Hampi: Lost relics of an ancient India

Riding into the remote little town of Hampi in the heart of South India, you might not be initially impressed by the rolling green hills and unimposing chai stands dotting the side of the road. But it’s a modest cover for greater marvels. Walk just a little further into the heart of the city to uncover towering temple structures and massive stone ruins that speak to the hidden history of a civilization now gone.

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Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Hampi – or Vijayanagara as was its ancient name – was the capital city of a powerful and wealthy empire that spanned the Southern region of India. And the buildings and relics left standing today give us a small glimpse into the glory and beauty of this piece of India’s history.

Vijayanagara: Capital of an empire

clip_image004 Accounts differ as to the founding of the city of Vijayanagara. But the best version is the one rooted in folklore. Two local chieftains, Hakka & Bukka, went to their guru with an unusual sighting after a hunting expedition. Their hound was chasing a hare when the prey suddenly grew courageous and chased the hound back. The guru explained by saying the place is special and must become the location of their capital. And so the location of Vijayanagara was chosen.

One of the largest cities of its time

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The area is mentioned in the Hindu legends of Ramayana as Kishkinda, the realm of the monkey god. Vijayanagara grew into the political and commercial hub for the Vijayanagara Empire in South India and was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. The city’s bazaars were a center for commerce and lured merchants from all over the world. Its gardens were said to rival in beauty those of Renaissance Europe.

But the city’s glory would come to an abrupt end in 1565 when it was conquered and ransacked by rival Deccan sultanates.

Sacred places of worship

clip_image008 Today, visitors flock to the still-standing city to view in awe its architectural feats. The monolithic steeple of Virupaksha Temple crowns the center of modern-day Hampi. It predates the Vijayanagara Empire and is still in use today as a place of worship. The place is dedicated to Virupaksha, an aspect of Shiva and his consort Pampa.

If you’ve seen postcards of Hampi, you’ve probably seen monuments inside Vittala Temple northeast of Virupaksha. Notable sights include a massive stone chariot or ratha, and 7 musical pillars supporting the main temple building. When struck, the pillars produce a sound corresponding to a specific musical instrument.

Besides these two landmarks, a vast wealth of temples and small shrines dot the bouldered landscape, providing a seemingly endless supply of places to discover.

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Relics from the former seat of government

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Buildings dedicated to the royalty and administration stand a little further south from the river. Lotus Mahal was used as the women’s quarters and displays a symmetrical layout with intricate carvings typical of Indo-Islamic architecture. The still-standing elephant stables housed ceremonial elephants of the royal household.

A clash between old and new over a world heritage site

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The area was declared a World Heritage site in 1986. And in order to stay on this list, Hampi must preserve their monuments according to the exacting standards set by UNESCO. This is where old and new interests have come into conflict as the state government attempts to modernize in order to meet the needs of the local community while still preserving Hampi’s World Heritage listing.

Although Hampi sits on the south side of the Tungabhadra River, many of the hotels catering to the town lay on its north side. Locals must also frequently cross the river to get to cities on the north side of the bank.

Despite all this transportation need, people still line up to board boats to get them and their vehicles across the waters.

The government and UNESCO clashed in the past over the construction of two bridges linking Hampi with its neighbors. The unsightliness of the bridges and the danger of increased traffic congestion were enough to put Hampi’s World Heritage listing in danger in 1999. Today, the government and UNESCO have come to a compromise and construction continues for a bridge further downstream from the main historic area. So monuments will stay safe while local transportation needs are addressed.

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These eerie snapshots of Fukushima ghost towns are sure to give you the chills

In March 2011, a major earthquake hit off the coast of Japan; the tsunami that followed soon after caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant to meltdown, forcing all the residents of neighboring towns to evacuate— and never come back. Malaysian photographer Keow Wee Loong recently geared up and headed into the abandoned cities to chronicle the left-behind devastation.fukushima-ghost-towns-5 Of course, there are the expected photographs of mass destruction, grocery stores upended, homes destroyed and parking lots overrun. The most haunting photographs are the ones that, without context, seem perfectly ordinary. Shelves of adult magazines ready to be picked through, a wall calendar suspended in 2011, a quiet city block on a sunny day— they’re all perfectly normal vignettes, which makes their source even more upsetting. Loong’s choices to insert himself into some of the images also lend a startling quality; the photo of him pulling clothes out of a laundromat washing machine is chilling in its normalcy. [h/t ufunk.net]fukushima-ghost-towns-17 fukushima-ghost-towns-1 fukushima-ghost-towns-9 fukushima-ghost-towns-11 fukushima-ghost-towns-12 fukushima-ghost-towns-13 fukushima-ghost-towns-15 fukushima-ghost-towns-20 fukushima-ghost-towns-21 fukushima-ghost-towns-14

The Royal Clipper is a throwback cruise ship for anyone who hates cruise ships

A cruise ship is a cruise ship is a cruise ship— or so you thought. Sure, most have that basic cruise ship look to them no matter where they’re going or what the theme, but there are a few exceptions that take the mobile vacation destination to a whole new level of uniqueness. The Royal Clipper is just such a ship.

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source: virginholidayscruises.co.uk

The Royal Clipper is a modern tall ship with a historical background. The ship’s design is based on the Preussen, a German-made steel-hulled, five-masted ship built in 1902 for the F. Laeisz Shipping Company. It was the largest sailing ship ever built until the Royal Clipper was launched in 2000.

2 Designed by Polish naval architect Zygmunt Choren for the Swedish cruise ship fleet Star Clippers, the Royal Clipper has all the bones the Preussen had, just with modern cruise ship amenities and updated designs, like the custom frescoes by Rainer Maria Latzke that line the ship’s interior.

3 The cruise ship has earned the distinction from the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest square-rigged ship in service with over 5,000 square feet of sails. Even though it is a large ship, it is also incredibly self-sufficient and can be run with a 20 person crew using the state-of-the-art navigation system.

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source: cruisemates.com

Yet, it is a small ship from a cruise standpoint, accommodating just over 200 guests, giving it a luxe, yacht vibe that the bigger, more commercial cruise ships lack. There are three pools, a 19,000 square foot open deck, three-level dining room, water sports, health club and any other typical detail you’d expect to find on a cruise ship.

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source: telegraph.co.uk

Because of its smaller size relative to other cruise ships, the Royal Clipper can take its guests to smaller, less touristy ports wherever she goes. During the summer months, the Royal Clipper floats through the Mediterranean while in the summer, she heads south to the Caribbean and Lesser Antilles islands. She’ll even take Transatlantic crossings between seasons for those more adventurous travelers.

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source: fodors.com

The Royal Clipper is a cruise ship that speaks to those who don’t typically enjoy the traditional cruise ship experience. The old school atmosphere makes traveling on the Royal Clipper a much more glamorous experience and the small size keeps it feeling exclusive. With that said, the traditional perks of a cruise ship are all still at the ready to keep guests happy and relaxed.

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source: shipparade.com

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