Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

July 30, 2021

Hampi – The Forgotten History

Filed under: India — jani @ 2:32 pm

About Hampi:

Hampi is an ancient village in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It’s dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes from the Vijayanagara Empire.

After 3rd Covid lockdown ended, we needed another quick break and we booked Evolve Back, Hampi to explore the historic monuments and ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire.

We had to postpone the stay for a week as the resort was still in lock down and then finally when we got a go ahead, we prepared for our historical trip to Hampi.

Another USP of Evolve back was it’s Vaidyashala, which makes us to visit Evolve Back again and again. However the sales person who confirmed our booking forgot to inform us that Vaidyashala was yet to be opened. So we had a disappointment when we asked Ms. Gayana (our local contact at the property) to pre book the slots. Then she informed us, it was not functional during our stay there. However she informed us that  inspite of that set back, she would try her best to ensure that we will have a great memorable experience. Yes, she did her best to make our stay memorable and kudos to her.

Day 1: We started by 7 AM and headed straight to Hampi without a break due to Covid and reached by afternoon after our GPS decided to take us to the forest office close by instead of Evolve back. Then the officers asked us to go little further and then we saw the stone which had the Evolve back name and we entered. As you enter, you will also see a similar palace themed building, which seems to be staff quarters and then as we went further we saw the beautiful Evolve back looking majestically like a royal palace as per their theme. So finally we were at Evolve Back, Hampi.

Ms. Gayana and other staffs welcomed us with a warm smile, refreshing towel and a welcome drink Pancharasa, which is made with Basil leaf, Mint leaf, Curry leaf, Lemon juice, Jaggery syrup and garnished with Chiya seeds. Our check in was smooth and we were checked into our beautiful Zenana room. We could see from the day one, that Ms. Gayana went extra mile to ensure we had a memorable experience. We got the best room and with a best view. This room had jacuzzi in the middle of the room and when you go to the balcony it had an amazing view and a nice breeze which just makes you to stay there for ever and ever without tiring you. We ended up chilling out in the balcony enjoying that cool breeze and the view and we never got tired of it and enjoyed the architectural beauty of the property which is palace themed. We had to give a miss to Jacuzzi as we had our day packed with outdoor activities and didn’t have time to enjoy the jacuzzi as we know we might doze off in the water which we didn’t want to do that.

We were hungry, so we refreshed quickly and went for lunch to Tuluva – Multi Cuisine Restaurant. Sur ordered the Pottagodugu Kura (Fried mushrooms tossed with chilly, onion and curry leaves) and Farmer’s Pie (Layered seasonal vegetables with tomato compote and mashed potato) and I ordered Vijayanagara Non Veg Thali (based on the spirit of north Karnataka’s regional cuisine). We both didn’t enjoy so much the food as it was too bland for our palette. But the chef later ensured from the next meal that it was customized as per our taste and we did have the best of food experience. We had also ordered their signature cocktails (Jewel of South, Matanga Hills & Pushkarni), somehow the alcohol overpowered the drink so we didn’t enjoy that as well, so we stopped ordering the cocktails and settled it with good red wine and fresh lime juice later part of our stay.

Then we went to plan our outdoor activities for the next few days that we were staying, so met the guide Mr. Santhosh to take us to the history trails since we were left only with two more nights of stay, we booked all the four historical trails and did two trails in a day one in the morning at 8.30 AM and one in the late afternoon at 4 PM as every trail takes approximately four hours to complete.  Once we finalized we had our tea which was not great but the French fries were good and Sur enjoyed his watermelon juice. After a mini walk around, we went for a quick dinner to Tuluva restaurant. Sur ordered Greek Salad and I went for Paya Shorba (Infused with Indian spices lamb trotter soup) which was satisfactory. Then we crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a great sleep, went for a quick breakfast. I enjoyed their Idly and various chutneys which are too good and Sur went for a toast and an omelette.  Don’t forget to order a filter coffee which is good and then we rushed for our first historical trail with Mr. Santhosh. I had been to Hampi earlier and I did visit but if you love history, you need to do it with Mr. Santhosh and the Evolve team here. We started our trip with Vitthalapura Walk. Hampi had many suburbs or puras. They were self-sufficient settlements centered around a temple and an attached market denoting two of its core activities – worship and commerce. We explored the Vitthalapura Bazaar that lead to the famous Vijaya Vitthala temple considered by many to represent the pinnacle of temple architecture in India. This temple is renowned for its musical stone pillars and a chariot carved in stone. Here every stone and every painting has a story behind. Also this temple courtyard has a few hundred year old Firangipani tree (temple tree) which has a fragrant blossom which is used for the worship since this is considered pure as it doesn’t have any nectar so it’s not polluted by the bees. So it symbolises purity and offered for worship. The musical pillars and the architecture will make you awe of our forefathers and our rich heritage. There are multiple temples close by, the bazaars and also the sad plight of lack of awareness that we have of our own rich heritage and culture. My admiration and love grew multi fold after hearing about the history from the experts of Evolve Back. I fell in love with my country, for our rich culture, heritage and architecture marvel. Thanks to our guide and the Evolve Back Team.

