Since we'd had enough big city fun for a few days, we moved on to Belur the next morning. It's a small town about 100 miles north of Mysore that is famous for its 11th century Hoysala temple. The ride from Mysore was easy, on solid pavement with not too much traffic. The weather was cool and sunny, and passed golden fields of rice that was ready for harvest that stretched on for miles.
We made it to Belur early in the afternoon and checked into our hotel. The man at reception asked how many days we were staying, and I said, two, since we wanted to see the temples in Belur today and in the nearby city of Halebid tomorrow as well. He checked their reservation system and came back to say we could only stay one night because the next night they were full. Too bad, because this was the nicest hotel we've stayed in in India. The rooms were recently redone and had shiny, new everything, working light fixtures, fan, no peeling paint or mildew to be found anywhere, thick, fluffy towels, and new bed linens, and all of it for the equivalent of 16 bucks.
Since we could only stay one night, we hurried out to see the Channakeshava Temple, which was right down the street. It was built in the 11th century by the Hoysalas to celebrate their defeat of the Cholas, and it's one of the best in this style. The carvings were elaborately detailed (and anatomically correct in many cases) and very fluid compared to other styles we've seen, and they remain in remarkably good condition, considering their age. Also at the temple were many, many groups of school children, and we stopped for the requisite group photos several times (fortunately for us, there were a few other white tourists there who took some of the pressure off us!).
Once we'd made our way through the temple grounds, we walked back into town and found some lunch. We stopped in a place that was packed with locals, all eating thalis or chapati with curry. While we sat in our booth, waiting for our food, I made a new best friend. Her name is Devadara, she looks to be about 3-4 years old, and looks lovely in her purple dress. She moved from her seat in the booth directly behind me and sat next to me. I said hello and asked her name, and she said, “Devadara,” and just stared at me. I introduced myself, and she stared at me. I asked how old she is, and she stared at me. I offered her my hat, which did not impress her. I put Colin's hat on her head, which she tossed on the floor. I kept talking, and she kept staring. It was really hilarious, and she was stinking cute. When I got up to wash my hands before eating, her mother apparently retrieved her (and Colin said Devadara was not at all happy about it). Before they left, her mother brought Devadara to say goodbye, so we shook hands, and she stared at me. We ate our thali lunch (vegetables, rice, and papadam) and then went back to the hotel to make some plans for our next move.