Beam Me Down

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The Independent Travel
This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are:

16 16' N 75 16' E

FIRST REACTION

Delighted. Fascinating cultural attractions and palm-fringed beaches. Who could ask for more?

COUNTRY AND REGION

You have landed in northern Karnataka, the state formerly known as Mysore on the west coast of India.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

You are on the arid central plateau to the east of the Western Ghats. The river Krishna lies a few miles away, flowing east to the Bay of Bengal. Most of India's forests lie in this area, along with farming and grazing land.

ALTITUDE

550m

NEAREST SETTLEMENT

The village of Jamkhandi lies 8km away, but has little to recommend itself. Take a local bus or hitch-hike in a north-east direction to the historic town of Bijapur which was founded by the Chalukyan rulers of Kalyani. In 1490, Yusuf Adil Shah, a runaway prince from Turkey, founded the illustrious Adil Shahi dynasty and built the city's magnificent palaces and tombs. As a result, Bijapur is dotted with mosques, mausoleums and other gems of 15th to 17th-century Muslim architecture.

USEFUL LANGUAGES

If you can speak Kannada, you can expect some fascinating conversations. Its literary tradition dates back to the 9th century and its ancient writers of poetry and prose are still revered today. But if you have yet to master any of India's 18 main languages, you will be forced to admit your alien status and get by in English.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

Karnataka's national standing increased considerably when HD Deve Gowda became Prime Minister of India in 1996. This claim to fame was short- lived. He was replaced in April 1997 by Atalbihari Vagpayee.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

You have arrived in winter which is the best time to travel. The monsoons are over and temperatures are in the comfortable mid-70s to mid-80s.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Bijapur still has a strong Muslim tradition, so if you are a single female traveller, you should conform to the dress code (or expect male attention): cover up legs and arms and carry a scarf for your head.

Also, take care over what you eat and drink so as not to fall victim to the infamous "Delhi belly", a common traveller's affliction not just confined to India's capital.

REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND

Bijapur's main tourist attraction is the famous Gol Gumbaz, a vast tomb which is capped by an enormous dome said to be the second largest after St Peter's in Rome. For a serene experience, visit the beautiful Ibrahim Roza, which is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal. If all this sightseeing gets too much, a few hours on the bus will find you at the famous beaches of Goa. The five-star resorts and some of the best seafood in India are only two of the many reasons to visit this former Portuguese outpost. With a little bit of luck, you may even catch a full-moon rave party on the beach.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF HERE

It is difficult to see why anyone would want to leave, but if you must, you can either fly direct from Belgaum, 205km away from Bijapur, or take one of the five weekly trains to Sholapur and then take the connection to Mumbai (Bombay). From here, cut-price tickets to London can be easily found.

Compiled by Ingrid Kennedy

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