Portal for offbeat places – namastay.in

Namastay.in is a webportal for searching/booking accommodation at off beat places – like homestays, guesthouses, resorts etc anywhere in India. The portal has very good number of listings and has detailed reviews of all the listings. The highlight of this portal is probably the video clippings of the home stays/resorts/guest houses etc. Very innovative and very useful.

I first saw a print advertisement of namastay.in portal on Corner House in Koramangala. I was mighty impressed by the poster. I visited the portal as soon as I came back home. Alas, the website was down. I tried multiple times the next day and every time it was down.  A very bad thing to happen for some one who is spending money in advertising thier website. May be the money should first be invested in proper web hosting provider.

Any way, after repeated attempts one fine day, I was able to access the website. It looked sleek. But felt that the landing page seems too simple.  There is no link for even registering one self. There is only a “sign in” link and it does not even tell how to register. Looks like the registration is possible only at the time of payment (not sure as I did not attempt any payment).

Overall, a very useful portal, except that the landing page can have more content and site map can be made slightly better from usability perspective.

I read at http://www.metacafe.com/channels/namastay.in/ that, Ashish Mehra and Rekha Goyal, folks who started this are able to sustain themselves with this!

I am really happy to learn that and it only gives me inspiration to start doing something I am more passionate about, than spend entire life in a full time job.

Hampi – Glimpse of a bygone splendid era

I drove to Hampi in Aug 2006 along with family over a 3-night 4-day long week end.  I have been longing to visit this place for quite some time and finally made it. Similarly, I have been longing to write a blog on the same since my visit – and finally found time 🙂

It is going to be an absolutely futile exercise by me to describe the Hampi experience as it can only be felt and can never really be described.

Instead, I will focus on the actual planning for the trip – which can help new visitors.

We started off on Day 1 around 7:00 AM from Bangalore and reached Hospet around 3:30 PM.  There was around 1 hour break in between for late break fast / early lunch @ Kamat Upachar near Sira. The road was not bad but gets narrower once you cross Chitra Durga. So, one has to slow down considerably. There were lots of windmills and sunflower farms we have seen on the way.

Hampi is around 13 km from Hospet. There is only one hotel worth mentioning in Hampi which run by state tourism division – Mayura Bhuvaneswari (Tel: 08394 – 41574). This is the hotel that is closest to the ruins and you can consider yourself lucky if you get a room to stay in this. Else, you will have to stay in Hospet. I stayed in Hospet @ Hotel Priyadarshini and shuttled every day to Hampi.

After check in and slight relaxation, we first went to Tungabhadra Dam. The dam was full at the time of our visit and we enjoyed the sight of water gushing ut with full force from the gates. There is a small garden/park from where one can see the other side of the dam filled with water. One has to walk quite a distance from where one parks the car to the dam gates.

Next, around 5:45pm, we started to Hampi. We were in a dilemma if we should visit Hampi next day morning, but decided to go ahead in the late evening itself to get an glimpse of what is in the offer. Just drove around the periphery and came back to hotel.

On Day 2, started off by 8:00 AM, went to Hampi, booked a guide who showed all places and explained significance of most places. Spent time till evening and returned to hotel. Significant time was spent @ Virupaksha tempe and Vitthala temple. One cannot help but wonder at the architectural marvel of Vitthala temple by looking at the stone chariot and the musical pillars.

Long pillared Ganesha Temple - Look at the length of pillars! - You can see Virupaksha temple tower in the background

Long pillared Ganesha Temple - Look at the length of pillars! - You can see Virupaksha temple tower in the background

Elephants Stable - If Elephants had such grand place to stay, what about the Royal family?

Elephants Stable - If Elephants had such grand place to stay, what about the Royal family?

On Day 3, woke up early by 5:00 AM, went to Hampi to climb Matunga hillock for a sunrise view. Unfortunately, there were too many clouds and the sunrise was not as spectacular as I anticipated, but the view of ruins from such height compensated the loss.

Arial view of Krishna Temple Ruins as seen from Matunga Hilltop

Arial view of Krishna Temple Ruins as seen from Matunga Hilltop

After that, we revisited some of the places like Hazare Rama temple, Mahanavami Dibba – the Royal Court, again at our own pace. One can only imagine how grand that place would have looked when the King Krishnadevaraya held the Court.

