Hampi is a huge backpacker spot, and the town is mostly made up of souvenir shops, guest houses, and restaurants. During the monsoon there are relatively few people around, but we made a number of friends,
including a couple of British guys who we will probably see again in Bangkok (for those who have not heard, Noam and I decided to spend our last week abroad in Thailand). On our first full day in town, we got up early to see Lakshmi, the temple's elephant, get her morning bath in the river. We had no idea that elephants can walk down stairs, but she was actually quite nimble, perhaps even graceful. We were really impressed at how well she was trained, responding to verbal commands to move one way or another while her trainer washed her. For a small donation, she will also bless you, and one man went for the full thing.
If you hand her a rupee coin, she takes it with her trunk and gives to her trainer, before tapping you on the head with her trunk. After the elephant washing (which was much more thorough than my own frigid shower) we went for a long walk to check out the ruins. The majority of the things we saw date back to the 15th century, but are still in excellent condition.
The town is very laid back, and we did a good bit of just hanging out, including a couple of multi-hour lunches at the Mango Tree, a restaurant with incredible views where you're pretty much guaranteed to run into all the other backpackers.
Hampi is the kind of place where you can easily spend a week, but time is short so on we went....
Noam and I parted ways with Gopal in Mumbai, as he headed south and we headed east. We took an overnight train to Hampi, a small town set in an incredible landscape of boulders and nearly pristine ruins.