The world continues to surprise us. I wonder if we could go further, what would be there. Something we haven’t seen of course, things that make our eyes seem bigger than they usually are, things that make us feel ridiculously small, and in my recent experience… things that fill with secluded rhythm of backwater flows.
One thing comes in mind so suddenly when we talk about Kerala is cruising along backwater of Alappuzha. The famous picturesque descriptions of green canals filled with houseboats are, somehow, not quite captivating as the real deal. That’s why you should go to see it for yourself, feel the moisture, and enjoy abundant greeneries.
Alappuzha is a coastal town in Alappuzha district of Kerala, India. It is also know as Alleppey, and has been referred as “Venice of the East” as it was one of the oldest planned cities with beautiful canals, backwaters and lagoons. There are coconut trees, banana trees, endless rice fields and paddy fields lined up along side every canal where traditional homes and simple lifestyles are preserved along the currents.
When you reach Alappuzha, there are 3 simple basics to remember; your boat, your food, your relaxing mood. At the boat jetty in town you will find so many boat services out there, and they will probably flock you as your vehicle slows down. It is good to contact a couple of them and work out your plan and bargain in advance, but if not, you have to work on the price and inspect the boat before agreeing on the service.
There are different kinds of boat services to fit your requirements and budgets. Houseboat is like a floating private resort came with air-conditioned rooms, kitchen with chef, open living room with TV, and round the clock butler service. Houseboat rent is starting from 10,000 rupee per night for the whole boat which can easily accommodate your whole family. There are also private boat services with capacity to accommodate about 15-20 people with a starting price at 600 rupee per hour (for 3 hours minimum), come with restroom and comfortable seating. For small crews, you can always go for a share basis which would cost you much less, and you’ll get to make new friends along the ride. Restaurant-boat which is basically an ultimate culinary indulgence floating around the harbor is another way to spend a day at Alappuzha. So decide what you want and get yourself ready for a fantastic journey.
We’re a group of 13 and didn’t plan to spend the night, so we went for a private boat service. I have to admit that I was not really impressed at the beginning of the journey as the canal in town was not quite clean as I imagined, but it soon changed my mind completely.
As our boat cruised out of town and into further parts of Alappuzha, we were in another place, another world, another time, and really completely, insanely, relaxed the heck out of our minds.
Yes, it was truly Venice of the East, but with different vibe. The water was clear and green, enriching with plankton and aquatic plants which become wonderful homes for fish, prawn, crab and mussels. Most homes in Alappuzha are under sea level and line up so suggestive with the canal.
There is no vehicle and the only mean of transportation is by boat. I can see how life can be so leisure and slow here. People in Alappuzha have such an intimate relationship with their water.
It is not only a flourishing irrigation for their farms, a mean of transportation, a rich resource of fishery, but it is much like their world, history and cherishing lifestyle.
Our boat slowed down and parked at a small house on the side of the canal. As a growing trend this beautiful home opens their kitchen to serve a traditional food to tourist like many families in this region do. I really love home-style food. It is humble, rustic, and always seems to cook with special attention. For me it is not just food, but it’s the generosity the family of the house ready to share with us.
Fish, of course, is a must try. Ask for Karimeen which is a local fish from backwater and you can expect a sweet meat that disappear in your mouth like soft pudding.
There are also giant river prawn and mussel usually come fresh in the morning and ready to cook as your preference. Homemade spices used in every dish are so gorgeous, promising to haunt your memory with that delicious fragrance forever.
You can expect a rice meal consisting of boiled rice, fish curry, vegetable stew, different kind of vegetarian side dishes and a mouth-watering fried fish as a staple.
But if you wish to try something more, communicate with your boat driver so he can tell the restaurant in advance.
After a hearty meal, we got on the boat again. And if you thought the similar green sceneries could be boring, you would be surprise how magic shuffled between your eyes. It was quite, peaceful and beautiful. The air was fresh and breezy. The cold vapor from the water seemed to rise up constantly. There was nothing left to do but look and appreciate.
If you rented a houseboat, after a restful and pampering cruise, the boat would park by the silent bank at night so you could relax more and prepared for an even more pampering dinner.
The sound of water caressing the wind and the mild wave roaring on the sides was so lovely, lulling us into a tranquil trance. If I could freeze the moment forever, I would. It was so enchanting that I almost forgot that there were other places existed in the world.
At the end of the trip we felt so refreshing and those beautiful sceneries we had just seen were securely saved in our memories. Beautiful places always called you back before you even left, and Alappuzha did exactly that. We will go back again someday, and next time we’ll spend the night on the houseboat. Are you going, too? 🙂
Stay tune for another discovery in Kerala 🙂