes 2.5 hours. So you need to leave Salzburg really early (say at 7) to do both. I thought it would be too hectic, so just went till St Gilgen and Wolfsgang to have a leisurely day.

If you go in the winter months, you might find the entire lake frozen and being used for ice skating!

 

Music!

You can’t go wrong with music in Salzburg. Concerts are in abundance and of good quality. I really liked the Mirabell Concert. It is held in the Mirabell Palace which gives a unique touch to the concert. The capacity of the hall being around 100 people, it doesn’t feel very crowded either. The tickets can be bought at any tourist information center. On a weekend, they may get sold out early so it’s good to book in advance.

The concert aside, if you grab a bench in Mozartplatz in the evening, and you’re lucky, you might be the audience of an occasional street performer. Not an authentic experience, but immensely enjoyable, and costing as much as you think it is worth.

 

When I think of Salzburg, I remember the greens and the grays of the paths and the river. Among all these the pedestrian bridge laden with locks would shine like stars suspended in sunlight. There I was, in the old town market eating a frozen yogurt or buying vegan candies or looking at weird sculptures, or lounging beside the river on a clear day, or gazing at the breathtaking architecture of Salzburg Cathedral. And it was green and pretty and relaxing till the end.

If you’re going to Austria or anywhere near, Salzburg is a must.

Humor despite war – Persepolis | Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is an autobiographical depiction of Marjane Satrapi’s life in Iran in the late 1900s. At the time, Iran was fraught with internal conflicts and external influence – a rebellion against the reigning Shah in 1979 followed by the war with Iraq, all of which resulted in Iran becoming a theocratic nation today, governed strictly under the rules of Islam.

Into a country where all kinds of media or potential influences against Islam go  through strict scrutiny, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a one-sided glass window. It lets the outside world peek into the life of Iranians at the time, particularly the author’s own life. The book is divided into two parts. The Story of a Childhood is about a young Marjane Satrapi who grows up in Iran when it was rebelling against its monarchy. The Story of a Return deals with a mix of teenage confusion and the sudden need for Western assimilation that she is suddenly faced with.

It is no doubt that what first draws any reader to Persepolis is the lure of a glimpse into life in Iran, a working model of a theocratic nation. What makes them stay is the endearing way that Satrapi honestly tells her story – all her mistakes and decisions and conflicts – her growth from being an all-knowing kid who boasted about her uncle’s torturous treatment in prison to a girl who tries to find her identity in a foreign nation while being emotionally stuck in her own country.

In a way, Persepolis takes Haruki Murakami’s quote and flips it over:

In the midst of [death], everything revolved around [life].

The most wonderful thing about the book is how light-hearted it remains despite being engulfed in war. Maybe it was a recollection of Satrapi being a child, thus being protected by her parents. Or it might have been a reflection of her personality – her rebellious side and her natural nonchalance – as described by one of her friends; the kind of personality people might silently evolve into to hold their own against an oppressive regime.

Despite high expectations, Satrapi has a way of making you fall in pace with herself. The smooth transitions between storytelling and narration makes it feel like you’re having a tete-a-tete with her. It also helps that she provides an unbiased and in-depth analysis of her own life. So when the gravity of her worries shift from the latest bombing to friends she feels alienated from, you understand the transition completely while still wondering at the extremities. You can see all the factors going into creating and re-shaping her personality – her nation’s political situation, her cross-culture exposure, her education, reading and the unconditional support of her parents. All things aside, Persepolis is also a shout-out to feminism, the urge of not conforming to society and continuing the journey to discover your identity. It is a reveling story illustrated such that the images will keep coming back to you for a long time.

 

HEADS-UP

If you’re not used to reading comics, you can still pick this up. But give yourself some room to adjust to the form of representation and don’t hurry yourself. While people say it easy to read comics, I feel the best illustrated ones are usually a tad more tedious to read than regular novels, because there is so much more information flowing into the brain. In the end, it will definitely be worth it.

 

QUOTES/PANELS

 

Musical Stories Spellbindingly Narrated – Nocturnes | Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Short Stories, Music

 

Kazuo Ishiguro is a name that has gained quite a lot of favor in the literary world recently owing to his Booker Prize winner – Never Let me Go. So it is of no surprise that when I spotted a hardcopy with a pretty cover and a tagline ‘Five Stories of Music and Nightfall’ authored by Kazuo Ishiguro, I instinctively picked it up.

Nocturnes is a collection of five short stories, spinning around music in Europe, nostalgically narrated and abruptly ended. I vaguely remember reading An Artist of the Floating World by Ishiguro, but these stories have a similar charm to them – a style that inexplicably weaves the reader into the narrator’s world.