Then we reached back to the resort for a quick lunch of Penne Pasta and ordered Walnut brownie. I loved so much the brownie that every time I had a meal, I ordered a brownie as well. The Walnut brownie was the best one that I ever tasted as it just melted in your mouth. I was planning to ask the chef to pack a few when we checked out but I completely forgot about it. Next time I am sure am packing a few extras as we are planning to visit again to continue the pending historical trails again.

We went for a quick shopping situated inside the property, we picked up few souvenirs and then started the second trail. Even though it was little packed schedule but the love for our rich history gave that enthusiasm to explore as much as possible during our short stay there.

The second trail was Raya Trail, this trail takes you back five hundred years and gives you a privileged peek at the life and times of the Rayas (Maharajas) of Vijayanagara. We learnt about their lifestyle, culture, the unique social and political dynamics of the period and the magnificent structures of the royal city. We visited Royal audience hall, Lotus hall, Elephant stable, queen’s bath, watch tower, queen’s palace, water tanks, museums, Hazarama temple and Ranga temple. If you want know more about it, please do visit this place. Few lines about the place will not do any justice to the grandeur and rich history of this place. I wish our children get to learn more about this as many of us have never heard of these places and it’s richness.

We came back with so much love and energy to know more about our history after just a day and we were looking forward to the next two trails to know more about. Then we enjoyed little time in our balcony and then headed for dinner to Bahmani Restaurant which is a specialty restaurant, and it was pre booked by the staffs. I ordered Murgh Akbari Shorba (Mint infused chicken soup) and Jhinga Gulnar (Prawns spiced with caraway seeds, chilly and garlic, cooked in a tandoor) and Sur ordered his vegetarian dishes Dastan-e-Paneer (Cottage cheese flavored with pudina, malai and achari) and Paneer Lababdar (Cottage cheese cubes slow cooked in a rich tomato onion masala finished with fresh cream and a hint of sun-dried fenugreek with butter naan). The food was great and yes, I finished it with Walnut brownie again even though this was not in the menu at this restaurant, staffs brought it from Tuluva restaurant. I am grateful to them.

After a great meal, we rushed back as it was raining and then crashed for the night.

Day 3:  After a great sleep, our usual quick breakfast of Idli and varieties of chutneys that I enjoyed and Sur back to his omelette and orange juice. Then we rushed for our third trail which was Virupaksha Trail, this trail begins with a leisurely walk up the Hemakuta hill, which opens up a treasure trove of pre-Vijayanagara temples, statues and the wondrous stories surrounding them. It will also serve delightful views of the rock strewn landscape of Hampi with its glorious sunsets. Then we strolled down to the centuries old Virupaksha Temple at the base of the hill, the holy temple of the early Kings of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Another architecture marvel and this trail was like a pilgrimage. The end of the trail is marked by the exquisite Krishna temple and the huge monolith of Narasimha. After such a spiritual journey, we then returned back for lunch.

Sur ordered his Butter naan and Shahi Dum Aloo (Stuffed potatoes cooked in a spiced tomato gravy laced with shahi garam masala) and I went for Charmaula rubbed sear fish (Sear fish marinated and grilled, served seasonal vegetables) We enjoyed the food and yes, had my walnut brownie for the dessert.  Then went and freshened up and then were planning for a final trail. As we were in the lobby, the GM (Mr. Joydeep) was telling us about the new place (Hire Benekal) that they did a recce and were planning to add that as part of the historical trail. Then we were curious and asked if we could do that. But then we had to extend a night stay, so we reached out to Ms. Gayana for help and in turn it went to the sales person. We were informed that the current category of rooms was completely sold out and only Nilaya rooms were available. After few hours of tough calls and negotiation as the sales team were involved and local team couldn’t do much on this, finally our stay got extended since the sales team was quoting a higher price of what we booked earlier, inspite of not getting the same room category. Somehow after few hours of uncertainty, the room was confirmed finally by the sales teams in Bangalore.

