Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We were invited to join two of our American friends for Thanksgiving dinner last night. To all the Americans that are in Bangalore for Thanksgiving next year; I would definitely recommend Sunny’s on Lavelle road. Rs.1000 per person for a delicious set menu with salmon spring rolls, salad with parmesan, pumpkin soup, turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie.

This was my first Thanksgiving dinner and I didn't know much about the holiday besides the fact that it has something to do with the Pilgrims and the Native Indians having a feast at Plymouth Rock (thanks to movies and TV shows about kids in Thanksgiving plays) and that they eat turkey. Naturally my inquisitive mind made me look up the history as well as the reason why they eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

I'm sure Kathleen and George can't really compare last night to a traditional Thanksgiving back home which by the sounds of it means eating, watching American football and shopping at early hours of the morning the next day....But, I am sure they will remember the Thanksgiving they spent with 3 South African's, 3 Australians and a Singaporean in India.

Thanks, guys. It was great!

I at least now know why I say "Happy Thanksgiving" to my American friends. Click here if you are interested to find out about the history of Thanksgiving.

Why turkey:

Did you know: Eating turkey makes you sleepy

Different answers are available to "why turkey?” It seems that the pilgrims most likely didn't actually eat turkey on the first Thanksgiving. Wild turkeys were very common in early America. It probably slowly became a tradition to eat turkey around this time of year, simply because it was a common game animal.

In fact, Ben Franklin proposed that the national bird of the U.S.A. be the turkey in stead of the bald eagle! Franklin argued that the turkey was more honest, more honorable, more diligent, and smarter than the bald eagle. LOL :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trip to Hampi

Hampi is located in the central part of the state of Karnataka, in the southern part of India. It is 353 km from Bangalore. It was once the glorious capital of mighty Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565). Founded in the middle of the 14th century by two local princes, Hukka & Bukka, the Vijayanagara Empire came to be celebrated for its might and wealth and as a showpiece of imperial magnificence. The emperors of this dynasty were great patrons of art and architecture, which can still be seen in the vast ruins of Hampi.

Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned. In an effort to resurrect this abandoned capital, the government has been involved in the restoration, excavation and protection of the ruins, which spread over an area of 26 sq. km. Rocky hills and the Tungabhadra River, which flows through this rugged landscape, dominate the terrain.

At 6am on Thursday, 8 November'08 Marc and I left Bangalore for a "Diwali weekend" to Hampi for 4 days. We originally wanted to go by train but couldn't get tickets so we decided to let Robert (our driver) drive us. After having done a couple of trips by car to Coorg, Pondicherry etc. we figured it couldn't be that bad....We of course had our reservations as Robert had never been to Hampi himself and we did expect the road conditions to very bad, as they are in India. And we were right, it was a 8 hour trip with many stops asking for directions, U turns, wrong turns, speed breakers, cows, cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes any other form of transportation you can imagine on our side of the road, and us on theirs from time to time. O, and don't forget the constant honking just to let everything know that you are there too.

We arrived in Hampi at about 2pm on Thursday and checked into Gopi Guest House Tel: +91 948 035 3260 which is near the Hampi Bazaar. We paid Rs.400 a night for a very (very) basic room. What can you expect for 10$ right. It was clean enough though and the staff was very friendly and the food was good :-) so all in all a good choice.
The Gopi Roof Top Restaurant - The food is good here too. Try a banana nutella pancake ;-0

There are a few nice restaurants that serve Indian, Israeli, Italian, Tibetan, Chinese food. They all are pretty much on par and on average lunch/dinner cost us about Rs.230/+-5$. We were told that no alcohol was available and that the restaurants only serve vegetarian. However, we were offered a "Special Fruit cocktail" with alcohol and two of the restaurants did serve non-veg. We decided to stick to the vegetarian dishes as we couldn't see any cold storage around. I do like my meat fresh, but I just couldn't imagine eating anything so fresh that it was probably still walking around outside minutes prior to you placing your order ;-(

This was the 3rd trip that had me thinking about becoming a vegetarian. Definitely no pig, lamb and cow for me for a while (at least until I get the images out of my mind)... There is just something about seeing the pigs amongst a pile of rubbish, cows on every corner, being washed in the river, sheep and goats being herded and treated like pets. I know, I know...Out of sight, out of mind and in a couple of days I'll probably be ordering a piece of fillit steak for a BBQ from my local cold storage.

Some of the restaurants I would recommend:
Relaxing at the Mango Tree Restaurant. It has a terrific view of the river an a great spot to just sit on the cool floor and drink lassies. And if you're hungry; try their falafal and humous, it was yummy!
Trishul has some pastries and cakes that look really nice. However just check how fresh they are because the Cinnamon rolls we bought were probably 2 days old and a bit chewy. The breakfast was good :-)
New Shanthi Restaurant is great and probably the most popular restaurant.
Durga Roof Top Restaurant - Pizza was great!
Cow dung is smeared at all the entrances to keep the dust down.
Fireworks display in front of our Guest House on Diwali.
There were candles everywhere in the village and the sound of crackers could be heard until late at night.
Water Buffalo walking through the streets. We felt like we were taking part in the running of the bulls when 4 of these came charging down a small street and we had to jump out of their way.
Marc and 4 holy men - they walk around Hampi posing for photographs for a donation. They ask people to sign in a book and write down your name, country and how much you want to donate. This is a very clever way to make money of course as people from different countries try and better the previous donation to make their country look good.
Dishes being rinsed after lunch. A lot of men were wearing their traditional clothing and you could hear prayers coming from houses all across the village.
We went to Hospet (12km from Hampi) and were absolutely stunned by the number of people in the streets. There were vendors everywhere selling all sorts of auspicious Diwali goodies, flowers, diya's as well as piles of Banana and Mango leaves.
Almost a whole banana tree up against the petrol pump.
On Friday Robert drove us around the furthermost ruins, Saturday we hired a scooter for the day to check more of the ruins as well as the village (Anegundi) on the other side of the river where Shanthi Guest House Tel: 08394 325352 is. What a great place! We were sorry that we didn't rather stay at Shanthi. It is a bit like a foreigners colony though but a great place to relax, read, take a nap on a hammock.

You can hire motorbikes from Hampi or at Shanthi Guest House for approx Rs.300 incl. petrol per day. It takes approx. 40min to drive from Hami Bazaar to Shanti (crossing the river by coracle which is quite a experience).
There is a bridge but apparently it is and will stay a work in progress because of some disputes.
So until its complete people have to use coracles to get across.
I couldn't believe 10 people and 3 motorbikes fit onto the coracle.
A couple of people lazing around in one of the restaurants areas at Shanthi Guest House.
Riding around the beautiful scenic Anegundi area.
Click here to read more about Hampi and to see photographs of the ruins: