This is the seventh post in the Kerala backwater blog post series.
The Alleppey backwaters always existed; the people living around the area years ago, used the ‘almost’ fresh water for all purposes, like drinking, bathing, washing etc. Families used small boats for themselves, which every member of the family could row. The bigger ferry boats served as public transport and the spacious, traditional Kettuvallams ( big boats bound with rope) carried cargo and the families that owned them used these big boats for an occasional visit to their relatives. Life was quiet and peaceful. I wonder if they ever marveled at the beauty surrounding them or did they take it as a matter of routine…
Life has changed a lot from those days. The backwaters remain the same, but not the activities. With the development of roads much of the traffic has moved on to land. Now houseboats carrying tourists criss-cross the calm waters. Many have discovered the thrill and joy of boat rides on the backwaters of Alleppey. They wax eloquent about their wonderful experience of cruising and living in boats on the serene backwaters. This in turn prompts others to dream of a vacation in Kerala and visit in and around Alleppey, the boating capital of Kerala.
To call Alleppey the “Venice of East” maybe a cliché, but there is truth in it. There are narrow canals which connect the larger water bodies. To traverse these water inlets, one may have to depend on a shikara, the country boat. On either side there are simple dwellings, eateries, shops and stores. You can stop anywhere and use the services as in a town. Stores selling ethnic articles are a source of souvenirs to take home.
Coir making is a cottage industry prevalent in the area. Coir is made by retting coconut fibers. A lot of women work at it and become economically independent. The boat can drop you in such a place where coir and coir articles are crafted.
Coir Village Alleppey: Image by Gorgonzola via flickr
With all these facilities, the holidayers can cruise along for hours on the waters and the regulars can reach their destinations in time, without getting subjected to the air pollution on the roads. The cruise in these backwaters is indeed a dream come true! It is a refuge from hectic life for the romantics, poets, authors, artists , in fact for anyone who holds an aesthetic view of life.
No amount of repetition can dull the description of the swaying coconut trees, the green paddy fields, blue skys, flocks of ducks floating on the surface, cormorants, the fish-eating birds exposing only their long necks above water, and those beautiful water lilies. You have to see it to believe it. As you relax on the deck after a Kerala lunch/dinner mainly of sea-food cooked by special chefs, you may witness a sunset in riotous colors, or enter the moonlit world of imagination.
At night you may come across a fisherman or two in his boat half asleep yet alert enough to net his catch. He won’t disturb you. Some find the monsoon with raindrops falling on the surface of the water causing unending ripples more thrilling. The cool breeze, gray skies and lightning add to the charm.
Kochi is the nearest international airport from where Alleppey is 100 km away by road. There is a ferry service to Cochin or you can take a private boat ride. From Alleppey, the entire backwater stretches of Kerala are accessible by inland waterways which are more pleasant than road. You can go on to reach Kuttanad, the granary of Kerala. The unique shrine dedicated to serpents is about 32 km south of Alleppey. The temple is headed by a Brahmin priestess.
The famous Krishna temple at Ambalappuzha is 15 km south of Alappuzha. It is a grand example of Kerala architecture. The “palpayasam” made of milk is served as an offering, something worth tasting apart from being blessed by the Lord. The murals depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. 3 km east of Ambalapuzha stands the fascinating “Karumadikuttan” which is said to be a 11th century statue of Lord Buddha.
Statue of Karumadikuttan at Alleppey: Image by sureshmsi via flickr
A lovely place to spend a night during the cruise is Pathira-manal an island which is also a bird sanctuary. A one and a half hours’drive by motor boat takes you there. Kumarakom the famous bird sanctuary can also be covered on the way to Kollam. Each of these places holds its own charm.
Good hotels and resorts are plenty and you can choose any type you prefer. The tariffs vary from Rs, 1000 to 13,000 for a double room. By good, I mean they are modern, clean and comfortable. There are home stays also to choose from, if you are one of those who want to experience real Kerala lifestyle.
Hope you enjoyed unveiling the charming Alleppey backwaters. Love to hear your comments and experiences visiting Alleppey backwaters.
Here is the complete list of articles in the Kerala backwater series.
3. Fishing…For Fun at Njarakkal Aqua Fish Farm (Part of Kochi Backwaters)