A common thread across these stories is a love or pursuit of music and fame or the desire for recognition Then there are the troubled couples, lovers whom life has slowly clinched apart and those who are still inching closer and finding each other. But they only form a part of the story, a background tune. Rather, it’s the fleeting moments shared between strangers connected through music that form the chorus, with the impending goodbye as the crescendo.

In some ways, these stories are about travelling and meeting new people – who you never really know except in the few hours that they decide to spend with you. It’s about people who you wish you could have known better or people that bring out a different side to you – sometimes they are inviting and mysterious like a tune you can’t get out of your head, and then, as suddenly as they appeared, they disappear and become another of those strangers you might catch a glimpse of from afar.

Nocturnes builds up a rhythm of its own. It has the kind of stories you would exchange with unfamiliar faces across a campfire, a bit to impress but really to avoid forgetting them yourself. These are stories that don’t necessarily lead to a well-formed ending but have still somehow stayed with the narrator all along – eternal mysteries wrapped around quirks in a stranger’s behavior.

The book is a light read that draws you in and shows you the colorful, vibrant and nostalgic world of a stray musician – full of lies and dreams. Even if you’re not the short story kind, if you’re looking for a change of pace and love music enough to experiment with it, Nocturnes is definitely a go-ahead. And if you’ve read anything else by Ishiguro, I wouldn’t mind a recommendation myself.

P.S. This was slow in coming to me but I finally remember why the title sounds strangely familiar. Think Neil Gaiman and his graphic novel Sandman – no wonder then that this nocturnes has a dream-like aura itself!

 

What I Miss Most about Japan

Japan can be a wonderful delight of authentic and new experiences hard to replicate anywhere else. I stayed there for two months and still feel I have not seen enough. Nevertheless, I do believe I’ve had my share of moments which will last me a lifetime, or till I next visit the country at least. So here’s the best.

1. Relaxing in an Onsen and Staying in a Ryokan

A.K.A Hot springs. And a natural follow up to that is staying in a ryokan, traditional Japanese inns. I wasn’t gutsy enough to go to a public onsen but it was so completely relaxing that I can’t begin to describe it. And add to that the entire experience of staying in a ryokan, roaming around in the yukata and sleeping on a futon with straw mats (tatami) flooring all amidst the mountains of rural Japan. Pure Bliss. Even if you’re traveling to Japan in the summer months, you can still enjoy an onsen if you go to Hokkaido or the Japanese Alps!

 

2. Experiencing the (semi-) rural part of Japan

I ended up in Takayama for three days – one at the ryokan, one in Takayama center and one at Shirakawa go. The entire trip was chockful of firsts – my first time seeing snow & snowfall (courtesy of Shirakawago), the onsen which was a unique experience of its own and seeing the Japanese alps first hand. Even though it’s (sort-of) a village, there is so much in and around the city – a morning market along the banks of the Miyagawa river, Takayama old street, 60 year old huts in the Gassho Zukuri style, a Japanese eatery run by an old couple that serves vegetarian food and of course, shrines. When planning my trip, I had to choose between Takayama and the Fuji Five lakes but Takayama did not give me any time to think about what I might be missing. And if you add the white of the snow to the color palette, it was picture perfect.

3. Visiting a Temple Market

I was fairly lucky in the timing of my visit to Kyoto. There’s a flea market happening there at the Toji Temple on the 21st of every month, fill to the brim with the all-too-familiar Japanese crowd. And so much fun – there was food, kimono and all kinds of artefacts on sale. Though the experience was quite different from urban Japanese places, I found that walking the streets of Kappabashi, Tokyo, gave me a similar feeling (you’ll find katana and ceramic shops there instead of kimono ones which I personally find to be an acceptable trade).

4. Enjoying the season

I went around Japan when fall was in full phase, and that was a treat in itself. Then there is the cherry blossom season, which will be good eye candy too (or so the pictures tell me, never having seen it for myself). But even if your visit does not match a particular season, Japan has a number of festivals celebrating the coming and going of different seasons. The ones I’m most excited about are Wakakusa Yamayaki where they set Mount Mikasa, the entire mountain in Nara, alight; Sapporo snow festival in January/February which sports huge snow sculptures of different things (even Dearth Vader’s head); the festival float display at the Takayama festival both in spring and autumn. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see any of these first hand, but it’s definitely on my to do list.  Another thing I’d recommend, especially during fall, is taking a walk around either Koyasan or Kurama Mountain (rail connectivity from Kyoto). Most of these look beautiful during autumn.

