My experience of Hampi was a weird one. There’s no denying Hampi and the surrounding area is beautiful, with plenty of temples and bouldering sights to explore. The atmosphere is chilled with a hippie backpacker vibe and although it was off season I still managed to make a few friends. Hampi was everything people had raved about apart from one thing. The local hospitality.
Across all of India and in fact all of my travels, I have never experienced such rudeness from local people. It was as if no one wanted us there and I received not a single smile from those working in the guesthouses, shops and restaurants. I felt like I was continuously being ripped off and it wasn’t just me, every single traveller I met said the same.
I do feel as if I am having a slightly different “Indian experience” to my brother Hugo who has also noticed that people address me in a different way. Talking with my new female friends, all solo travellers, I learnt that they too have had the same experience and I am wondering whether it is because I am a woman and one certainly not adhering to the cultural norms. I dress moderately and respect the culture but I often take charge when organising a place to eat or sleep, I am not afraid to do things alone and I will stand my ground if I’m being ripped off.
My first day in Hampi was spent relaxing in the river with some new friends I met at the guesthouse. It was tricky to find a spot where local men don’t perv and impossible to find a spot unreachable to beggars but it was a refreshing break from the midday sun. Starving after our swim we ordered food at our guesthouse, Funky Monkey. After waiting a long two and a half hours for our food to be served, Hugo got up to have a word. We’re not ones to complain and have come to expect the long wait with food in Asia (everything is made by hand – a bonus if you ask me) but this was getting ridiculous and I was HANGRY.
By the time we got our food three of the six orders were wrong and our meals was so over-seasoned we could barely eat it. One girl ordered a spinach pizza and another a spinach lasagne and they gave us two lasagnes because they couldn’t be bothered to make the pizza and it was easier to make two lasagnes. My “tuna salad with no potato or dressing” turned out to be a potato salad smothered in dressing.
In another restaurant up the road, me and the girls waited over an hour for a “Greek salad” which turned out to be a plate of raw green pepper and carrot topped with a plastic cheese slice. My friend who can’t eat dairy was served butter-fried chips and cheese and mayo on her burger which came between two slices of sweet white bread. It was so shocking I had to laugh.
I stupidly lost my room key, which seems to be a reoccurring event on this trip. I was more than happy to pay for a new lock but I needed to get into the room so I asked for the spare key. The manager told me to wait two hours until his boss arrived which was fine. Three hours later and I asked again. “Ten minutes, ten minutes”. Another hour later and this time when I asked, he pulled the key box from under the desk, which had been there all along. I couldn’t believe it when he handed me a box full of hundreds of small identical keys and said “it’s in there“.
Maybe because it was the end of the season and everyone was tired, made their money and a bit fed up of tourists by now, but it seemed like no one could be bothered to provide the service which they advertised (serving food, taking people across by boat, changing bed sheets etc). Every restaurant had just a few things on the menu and those items which we could order were missing many of the key ingredients.
The lazy curse of Hampi had obviously spread because I only managed to visit one of the many amazing temples around the area. Firstly because I stayed on the other side of the river and the situation with the boat made it timely to go back and forth and secondly it was now nearing midday (scorching) after my river crossing ordeal (read about it here). The temples were beautiful and really rather interesting with many locals queueing up to walk through various doors where they would splash some holy water on their face and pay some money into a box. There was also an elephant but a hefty “white tax” camera fee for tourists which I’m pretty certain was just made up on the spot.
Sunset over Hampi was mesmerising and so romantic if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s worth exploring the area by bike and trying your hands at some climbing too. If you’re planning a visit to Hampi then I recommend a small place known as Smily’s – he was a lovely guy and his homemade food reasonably priced. I had a great two days in Hampi, a well needed rest off the bike and a fun time with new friends. Yes the locals were lazy but so was I and you shouldn’t let my experience put you off. I’m hoping I just caught Hampi at the wrong time.