While I am already planning for some travels in the coming months, in the meantime I still enjoying browsing through previous albums to recollect and live through the memories of my past travels. I haven’t written about my travels in India for a long time so in this travel story I am trying to recollect and reminisce my travels in the tranquil backwaters of Kerala state in the southern part of India many years ago.
I have been to Kerala more than once and it is one state in India which I would love to visit again. From the tea gardens of Munnar to Kovalam Beach to the port city of Kochi, the capital Thiruvananthapuram, the wonderful nature reserves it has wonderful places to visit more than once.
As the Kerala tourism calls the state, God’s Own Country, it definitely lives up to this phrase. Tourism thrives in this state and the hospitality of the locals is very welcoming to tourists from all over the world. During one of my visits to Kerala, an experience which I enjoyed the most was cruising the backwaters of Kerala and staying overnight in a traditional wooden houseboat. It is a very unique experience and a perfect way to enjoy complete tranquility away from the hubbub of city life.
The backwaters of Kerala are a network of brackish lagoons parallel to the Arabian Sea coast, inlets, lakes and interconnected canals. They cover around 900 kms of waterways. The large lakes which are fed by a large number of rivers are connected by canals. Within these vast area of waterways are towns from where most of the backwater cruises start and end.
Of the 34 backwaters in Kerala, 27 are located close to the Arabian Sea. The ecosystem of the backwaters are home to many species of aquatic life and birds. The landscape is surrounded by palm trees and many other plantations. It is beautiful in any season.
I took a boat to travel from Alappuzha towards Kochi. Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India described the city as the Venice of the east due to its canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons. Alappuzha is a popular destination to start the backwaters cruise. It is connected to Kumarakom, near the city of Kottayam and to Kochi in the North and Kollam in the South. Kochi and Kumarakom are located in the backwater of Lake Vembanad, which is the longest backwater in Kerala and also the longest lake in India.
The houseboats used for cruises throughout the backwaters are called Kettuvallams. These boats were traditionally used as grain barges and are built in a very unique way. They have thatched roof over wooden hulls. Some of these boats are said to have been made without any nails and using only sustainable materials.
Once I stepped inside the houseboat, it was quite surprising to see the interiors decorated as a proper hotel room, with air conditioning, western style toilet facilities with enclosed shower space. The interior decor is very traditional and so are the door locks in Kerala style designs which I noticed on my room door. Each boat have a team of navigators, cook and helper. There is also a generator on board.
A welcome drink of fresh coconut water and some snacks were served once I settled in. The evening meal consisted of rice and curries cooked in local spices. Then the boat started cruising towards the vast expanse of the backwaters. There are many such boats which can be seen with tourists waving at each other. During the evening of my stay on the houseboat there was a heavy downpour and it brought a totally different beauty of the entire landscape, and I could see many birds flying in the V-formation. The sound of the rain was the only thing that could be heard. To be far away from the sounds of city life was in my opinion the best part of this cruise.
In the evening, the boat docked near one of the shores and after an equally wholesome dinner, it was the most peaceful sleep I had. I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds. I can still recollect that peaceful atmosphere of the backwaters. For me the best part of the cruise was the tranquility of the backwaters which I fondly remember and speak about it to my family and friends.
- Most tour agents can book the houseboats as an all-inclusive package.
- There are various points from which the cruises start, so it can be chosen based on the overall travel itinerary.
- Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram airports are linked to most of the cities from where the cruises start and end.
- Backwaters can be beautiful in any season as it being with nature that you’ll enjoy most.
- It is good to carry mosquito repellent and insect bite sprays or creams and use these.
- There is provision of bottled water on the houseboats.
- Do enjoy the food cooked onboard as you’ll get the authentic taste of the local cuisine.
- For bird watchers, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is visited by many species of migratory birds.
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