Published: March 11th 2011February 26th 2011
Kerala - Alleppey and the Backwaters
21/02/11 - 23/02/11
Well we have landed right back into India that's for sure! The ear splitting beeping and the dirty buses are back but the pavements have gone. Alleppey is a hectic, muggy and dusty town that is split into grids by small waterways which lead into the backwaters. To the east of the city is a quiet, pleasant beach which seems popular with locals and big sand crabs (digging holes by constantly shovelling the sand with one arm).
Alleppey is known as 'The Gateway to the Backwaters' and why this place is on the tourist trail. You can discover the narrow backwaters by a canoe boat (motor or rowing) or the wider canals by houseboat or ferry.
We wanted to do an overnight houseboat trip and didn't have anything Pre booked. The owner (reliable) of our homestay GH recommended us a boat company (1 bedroom for 7000Rs) which we were going to go with (others who had been on it enjoyed it) but instead we were approached by an English couple (Gordon and Emily) in the street who were interested in sharing a houseboat to make it
We thought it was a great idea to share as the boats cost anywhere from around 4500Rs - 7500Rs for 1 bedroom boat (depending on the standard of boat) to 6000-10000Rs for a 2 bedroom boat. We looked around a couple of boats at the Houseboat station area and found the standard boats to be really the same same but only slightly different. We saw a really nice boat but the price was 10000Rs and non negotiable. The guys on the boats seemed in large to be fairly uninterested in selling their trips and we had to approach most of them (who were asleep most of the time).
We ended up going with the Gourikrishna boat company which has a little shop just before the houseboat station area, next door to Coco Houseboats (which is featured on the Alleppey map). They took us to see their boat (Jawahar) from the office using another small boat docked outside. The boat was much the same as the other boats we had seen but definitely cleaner with spacious bedrooms and a bit bigger bathrooms. The staff were friendly and the boat had a nice comfy sitting area at the front.
We paid 7000Rs between 4 of us for the overnight trip with AC (in the bedrooms between 21:00 and 06:00 only). This price includes 3 meals and water on the boat from 12:00 the 1st day until 09:30 the next day.
You have to provide your own alcohol and soft drinks but they do give you afternoon chai with strange banana pakoras. You stop off at a shop in the backwaters where you can buy snack and drinks in addition to fish or prawns if you want to add them to your dinner menu. We bought the drinks in town (there is a Foreign Liquor Shop on the corner of the top of YMCA road) as it is better value.
The backwater cruise was fantastic and they delivered everything they said they would. The meals provided plenty of food and more. You do however go through the larger canals but get to see rural village life and the landscape is made up of palm trees and lush green paddy fields. The service was good and the staff were indeed really friendly. One thing they could do with though Is a stereo as when we asked for music they
just put on a random Bollywood film!! The company was also fun and we spent the evening playing cards! They had to teach me everything as I had not played in years!
The backwaters can also be seen by small canoe boat (about 300Rs per hour). There are also tourist cruises available and there is a backwater ferry which transports people from Alleppey to Kollam (and in the other direction) for 300Rs from a jetty very close to town. This is useful if travelling south as you get to see the backwaters and can miss another boring train journey. Everything can be booked on arrival so you can see what you are getting.
After the cruise we went to Alleppey beach which is a nice stretch of sand to walk along or sit on (and watch the crabs) next to hardly any development. It has an old pier that was apparently built by the British before India's independence but like most other things this is now threadbare and rusting and will probably rot away and fall into the sea within a couple of years!
We stayed in 'Venice Castle' Homestay for 1 night for 1200Rs
including breakfast at a communal table. The owner Matthew is a great host and his family are really friendly. Our room was simple but had AC, TV and free Wifi. The shower was hot intermittently but the place is great value for money. It is number 1 on TripAdvisor (BnB section) and we would agree with that.
Matthew also was kind enough to store our bags whilst we went on the houseboat and put up with us hanging around on our last afternoon in Alleppey (waiting for our train) in the garden, sitting area and on the upstairs verandah.
A tuk tuk to/from the station costs 50Rs, to the beach 30-40Rs.
Onto our last stop now, back down by train to Trivandrum, the capital of 'gods own country' Kerala.
There are more photos below