Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A week is a long time politics, so they say, and also in India, it seems - the events described in my last post seem like they happened a long time ago. Since then I've been to Bijapur, Badami and now Hampi. So I'd best be brief, and offer a quick roundup. But first, the Ajanta caves.

These caves are older than the Ellora caves described below, and are solely a Buddhist affair. They are famous for their cave paintings rather than for their sculpture or architecture. Said paintings are very nice, and our understanding and appreciation of them was much increased by the guided tour which (in an extremely rare move, for us) we embarked upon. The art depicts a varied set of scenes from Buddhism, mainly taken from the Buddhas previous lives before he was Buddha. They are done in colours, the source of which was desrcibed again and again by our guide. In fact, his general style of guidance was to repeat certain facts over and over again. Though to be fair to him, many of the rest of our tour group seemed remedial at best, so it was perhaps a wise choice of way of imparting information. Overall I would say that while the average cave at Ajanta is probably marginally more impressive than that at Ellora, the Kailash temple at Ellora means those are Sam's Caves Of Choice.

Bijapur is a smallish (300,000 population) town in south India. We got there on Thursday, and were so amazingly impressed by the laid back atmosphere and lack of hassle that we elected to stay an extra night. Bijapur has two main sites, both mausoleums for dead Muslim kings who used the town as their capital back in the day. Both buildings (the Ibrahim Rouza and the Golgumbaz) are good - the Ibrahim Rouza is architecturally beautiful, while the Golgumbaz is just massive, featuring the world's second largest dome at 38m in diameter, behind St Peter's in the Vatican (which I've also seen, so there).

Friday night in Bijapur was Deepawali, the big wombassa of the Hindu holy month of Diwali. So we went out expecting there to be drinking in the streets and much assorted revelry. We were somewhat disappointed, then, when there were more people than normal milling about and lots of kids setting off fireworks. Boy am I glad we're not in India for New Year! (Note: We'll be in Southeast Asia somewhere, where the chances are they won't actually celebrate the same New Year as us, but rather will celebrate the Chinese one instead).

And so to Badami. This is a much smaller village (population: 25,000 or so) featuring more (slightly lame in comparison) caves and near to some other villages (Pattadakal and the hilariously named Aihole, unfortunately pronounced Ioli) which have some ok but a bit dull old ruined Hindu temples. All of which would probably be better had I not been cave-and-templed out of existence at Ellora and Ajanta. However, there was an amusing episode in Badami (Animal rights protesters look away now).

As we were walking to the entrance for the caves in Badami, I was holding a plastic bag containing our lunch in my left hand. Suddenly a monkey (of which there are many in India) came bounding towards me, lept, and tried to snatch the bag from me. Fight or flight responses in my brain caused me to jerk the bag away from the diminuitive simian, but it's claws were hooked into the bag, and I simply lifted it off the ground, clinging on to my lunch, shrieking at me in an attempt to get me to panic and drop my food, as presumably other tourists have done before. But this furry fiend picked the wrong honkey to attack. I swung a right boot at it's hairless pink arse, connecting with a meaty slap, and swearing profusely at the little git. With a final shout, it dropped off and retreated. My lunch wasn't going to to line the stomach of anything at a lower evolutionary level...

Today we arrived in Hampi. First impressions of Hampi are that it is basically Pushkar 2, except with more mosquitos. Now we're in the tropics, the ravenous little blighters are a serious concern. Good job I've got malaria tablets, really. If only they also had some kind of effect on the number of god damn filthy stinking crusty hippies...


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