Finally... a quiet place in India!
After a few very touristy days spent at the caves I was happy to have a bit of "normalcy" while staying with my friend Srinivas in Hyderabad. I pretty much did yoga, took a lot of showers, watched TV and uploaded my hundreds of photos to Flickr during the day and then attended swanky parties in the evening. It was definitely a side of India I had not seen yet. Huge mansions with multiple servants waiting on you, lavish wedding receptions with over 1000 people, everyone speaking English! I felt like I had gone back to the US for a few days (until we got back in the car and the traffic brought me right back to India - we even got side-swiped by a truck while driving one of Srivinas' friend's cars). We did a bit of "site-seeing" as well... I saw the Cyberabad side of things... Google, Microsoft, etc all have huge offices here. And of course there is the Hyderabad fort... which I decided that I could skip. ;) Oh and they have one of the world's largest Buddha statues here and it's in the middle of a big lake which is kind of cool.
Anyway, after I rested up I head to Hampi which several people have told me is their favorite place in India. I was a bit skeptical because I assumed with that kind of reputation it would be too touristy for me but I was proved wrong. This place is amazing. I think it might me by favorite place in India so far (well, it may not rank above the Himalayas but nothing really trumps mountains in my mind ;). First of all, it's actually quiet! There's very little honking because there aren't really any cars in town... just motorbikes and rickshaws. The geology and landscape is really weird - huge piles of massive rocks piled up on top of one another like some huge giant was playing with marbles and trying to stack them. If any of you have been to Devil's Marbles in Australia it looks just like that. And then in among these huge mountains of boulders, there are tons and tons of ruins! Temples everywhere! You can just wander around for hours and stumble upon more and more temples... some with huge Ganesh statues inside, some more plain, but most of the time you have the place to yourself which is the best part! Most of the ruins seem to be from the 14th and 15th centuries so they're not as old as the caves I just saw in Ellora but the intricate carvings on some of them are just incredible.
My young Australian friend who I met on the bus here (she's only 18 so I feel like the wise old one!) and I have been hiking around the area for three days now and we just keep discovering more and more ruins to explore. We've climbed small mountains to get to temples (and I got attacked by a monkey on the top of one ... luckily it didn't bite through the skin but it was really scary!) and watched the sunset from the top of other temples. It's just been really surreal and peaceful (except for the monkey attack... We even had to get a young boy to escort us down the stairs from the top because the monkeys were lining the trail ready to pounce again. Everyone was feeding them bananas so they've come to expect all humans to have food for them.)