Carvings on Compound wall of Hazare Rama Temple

Carvings on Compound wall of Hazare Rama Temple

Towards the evening, we spent some quiet time at the twin stories overlooking the Virupaksha temple before signing off.

Twin Storied Ruins  - How long have they been standing like this!?

Twin Storied Ruins - How long have they been standing like this!?

On Day 4, had breakfast, checked out of hotel and started back to Bangalore around 9:30 AM. Reached Chitradurga around 12:00 noon. A pleasant surprise was waiting there. After seeing some sign boards of “Chitra Durga Fort”, we decided to pay a visit to that fort and what a treat it was! It was most spectacular fort I have ever visited. It is absolutely in perfect condition and one can clearly see how the fort walls protect the people inside. There is a gripping legend at the other end of fort of how one old woman killed an entire enemy army one by one. Caution: Take a guide with out fail and remember you need to really walk a lot. Please budget at least 3 hours to visit the entire fort. We reached there at noon and it was blazing sun. Had we known it, we could have timed it well. After the visit to fort, had late lunch in Chitradurga and drove back to Bangalore.

If you are like me, you would be visiting Hampi armed with information you would have gathered on Hampi after reading some books like Outlook Weekend Getaways, travelogues/blogs. So, you should have fair idea that Hampi is a heritage site, a ruined city, list of significant spots to visit etc. In case you are still wondering what to expect in Hampi  –  it is just rocks, rocks and more rocks – of various sizes from a pebble to mammoth boulders – there is little greenery in that area – only rocks fill the vastness – and if you have ear to hear – each rock has a story to tell about the glorious past, the architectural splendor, the grandeur of a by gone era.

Points to remember –

1. Note that Hampi is not a regular sight seeing trip – it is an experience to be cherished. It is really not fun – unless you have deep passion for emptiness, vastness, wilderness, ruins, a little bit of history and plenty of walking.

2. There are just too many points to be seen. As per ASI map, there are at least 83 points to be seen.

Hampi Sight Seeing Spots

Hampi Sight Seeing Spots

Hire a local guide on your first day who will show you most points of interest. Once you got a hang of the landscape, you can visit each point of your interest separately and enjoy at your own pace. To me, Hampi requires at least 5 days to do justice. But most people are not like me and can get easily bored with all the rocks and ruins. So, it is all your interest levels 🙂

3. Temperatures in Hampi can reach to very high levels and it is important to remember this while planning the day. It is usually best to visit Hampi from Oct-Feb timeframe when Sun is not blazing. Any case to beat the Sun, it is better to visit the points early in the day – say like 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM and then start again at 3:00pm to continue till late in the evening. Remember this land is barren and there is NO shade other than what the huge boulders can offer.

4. There are five hillocks surrounding Hampi. They are – Matunga, Anjeneya, Hemakuta, Malyavanta & Rishyamuka. Each one of them has a story behind it and associated legends with them. Remember to trek at least one of them – easiest one is Matunga for a sunrise or sunset. Be extra cautious and go in a group – NEVER venture alone to any of the hillocks. Malyavanta is the easiest to visit as you can drive till the hilltop!

5. Note that across the river Tungabhadra, opposite to Hampi, there is a site, Anegondi, with ruins – which was a part of Vijayanagara Empire. Access to this place is tricky, but do visit this place. Check with locals on how to reach Anegondi. It can be a simple caracole ride across the river at times. Some of the hillocks mentioned above can only be accessed from Anegondi.

6. There is an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) museum near the entrance to Hampi from Kamalapura side. It shows Hampi some 25 (?) years back and current state  – with photos of exactly the same locations from same view points. This indicates the work done ASI to restore this beauty. You will be amazed to see how perfectly ASI excavated and restored the bathing area/water tank near the Mahanavami Dibba. It was covered under ruins till few years back and with out ASI’s work, one would have never known this marvel.

7. There are quite a few monkeys around and they can pose danger if you are not cautious.

8. It is best to drive around in your own vehicle to visit the places. Though bicycles are availale for rent, it can be very daunting to cycle the vast area.

9. Food options are pretty limited. You get some basic stuff like dosa/puri/omlette near the small bazaar outside Virupaksha temple. For lunch, be sure to visit the restaurant at Mayura Bhuvaneswari (near Kamalanagar entrance).