So we gave a go ahead for the next day recce of dolmens and then left for the final trail Tungabhadra Trek, where Mr. Sarath (Associate Director of Conservation & Experiences) accompanied and also wanted a feedback about the experiences. it’s an offbeat evening trek that took us through giant boulders, the ruins of the Achyutaraya Temple and the famed ‘Courtesan Bazaar’. There were splendid view of the setting sun behind the boulder hills as we walked along the banks of the scenic Tungabhadra River.

We also took a coracle ride and we were in for a special treat since there was some shoot happened with a coracle decorated with flower petals. As they finished the shoot, we entered so the coracle staffs offered that particular coracle for our ride in the river, and we enjoyed that unexpected treat of coracle filled with flower petals. During the coracle ride, there were some of the temples which were submerged in water and had lot of Shiv lingas, so went to see those and couple of old paintings and carvings and then enjoyed the coracle ride back. As we returned, we stopped at an empty ground (it was gymnasium during the royal period) and staffs surprised us with a little fruit champagne and snacks. I was never a champagne fan as it’s too dry for my taste but I just loved this fruit based one and we enjoyed the snacks while listening to the peacock’s mating calls. After such a lovely experience and surprise treat from the staff, we headed back as it was getting darker.

Staffs had booked us again in Bahmani restaurant for the dinner since we enjoyed the food here and Sur ordered  Nargisi Lahsooni Palak (Indian vegetable fried dumplings topped with garlic and served in a spinach curry with butter naan) and I went for Gosht Ka Marag (Spicy mutton broth infused with spices and enriched with cashew & cream) and Pomfret Nawabi (Tender whole white pomfret marinated with hand pounded fresh red chillies and a special chef’s signature garam masala). After enjoying my walnut brownie again, we crashed for the night.

Day 4: We had to start early by 6 AM, staffs packed sandwiches for our breakfast and packed our luggage as the staff had to move our luggage to another room, so gave the key to the reception, informed Ms. Gayana and we left for Hire benakal with our guide and Naturalist Mr. Vinay. This was approximately 1.5 hour to Koppal Taluk and other side of Gangavathi river. We enjoyed the views, greeneries, boulders and we reached for the spot to start our trek. This was an easy trek and on the way we did miss a sloth bear whose fresh potty we found. Sloth bears do not have a great eye sight, so if it feels threatened it will attack, so we were informed prior that we need to talk and stay in groups, so that if the animals senses there are humans coming their way, they might go the other way so we do not have animal-human contact as we are in their territory. That was a learning how to avoid an attack from Sloth bear. Then Mr. Vinay who was an enthusiastic historian explained the cave paintings that were on the way. Then we climbed to the site of dolmens which are at least 3000 years old. There were more than 490 but got destroyed and finally only 200 are left. Also we enjoyed watching Agamas, Skinks, various coloured butterflies, six spotted beetle and giant millipedes.

After finding another hidden treasure, we stopped near the base for a quick brunch, had our sandwiches and started back our journey. We asked our guide if we can stop for a nice tea since I was missing a good tea in the resort. He stopped on the way and all of us enjoyed a great cuppa of tea and then we reached back to the resort.

Ms. Gayana ensured we got a great room and then both of us were escorted to the new room. Sur then went for a quick siesta and I went with Mr. Vinay for a nature walk in the evening. We spotted Mangoose, wild pigs, pea cock, sandgrouse, laughing dove, red-vented bulbuls, Plover and just before we finish the walk we saw the wild hare. Then it started drizzling and we rushed back to the resort.

We freshened up and then went for the dinner at Tuluva restaurant. I ordered Cajun-spiced grill prawns (Garlic and homemade Cajun spice marinated grilled prawns served with mixed lettuce salad) and Chicken and leek broth (Slow-brewed chicken and leek broth served with garlic toast) and Sur went for his Garlic butter naan and Paneer butter masala. After tasting my final walnut brownie for the stay, we crashed for the night.

Day 5: We didn’t want to checkout the place as the GM had recommended lot of other unexplored places which we could do, unfortunately we couldn’t extend due to work commitments and had to reluctantly check out to come back for a week stay later to finish the unfinished places that we missed out.

The GM, Ms. Gayana, Mr. Santhosh, Mr. Vinay and lot of other staffs came to bid farewell and we returned back with a memorable experience and checking our calendar for our next visit soon.

