Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh those beautiful backwaters...

The next venture on our trip (and one that we would definitely recommend to those visiting South India) was exploring the backwaters of Kerala. We chose to start in Alappuzha (Alleppey). Arriving via train, we were bombarded with rickshaw drivers all wanting us to go to the same Guesthouse (Johnson’s Guesthouse). This is one in the lonely planet, and although we went and got suckered into looking, I would not recommend it. The rooms were far too overpriced, the owner pressured me upon walking through his doorstep to book with his houseboat, and it’s far from the main city centre. After rejecting his offer, we were lucky that he was nice enough to suggest another guesthouse. We stayed at a place called Brown Guesthouse, we were the only tenants, and there wasn’t a family there, just a nice lady who owned the place. We were located on Cullen Road (the main road) and were an easy walking distance to everything we needed.

The backwaters are the main reason most people come to Alleppey, so don’t think the Indians don’t know this. They will swindle you in any which way to get you to book with them on their houseboat/canoe. Make sure you check out the ride you’ll be taking before you book and especially before you pay. Look back onto the old saying, “If some things seem too good to be sure, they probably are”.

As for our experience, we decided it best to take a canoe adventure; cheaper and more in-depth with backwater communities. Canoes (unlike the huge houseboats) can fit down the small backwaters and get up close and personal with the small villages. We had such a nice driver, for breakfast he brought us into his home (he lives along the backwaters), where he fed his plenty and introduced us to his charming family. Its crazy how many people can live in one tiny house. For the duration of the trip (we chose an 8 hour adventure), we saw many beautiful things; palm trees swaying perfectly in the wind, birds flying along the water, snakes swimming along side us (don’t worry they are harmless), women doing the daily chores on the backwater steps, children playing in the fields, and the farmers at work in the rice paddy fields.

This city is also located on a beach, a non touristy beach, but a beach none the less. It was definitely different than Goa though, I didn’t even feel comfortable wearing a 1 piece bathing suit due to all the Indian men staring and constantly trying to take sneak photos. Jeffery loved the waves though, so an impressive beach for him. Also, what was interesting was when the sunset, the beach came to life! There was live music, food vendors, games going on, kids running around, everything and anything.

For this stop along your trip 2 things I’d recommend:

1) Make sure you get the proper houseboat/canoe that is right for you. *check all options
2) Stay at a home stay or real guesthouse. The Keralan hospitality is unlike many other states in India. Especially try a nice home cooked meal (the coconut rice here is absolutely brilliant!).

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