10. Hampi is a photographer’s paradise. Be sure to take lots of rolls/memory cards. Camera can be taken freely to most places (except inside the functional temples) and video can be shot free for all non-commercial uses. There are not many areas in Hampi where you can upload photos. Even if you find one, internet speed will be a issue. It is better to carry extra memory cards (or your laptop to download the photos). Most places do not allow tripods.

Legends of Hampi:

1. It is said that Hampi is same place as what was mentioned as “Kishkindha” – the monkey kingdom of epic Ramayana. Rishyamuka hillock is where Lord Rama met Hanuman – when Rama was searching for Sita in forests. Anjaneya hillock is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman.

2. It is said that the Sultans who finally conquered Hampi had spent 6 months to loot the wealth of Hampi and the killing of people was so brutal that river Tungabhadra was flowing in red color for few months. This has prompted people never to return to Hampi again thus ruining the city forever.

Bay of Bengal

Posted in blog city on January 13th 2004  

This is turning out to be the most relaxing vacation I ever had, barring the flu I am having at present. It is only the second time ever since I was introduced to email that I am away from checking it for 5 continuous days.
After Kerala backwaters, it was time to visit something on the east and I took my parents and family out to Orissa. The visit to Puri/Konark/Bhubasneswar/Chilka lake for past 5 days was pleasant experience. For those who are unaware, Puri-Konark-Bhubaneswar form a Golden Triangle and one trip can cover all of them. Though I have visited Puri and Konark earlier nine years back, it was a one day rush trip and I do not remember much. Since I had more time in hand now, this was more leasurely. If any one wants to visit these places for vacation, feel free to drop a message. I can give all tips on planning the vacation. If I get more time, I will try to put that stuff in a separate blog.
I will try to post some pictures of Kerala backwaters and Orissa trip as soon as I get them developed.

Update – pls see the article in this blog.

Yelagiri and Vellore

Posted in blog city on July 16th 2006 

Got a nice break after really loooong time. I almost forgot when I took my last break.

Started off to Yelagiri on Saturday morning around 8:15 AM. Reached Hosur and had had v. good filling breakfast @ Meenakshi Bhavan on the highway. Cruised on the highway to Vaniyambadi. By almost 10:45 AM, we were there in Vaniyambadi. From there took the road to Yelagiri. Drove on the ghat road (there are 14 hair pin bends on the ghat road, quite easy to drive) to reach Yeagiri. Reached Sterling Resorts and looked at the room. Did not like it a bit. So roamed around various resorts and finally settled in Hotel Hills. It has a good restaruant 🙂

There is literally nothing to do in Yelagiri unless one loves trecking. We visited the lake first, took the boat ride, then spent time in the parks, came back to room and relaxed. Towards the evening went for a short drive enjoying the sunset and the nature. It is so relaxing and refreshing. On Sunday, went to the Murugan temple near the lake on a hillock. It is a nice place to visit.
Started return journey by around 11:00 AM, after buying some plants in the nursery. From then reached Vellore (around 60 kms from the Vaniyambadi) by around 1:00 pm. After having lunch, went to see the Vellore Fort. Since it is very hot in Vellore, relaxed in the car itself for around 1 hour. Then went into the Jalagandeswara temple inside the fort. Spent around 1 hour inside the temple. Came back and climbed on to the fort walls. Took some snaps and then started back to Blore by 5:00pm. Reached Blore by 8:00pm. Had a very light dinner and dozed off!
A perfect way to spend a week end! 🙂
(Yelagiri is arund 160 kms from Blore. Except for last 12-15 kms, the drive is on the high way. So one can easily average around 100kmph. Route –> Bangalore–>Hosur–>Krishnagiri–>Vaniyambadi. Travel on NH7 till you hit Krishnagiri. Take left turn on to another highway towards Pondicherry near Krishnagiri. Travel on this highway till you find directions for Vaniymbadi and Yelagiri on the  highway.

To travel to Vellore, continue on the highway for 60 more kms. The vellore fort is within 5 minutes drive from the highway. We had lunch at Aarya’s which seemed a decent place.)

Lepakshi – A peek into our rich heritage

My blog has moved from wordpress.com to my own domain – thoughtsinprogress.co.in. Please read this post at http://blog.thoughtsinprogress.co.in/2007/11/08/lepakshi/.
Thank you.