This would be incomplete if I don’t talk about few staffs who went extra mile to ensure we get the best experience and I have already informed the GM that another week stay is due to complete the unfinished places of historical importance that we missed out

First and foremost a special thanks to Ms. Gayana, she was the first person to be connected from the resort. She ensured that we had our memorable experience and the credit goes to her for doing that from the first connect to the check out with a lovely smile. Our special thanks to you.

Next our guide Mr. Santhosh, the historical trails that he accompanied us, I would not have fallen in love doing more if not for his information that he shared and how he explained every story behind the marvels of our history. Thanks Santhosh for helping us appreciate our own rich heritage.

Mr. Sarath, it was so good to hear your travel adventures and for curating those experiences at the resort. Very well done and we want to hear your experiences more.

Mr. Vinay, accompanying for that Hire Benekal – Dolmen visit, even though it was not planned, you took a risk of taking us at the last minute and your enthusiasm and passion spread to us during that trek and thank you for that.

Mr. Joydeep (GM), he was the main reason we extended our stay since he tempted us with that recce they did in Hire Benekal. He was the man behind guiding the staffs, to provide the guests with a great memorable experience and excellence in hospitality. All the credit goes to him, he was the man in action, who ensured to meet us almost every day in the lobby and gave us all the activities that we could do, asked for daily feedback and made our stay all the more worth staying for.

We enjoyed the food and that credit goes to Mr. Vaibhav Verma, the Chef. He also paid us a visit very often at the restaurant, customized as per our taste since we love our food to be extra spicy and also recommended to try something new. Once he knew our taste, we didn’t inform the next time. Whatever we ordered, the food came as per our taste and we enjoyed every meal there at the property. This would be incomplete, if I don’t mention about the walnut brownie, that I was having at after every single meal. After a very long time, had the one of the best brownies ever which just melted in your mouth. Please be prepared that we might pre order few next time when I visit.

F&B Staffs at the restaurant, Almost all the staffs were friendly and once you order something, they knew next time when you are at the restaurant what we requested earlier. For example, a simple thing like Sur loves to have ice cold water and myself hot water to drink. We just said once and we never had to repeat that for the entire stay there. Little things that they remembered mattered the most. I just remember Mohit’s name and other staffs as well, everyone whom we met. My apologies for missing out your names. You all did an excellent job and we are so glad that we will visit again to enjoy your hospitality.

This place remained most memorable because every single staff that we met, provided a great service with a greatest smile. I don’t have enough words to thank you but a big thank you to every single staff at Evolve Back, Hampi. You deserve every appreciation.

The historical experiences that you curated was something I would specially make a note here, that made us fall in love with our country and love to know more about about our rich culture and history. Thanks to your team.

Another week of stay is overdue for the experiences that we missed, am sure will reach out to your team to relive those memorable experience and create new memories.

During the Covid times, when we were not sure of the place to stay keeping all our safety protocols in mind, only solace was Evolve back. First in Coorg, 2nd in Kabini and 3rd in Hampi. The two years of Covid nightmare was forgotten because of the break that we had at Evolve back, once the lock down was lifted. So thanks to all at Evolve for the memorable experiences that you provide.

We are looking for our 4th stay in Hampi again soon when our calendar is free for a week….Until then please stay safe and continue to do the good work of providing an excellent hospitality experience ever……….A big Thank You to each and every one at Evolve………………..

1 Comment »

  1. […] This was our third stay at the Evolve Back properties, and I have to say that they outdid themselves with the service they provided. This is from the check-in staff to the waiters, manager, trail guides to everyone. To give an idea of the service level and the personalized service we got here are a few small examples. Jani always takes hot water when we go out and I take ice-cold water, we told the serving staff this during our first meal there. After that they ensure we got a glass of hot water and a glass of cold water every single time without asking. They also remembered that we both liked our food to be spicy so all our meals were custom made to be spicier than the usual. In fact the chef actually came and chatted with us multiple times to ensure that the food was made as per our requirements. Even the room we were allocated was selected to give us great views of the sunrise (which we missed because we were sleeping) and the sunset (which we missed because we were on the trails). But it is the thought that counts. Every single person there was always smiling and working to ensure we had a great visit. I am bad with remembering names and since Jani already did a post detailing our stay and how all of the staff made this a fantastic stay, I am not going to duplicate the work here. You can read her writeup of our trip here, on her blog. […]

    Pingback by Trip to Historic Hampi – Part 1 « Suramya's Blog — August 5, 2021 @ 9:15 pm

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