My best memories from the winters spent in Tokyo are of the splendid lights. A number of places put up winter illuminations which are breathtakingly beautiful. Not all of them are worth travelling a large distance, I’d say. But if there’s time to spare, they can be quite rewarding. There’s the Caretta Shiodome in Tokyo, Nabana no Sato and small light-ups near most of the major subway stations.

5. Souvenir shopping and Anime stuff!

Anime MerchandiseDo I need say more? There is the One Piece Museum in Tokyo Tower, J-World in Tokyo, the anime themed rides in Disneyland and the Studio Ghibli Park. All of them can be amazing/meh depending on which fandom you belong to. But if you chose the right ones, you’ll sure as hell have a good time.

And then there is merch shopping in Akihabara. There is a flea market in Akihabara as well which sells anime merchandise at unbelievably low prices. And all of the multi storey Animate where you can just go and get lost.       

I have no estimate of how much time I spent looking for affordable rates for stuff I had to buy – some were necessities like overcoats and other things required for my mental satisfaction, like a kimono, which I know I will not wear in my life ever, but still needed to buy just for the sake of it. Now Japan has a huge number of stores for buying second hand items, most of them in really good condition, even in some of the branded showrooms. And then there are the never-ending strangely animal themed souvenirs. 

6. Watching the Tea Ceremony and Bunraku Theater

Or just getting a taste of macha in a traditional surrounding. I attended this twice. Once was a tea ceremony held by the Tea club in my college. They even taught us how to whisk macha ourselves and I just couldn’t get it right! This was where I got to see the complete tea ceremony (while having to sit on my toes for the entire duration).

The second time was when I went to visit a temple in Kyoto, where I got to see the Zen garden, do a bit of meditation and was invited to sit and sip green tea. No ceremony here, but the matcha was still wonderful.

I wasn’t able to see a Kabuki performance, but did manage to catch a Bunraku show (Puppet Theater). The puppets are around three-fourths the height of an average person and it requires three people to control one puppet – very different from the string puppet shows I’ve seen in Rajasthan. It was a pretty unique experience! There are national theaters in both Osaka and Tokyo which regularly stage Bunraku and Kabuki shows.

7. Taking a random walk to find hidden streets

The best part about Japan is, the country feels completely safe – even if you’re a girl walking alone in a street halfway through the night. I don’t remember many incidents where I felt unsafe no matter what the time of the day (or night). What this means is an endless possibility to explore. Rather than looking for destinations on google maps, I found myself choosing streets and areas and scouring through them at my leisure. With the land beneath my feet being Japan, there wasn’t much room for disappointment. More about Walking around in Osaka.

As much as I’d like to say that’s all, Japan has so much going on that the list may just never end. One thing which would be on many’s list will be food. Being a vegetarian, most of my survival in Japan was through Ice Cream (and bread), so won’t be much of a help there. What are the experiences you look forward to the most in your trip to Japan?

Fall Splendor at Koyasan

Koyasan was another of those places which I pondered over a lot – whether it was worth it or not. There were a few places that I went to (like Nara) which were (almost) universally liked and touted about everywhere. But when I reached there, it didn’t feel like anything new or special. Maybe because being from India many (seemingly) Asian attractions are not anything extraordinary for me. But Koyasan boasted of something people in tropical countries are not very fortunate of seeing often – the autumn colours. So when our host in Osaka casually remarked that Koyasan would be a beautiful place to visit that time around (in November), that sealed the deal.

Because it was a sudden plan, I had not really done my homework when it came to the place. At Shin-Imamiya station, I came to know that the journey will be three way – train, cable car then bus.

Map from Namba/ Shin Imamiya to Koyasan

But at the Bus stop at Koya-San. I was totally at a loss of where to go. Thankfully, there was a very helpful (like most Japanese) person there, who with my broken Japanese and his handful English helped me figure out that Okukunoin is probably the best place to start.

A Train Stop on the way to Koyasan
Cable Car stop at Koyasan

Now Okunoin is where Kukai, a sacred religious figure in Japan, is believed to be in eternal meditation. As you walk from the bus stop to the main worship hall, there are innumerous gravestones of people who wanted to be buried near Kukai. I don’t know the exact figure, but around 200,000 monks are buried in the area.

The Way to Okunoin
Graves like little houses for the gone, and they really had such personal touch

The walk feels both surreal and beautiful. And I stopped more than once to look at some of the graves wishing I could understand at least some of what was written on them.

