Our journey to Hampi was a perilous journey. There are three ways to get to Hampi from Goa; train, bus and renting a car to drive there yourself. We chose the bus because it was the cheapest and fastest option. It was also the most dangerous. I say this half jokingly and half serious. The Hampi route is only overnight buses which seemed like a great fit, as I loved the overnight buses in Vietnam. Even more promising was we got a full bunk to ourselves versus the sleeping chair in Vietnam. The thing we didn't account for was the driving. Even though we had seen buses driving like they were in Speed, we didn't associate it with the night bus we would take. The entire ride we were rolling around the bunk like a bunch of loose apples in the back of a car.
Surprisingly, we made it in one piece. Even though it was a terrifying night getting there, once we arrived in Hampi it was worth it. Hampi is incredible; it's the Sedona of India. There is a very powerful, spiritual vibe around the place. Did you ever watch the Flinstones? The landscape looks like a Flinstones' set; all huge boulders stacked precariously on top of each other amid rocky mountains and bright green rice fields. I realize the rice fields aren't Flintston-y but the rest was. It's the most beautiful spot in India that we were lucky enough to see. And refreshingly quiet!
Hampi is a chill town with not a lot going on during the day or night. It was a welcome change. We chilled hard in Hampi. During the day we rented a motorbike and explored the area with friends. We climbed mountains with 600 stairs and monkeys scurrying up along side us. Other days we didn't leave our hostel and instead read books and made art. India's energy can be really intense and we felt it. Between that and me getting sick so many times, we were stressed. Hampi was a welcome relief and we stayed for 2 blissful weeks. We even adopted a street dog or I should say he adopted us. We named doobie and he just showed up on our doorstep one day and slept there for our whole stay.
Even though we were having a fantastic time chilling in Hampi, I wanted to spend my birthday in Arambol. We had another near death experience on the bus ride back and found the most peaceful, beautiful wooden cabin overlooking the beach. We could hear the waves crashing and a cooling breeze kept our cabin the perfect temperature for sleeping. There weren't even any mosquitoes! It was a birthday miracle. Guy pampered me as I rang in my 33rd with sweet serenades, full body massages, gifts and even a moonight slow dance on the beach. I felt like a Queen, like all birthday women should.
Our flight to Bali was coming up so, we left Arambol the morning after my birthday and headed to Mumbai. I was excited to see Mumbai (Guy was not) as it would be the biggest city we would be in during our travels. We arrived on the train and stepped off the platform to pure chaos. I live in NYC so, I am used to cramped train platforms but, a train platform in Mumbai is on another level. It was people, people, people and oh man, was it loud. Finding a tuk tuk was equally chaotic as we were surrounded by 10 drivers and 10 citizens trying to help us get one.
Mumbai was dirty, crowded and HOT. Neither of us were big fans and I am glad we only had two nights there. The hostels were all much more expensive than their southern counterparts so, we decided to if we were going to pay more we might as well splurge on a hotel. Our first night, we arrived in our tuk tuk excited for a little luxury. Instead we got moldy pillows and dirty sheets. The second night we splurged just a little bit more and got a fancy hotel. Oh man! It was worth every penny to sleep in crisp white sheets and mold free pillows. We decided to make the full use of our hotel and huddled under the fluffy duvet, ac on, watching the full season of Wild, Wild Country. We only took breaks to sneak out for $2 curry.
Overall, my experience in India was one of polarity. Mumbai was a great example of this. On one side of the road there is literally no sidewalk as it's crumbling into ruin and homeless men without legs beg for money as you walk by and on the other side there is a huge shopping mall full of stores like Ralph Lauren. The stark contrasts in India make your head spin. But, it's good to get your head spun every now and then. Visiting India and really all of SE Asia, was eye opening in how privileged I am. I witnessed countless families living together in one room, without a any doors and a shoddy roof. They seemed pretty happy too. Perhaps they have it more figured out than we do?