There are places where you go not to trek mountains, visit monuments or spend nights partying; you just lay back soaking tranquility away from the busy routines of life. Places which help detoxify you from the venoms of modernity, places where you visit to enjoy the silence, the stillness of nature and have some serene time. Alleppey, or Alappuzha as it is currently known, is one such place. Much like our avian visitors, tourists across the globe flock here to spend their winters in the beautiful backwaters of Alleppey. After much deliberation, we decided to visit Alleppey in which would be our first major group trip of 2019.
After landing at the Cochin International airport, we boarded a KSRTC bus to Vyatla bus stop and from there to Alleppey, a journey which took about 2.5 hours. On reaching Alleppey, we called our tour operator who guided us to our houseboat – The Southern Panorama. Its a beautiful houseboat with wooden finish and excellent crew members. On arriving, we were served orange juice after which we freshened up and assembled at the lobby of the houseboat. We are ready !!! The captain pulls the levers and the boat starts to move, first through a narrow channel and then into the vast expanse. The boat made its way through the milky waters and around the same time, hundreds of other houseboats had also begun their journey. We came across houseboats of all shapes and sizes rivaling each other on aesthetics. At the banks, there are hundreds of coconut trees and behind them are the beautiful paddy fields; all those postcards you saw of Kerala are after all real !!! Adding to the already charming setting, flocks of beautiful migratory birds and seagulls flew around the boats, some even perching themselves on the mast. After some time, the boat was anchored and the chef summoned us. Leaving the seagulls to fight for their meals, we sat around a dining table for lunch. The chef introduced his repertoire of exotic Kerala dishes as he lifted the lids of the containers one by one and every time he lifted a lid, we were treated with an enticing aroma. Food is meant to be tasted and olfactory delights can be deceiving. Forgoing table etiquettes, which I anyway hardly care for when there are palatable dishes in front, I pierced a fried Karimeen fish with the fork, cut out a slice and sucked it into my mouth. The taste was outstanding – less oil and a perfect blend of spices, just as I like it. It’s not without a reason, Kerala is called the land of spices. Apart from the fish and the usual rice and sambar, there were a few more Keralite dishes but the names are hard to remember and recall. We finished our lunch and waited for the crew to finish theirs after which we started sailing again, this time through even more beautiful scenes.
After some time, we halted again. There is an option to take a one-hour canoe ride through the narrow water channels that pass through interiors of the villages and allows to experience the lifestyle of the people on the banks from close quarters. We saw villagers going about their daily chores and some of them waved at us as we sailed through their backyards. The oarsman of the canoe plucked some raw mangoes for us; it was quite unusual to find mangoes in January. Canoes and boats are an integral part of life at the backwaters. Policemen patrol on boats, kids go to schools on boats, there are ice cream sellers, fruit sellers, fishermen, every one running their businesses on boats. Alleppey truly deserves the sobriquet – “Venice of the East“.
Canoes and boats are an integral part of life at the backwaters
After the canoe ride, we returned to our houseboat and sailed further. On request, the captain allowed me to steer the houseboat for some time. Although it was in the open waters and I just had to rotate the steering enough to keep the boat left bound, I can still genuinely brag about sailing a massive houseboat through the great backwaters.
As the dusk sets, the crimson sun in the horizon bids goodbye to the still waters of the lagoon and the boat anchors for the night. Amidst all this, an egret dives at a small fish who valiantly maneuvers into the seaweeds to see another day at the great backwaters of Alleppey. We too retired to our small rooms to rest and reflect on the beautiful sights and the lives of the people who lived on the banks of the backwaters. We rested for some time in our quaint rooms and then reassembled in the dining area for dinner. If lunch was a treat, the dinner was even better. In dinner, we had exquisite dishes cooked in Kerala style. After a sumptuous dinner, we returned to our rooms for the night. Next morning, the houseboat sailed for another 1 hour during which we were served breakfast onboard. The boat was anchored for the final time and we checked out.
The next day, we explored Alappuzha beyond the backwaters on a rented two-wheeler. We visited the Marari beach and the Alleppey lighthouse in the day time. In the evening, we visited the historic Ambalappuzha Krishna temple where Lord Krishna is worshiped as Parthasarathi. Like most iconic temples of Kerala, here too, men are required to enter the main temple bare-chested in a traditional dhoti. The temple is built in typical Kerala architecture marked by gable roofs laid with brown tiles. However, the highlight of the day was our accommodation at the Kuttichira Heritage Home. It’s a 160-year-old wooden cottage constructed by a school teacher who apparently reassembled the cottage after disassembling and transferring it from a place 80 km away.
The magnificent houseboats, the vast milky waters, surreal landscapes, the lifestyle of inhabitants on the banks of the backwaters, every aspect of Alleppey is unique and exhilarating. If you visit Kerala, I would recommend to include a day or two for Alleppey in your itinerary; you will absolutely love this place. I hope you liked this post, please share your feedback in the comments section below. Travel and Spread Love !!!