This was almost cute(?)
A common stop. Praying meant offering water to all these idols. Time consuming, but somehow, fun

I came to know this later, but there are audio guides available for all of Koyasan at many tourist information centers and they do not cost much. One information center is at the entrance of Okunoin too and it’s better to get them if you do not have any guide. The entire mountain is very rich, culturally, and the guides may give you more to appreciate about it. In fact many of the graves had the guide markings on them and all of them was a reminder (for me) that how different the trip might have been with a guide.

Anyway. You don’t need a guide to appreciate nature. And Koyasan did not lack anywhere in natural beauty. It is visited aplenty by tourists too, mostly Japanese. And it is not unusual to spot an occasional monk going about his way.

There are many other historical places. They were not difficult to find. They’re highlighted in almost any map you come across (even bus route maps, so you’ll stumble onto them even if you’re not particularly headed there).

Other Tidbits

Koyasan is also known for its vegetarian meals – Shoujin Ryouri – as the cuisine is called. The monks here strictly follow a vegetarian diet. So need not to say, I was pretty excited about trying it out. I mean, it could be the only place in Japan where I could try out the local meal! So I asked at the tourist centre about a good place where I could get one, and as a good sign, the place even had a queue. When I finally got my order, it was…. actually not as good as I had hoped it would be. Either the restaurant was not as good, or (and I’m sorry if I sound obnoxious) Indians have a wider palate when it comes to vegetarian food. I’ll need some time to get use to the Japanese cuisine.

If you’re planning a long stay in Kyoto, I found Koyasan to be very similar to Kurama Mountain (and the Kibune shrine there). From June to September, the restaurants there build platforms on tiny waterfalls for customers to enjoy their cuisines while being closer to nature. This practice is called Kawadoko. More info here.

For me, Koyasan equates to the the beautiful colors and the mystical feeling in Okunoin. If you’re someone more accustomed to autumn in its splendour, it may not hold much of wonder. But if you’re not, the place may just make you fall in love with the season. Read about my trip to Osaka.

 

 

 

A Treat of a Book – A Man Called Ove | Fredrik Backman

 


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Genres: 
Fiction, Contemporary, Slice of Life

 

Let me start with this fact.
One of the major characters in this book is a cat and Ove (the grumpy old man who’s the lead, as is evident from the title) has a name for said cat.
There. For those who find this information enough, I wish you pleasant reading as you make your way to your favorite bookstore to get a copy.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to present a better case for why this books is hands-down the sweetest book I’ve ever read. This is a book that restored my trust in humanity. No kidding. It’s not to be read for some thrilling plot or an edge-of-a-cliff storyline, but to explore the characters and know more about them with every turn of the page. And even though the story is as everyday as it gets, you’ll still find yourself surprised by the small connections and the small moments that inevitably strike a chord in your heart.

Then there is the viewpoint of Ove – an old, painfully righteous, man living alone. Ove, as the book itself puts, is the type of person you just don’t find in the world anymore, except in the grandfather age generation, maybe; the type that will find a nasty way of saying the nicest things; the type that are completely misunderstood despite meaning so well; the type that find that easily get irritated but still go out of their way to help others; the type that will never accept that they mean well even if you tie them to a railway line and threaten their lives. And that gives a completely fresh and unique perspective to the story.

Reading ‘A man called Ove’ is like returning to your home at the end of a tiring day and finding your loved ones sitting at the dinner table waiting for you, Imagine that feeling and multiply it with the number of chapters in the book, and that might give an estimation of how I felt about this book. This is how my thoughts went while reading it (in similar order):

#1
I swear this is a book about my grandfather

#2
Wait. Why am I relating so much to a grumpy old man who doesn’t like espresso machines?

#3
I wonder if all old people are like this.

#4
Awww….

 

Literally. This is how I felt at the end. I realized that there is as little we understand of the people we know as we are quick to form opinions about them. I started as the salesman at the electronic store who was ready to hand Ove the ‘Most Annoying Customer of the Day’ title and ended up as the kid who’d paint the entire world in monotone and just Ove in colour.

Reading this book is like loving someone, and as Sonja (Ove’s wife) puts it

“Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”

Backman has such a talent for putting feelings into words that it leaves you speechless. Like all your life, you’ve been wanting to say the same thing but didn’t know how. And he comes along and frames those thoughts into sentences more true and beautiful than poetry.

The humor is one thing I felt the writing fell short of. The prose is often interposed by lines of dry humor which barely draw a chuckle. Still, a bit of it can be justified by Ove’s character which might lean more towards humor of this kind. I chose to give Backman the benefit of doubt in this case because the writing and story is beyond such small tidbits.

If you like indie music and slice-of-life series; and your catchphrase is cut-the-drama, you’ll probably like ‘A man called Ove’. Even if it’s not and you’re looking for a slow read, I’ll highly recommend this.

