Category Archives: Travel

The Hampi Dream

There are some places that you keep dreaming of visiting some day in your life. Hampi – the erstwhile glorious Vijayanagara empire – has always been that dream destination for me. It all started with the song, ‘Theendai’ from the Tamizh movie, ‘En Swaasa kaatre’ way back in 2000 when I first saw it. It was the pre-Google days when not every info was available at the touch of a mobile. So it took me some time to find out where the song was shot. I wanted to see the temple ruins and that beautiful stepped tank!

In the years that followed, my interest in temples developed beyond visiting them for religious reasons or generally admiring the beauty. I started learning more about the architectural details and the history. Then came the lectures on temple architecture by historian, Dr. Chithra Madhavan. The passion with which she spoke about temples and their history and architecture and the series of lectures on Hampi and Vijayanagara architecture that I attended at Musiri Chamber and Tattvaloka increased my fascination for Hampi. Hampi was that place where the temple architecture that we see today in most of the temples of Tamil Nadu developed. I really very badly wanted to visit that beautiful place filled with marvels in stone from where it all started!

Then there were all those travel blogs, especially that of Arun of travel.paintedstork.com. His photographs of the place and other travelogues continued to make me wish that I could go there.

All these passion for Hampi and travelling suddenly had to take a backseat after I moved to Singapore and I got completely caught up in my crazed routine as a stay-at-home mom.

Post the visit to Cambodia in September this year, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

When you come to Madras/ India for just a few weeks during school holidays and have to accommodate several to-dos and consider several other factors, you get only a few days to plan for a trip within India. We had just three days to spare and immediately booked the train tickets lest any other programme comes up.

While our initial plan was to visit just Hampi for three days at a leisurely pace just like how we did at Angkor, Cambodia, in the end, our plan completely went in for a toss and we ended up doing Aihole – Pattadakkal – Mahakoota – Badami – Banashankari on day 1, complete relaxation and rejuvenation at Hotel Shivavilas Palace and Sri Kumaraswamy Temple and Chakrateerta at Sandur on day 2 and almost the entire Hampi (!) on day 3!

Barring a few places at Hampi, we did manage to see all that we saw as fully as possible, though not as thoroughly as we might have, had we had a few more extra hours.

Day 1 was also another dream-come-true for me as Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakoota have always been second in my list of dream destinations to visit.

To say that I am so happy is an understatement to how I am feeling now after visiting Hampi! It is the fulfillment of little dreams like these that make some moments of your life very special!

The Angkor Trail

For the last 18 years or so, Hampi in Karanataka, India, had been that dream destination of my life which I wanted to visit to explore the ruined remains of Vijayanagara empire.

This year we indulged in our first vacation in the last few years – a trip to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, the dream destination of my husband. Unlike Hampi or any other heritage site in India, I wasn’t completely aware of the magnificence of Angkor Wat and the other temples. All I knew was it was the largest temple complex and the photos of it looked stunning. In the weeks leading up to the trip and even weeks after it, we started reading on Khmer temples and its architecture and are still reading more and more books on it.

The trip to Angkor Wat/ Siem Reap/ Cambodia turned out to be a trip of a lifetime! We spent 4 full days in leisure taking in as many temples in the Angkor region as possible. With seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat to sequentially visiting temples in each route, we did a comprehensive coverage of the entire place leaving just a few temples. The trip turned out to be exactly how I had always wanted to explore Hampi.

Suddenly, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

Phnom Kulen 1000 Lingas River & Waterfalls

We reached Siem Reap from Phnom Penh on our second evening in Cambodia. Siem Reap, as you will read everywhere, is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. Till then, we were yet to get a glimpse of any temple belonging to the times of Angkor Wat. So, the next morning, we started from Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen mountain with all eagerness and thus, began our exploration of the Khmer Architectural marvels.

Visitor Info:

There is an entry fee of $20 (USD) for going to Kulen Mountain / Phnom Kulen (Phnom means Mountain in Khmer) and this is different from the Angkor temple ticket/pass. Phnom Kulen is accessible by a single road which is used for ascent till 12 noon and descent after that.

Situated at a distance of 48 km from Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen has a beautiful waterfalls, 1000 lingas river, Preah Ang Thom featuring a huge, reclining Buddha and some ancient Khmer temples which are inaccessible by car. So, we didn’t visit those temples.
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Phnom Penh – First Impression

As the plane was getting ready to land in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, all that was visible was water everywhere with patches of land replete with development and buildings.



I didn’t quite fully know the magnitude of Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers at that time.

From the moment we came out of the plane at Phnom Penh International Airport, I kept getting a feeling of home, read India, all through. The airport didn’t have anything special enough.

Maybe it was the autos (and that too Bajaj autos!) and two-wheelers all over the congested roads.

Maybe it was the small/low-rise buildings forming the major part of the place or maybe it was the congested markets or maybe it was the dozen two-wheelers parked haphazardly everywhere,

Or maybe it was the flooding of roads in ankle-deep water just after a very short spell of heavy rain.

Or maybe it was the way the tuk-tuk drivers keep running behind you to take a ride or maybe the presence of beggars outside all the tourist attractions and temples.

Or maybe the sight of cotton candy, popcorn, pinwheels and balloons sold along the Tonle Sap river promenade at Sisowath Quay was reminiscent of all those and more being sold in Marina Beach.

Or maybe the presence of our Hindu Gods even in Buddhist temples.

Or maybe because the Cambodians’ way of greeting each other by joining both their hands together just like our very own way of greeting.

But there were a lot of other differences. To begin with, Cambodia follows the ‘Keep right’ while driving on the road unlike UK, India or Singapore. This is because of the influence of French on them.

You see all signboards of shops written predominantly in their local language, Khmer.

Apart from cars, two-wheelers and autos, tuk-tuks form a major part of traffic on road. A few cyclos which are similar to the erstwhile rickshaws of India are there too.

There is not one but two currencies used here – U.S. Dollar as well as Cambodian riel – and all the shops here accept both the currencies.

Rivers, pagodas, Buddist temples, markets, museums, Government offices, the royal palace, high-rise hotels – all these are what makes up Phnom Penh.

More on Phnom Penh in the upcoming posts….

Cambodia, here we come!

Good Morning! Hello from Kuala Lumpur International Airport! It’s vacation time and we have just embarked on our first real vacation after four long years! Cambodia is our destination and we are in transit in KL airport from Singapore.

I bid adieu to Singapore taking in the aerial views of Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and Esplanade and seeing the sky glow in its beautiful golden orangy hues even as the sun rose.

Singapore to Kuala Lumpur takes hardly 45 minutes by flight.

I saw some beautiful aerial views of islands, rivers and palm trees before landing in KL.

The airport in Kuala Lumpur reminds me of the airport in Hyderabad.

In a short while from now, we will be departing to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.