Days Like These

On days when breathing is painful
When music on full cannot pull
my pitiful thoughts spinning in whirlpools
to a silent blissful cool;

On days when I can’t but hate
the trade offs in life I made
family for freedom, freedom for money,
money for travel, travel for stability;

On days I roam pretending I’ve grown
all worries in a messy bag thrown
in a corner of my mind I actively ignore
so I can feign normalcy against all truth known;

On days when I can’t love the sky,
whether the Sun shines or clouds float by
Even as it tries horizon to horizon spread so wide,
to comfort the eyes heedless of time;

On days I spin stories of distant glories
which color my life like a jar of candies
I keep held in my hand as the day dies
feeding on the little nuggets to help me survive;

On days I count focusing  my eyes
On my hand as I flip fingers to get to five
reasons that hold my life
hostage to none but the route I decide;

On days I feel how unfair
it is to have no one to blame
my hands fumble finding nothing to claim
except the helplessness that remains;

On days like these I find my truce
in saying life’s playing a fucked up tune
and when it switches to the next track
it better be a song after my own heart.

 

Rains, Ruins and Rice Fields

I went to Hampi with no plans at all. Zilch. It was a desperate get-out-of-the-city trip and Hampi had been on my list forever. When I mentioned it to the people around me, I got quite mixed reactions so I ended up booking a solo trip and boy, am I glad I did.

The weather was perfect! I would suggest rains as the season to go to Hampi as

  1. It’s not very crowded then
  2. The rains make everything look so much more fresh and green it’s mesmerizing

I did a one day trip to the place. So it got very tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the trip to bits. It is one of the best I’ve ever done. And not the tick off your checklist kind of trip, not even close. It actually ended up being a fresher experience than many of the slow trips I’ve done before. I would still suggest a two/three day trip – just so it doesn’t feel like a marathon. On my day in Hampi, I cycled 5 odd kilometres, climbed two hills (one of them twice owing to my stupidi miscalculation), and walked around still more. The next day I found myself so beat, I laid in my bed doing nothing. The same can be done over two/three days, and you’d get to interact more with the awesome travel community in Hampi.

IMG_20170819_082357

And what a community it is. The hub is a restaurant – Mango Tree. It is a sweet, leisurely shack with really good food. To top it off, they have floor seating with just the right amount of cushioning. It’s hard to pin-point why I preferred going to that place every time – the food, the relaxing seating or the random traveler you’ll inevitably run into. I met two Germans who were roaming around in India for the past few weeks and ended up spending half of my day with them. At dinner I ran into a girl from the states who’d been travelling between India and Thailand teaching yoga. Two other travelers joined us while we were talking and we ended up playing cards for the evening, I also got travelling advice from one of them. Imagine me, an Indian, getting coached on what to see in Hampi, by a German. And it is this advice that led me to cross the river and into the rice fields – so I am eternally grateful.

The major ruins of Hampi are on one side of the Tumgabhadra river. A motorboat and Coracle (which is just a fancy word for a large sturdy basket) is employed by the locals to help people cross the river if they feel like seeing the other side as well. I was drifted across in a coracle. I talked to the guy and he agreed to take me sightseeing on the makeshift dinghy. The ride was very serene and roller-coasterish, because when we reached a shallow end of the river, the guy spun the coracle around in fast circles. Such fun! The entire ride was fifteen minutes but the experience was so surreal, it felt worth it.

Coracle at the base of Tungabhadra River

On the other side of the river, they have scooties and mopeds for rent. I got one and drove it to the Hanuman temple (also called Monkey Temple) which was a cool vantage point with around 550 step climb.

View from Hanuman Temple

But more than the temple, it was the ride – scootering among paddy fields, with the wind roaring in my ears and the occasional splatter of rain – which I absolutely enjoyed. I’d never imagined rice could be this beautiful and green..! I feel that a trip to the other side of Tungabhadra is a must for all travelers in Hampi, especially for those who’ve never seen rice fields before.

Paddy Fields
Views while Scootering

As for the ruins of Hampi, I joined a guided cycling tour which I happened to run into. The half day tour included cycling to the major archaeological sites and temples with some background information from the guide. The guide, Hanuman, was very patient with our questions and helped cover more sites in greater detail than I could have by myself.

Ruins at Hampi
Walking Views
The Zenana
Step Well

Hampi is one of those places where I feel lucky to have gone. I’d geared up for encountering stories of the land and its history. Little did I know that I would end up finding such colorful people, serene nature and create stories of my own.