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Exploring Kerala Backwaters on a Houseboat
“We will be heading to Alappuzha. That’s roughly 5 hours from here, so just sit back and we will be there around lunchtime”, our tour guide Manoj reminded us after we left the Turtle on the Beach Hotel in Kovalam.
It was a long drive, and I slept the entire time. I only woke up when I heard our tour guide give directions to our bus driver, signaled the end of our road trip for the day. The place was quiet when we arrived, The only people around were our group, and some locals managing the area.
There were more than a dozen houseboats docked in the area. After securing our luggage Manoj led us to a beautiful houseboat located a few steps away from the registration booth. We had the entire houseboat to ourselves, and, although it looked ordinary on the outside, its interior looked like a classy 3-star hotel inside a huge boat. It had 3 air-conditioned bedrooms, a hot shower, a full kitchen, a dining area, and a comfortable and cozy living room.
It was already lunch time when we arrived in Alappuzha, and everyone was already starving. God might have heard my rumbling stomach because right after we left the dock station, the boat staff immediately started serving lunch — and that lightened up everyone’s face. 🙂
We all enjoyed our seafood lunch, especially the curry-coated fried Karimeen (don’t tell them I finished two). Karimeen is a very tasty variety of fish found in both salt and fresh waters of Kerala.
After we enjoyed our sumptuous lunch, we spent the afternoon lounging in the living room. From our seats, we saw the simple but breathtaking views of Kerala Rural area.
From simple makeshift houses, mosques and Catholic churches to beautiful resorts, these manmade structures were a pleasant eye-catching surprise as we cruised the backwaters.
According to our tour guide, these houseboats, also known as kettuvallam, were originally used as rice boats. Compared to the old world rice boats, these ones are much bigger and are also being used for leisure trips. The original kettuvallams of Kerala were used to carry tons of rice and spices, and a standard kettuvallam can hold up to 30 tons to travel from Kuttanad to the Kochi port.
Soon, however, people started using trucks instead of the kettuvallams for transporting rice and spices. The transportation system has been modernized, but it’s good that someone found a way to put the kettuvalams into good use. Today, although these boats are no longer used for transporting goods, they have been modified into cruisers, and in turn, attract tourists with their specially constructed rooms. These boats cruised forward from near-extinction to their present popularity. At present, there are over 500 houseboats in Alappuzha alone.
After more or less 3 hours of cruising the beautiful Kerala backwaters, we finally reached the luxurious Kumarakom Lake Resort (resort info). Upon arriving at the resort, we got our room keys and proceeded to our rooms after a short briefing. We were supposed to join the sunset cruise, but we all enjoyed our rooms too much and ended up missing the boat. Nevertheless, the sunset was as picturesque from where we stayed.
After taking photos of the sunset, we went back to our respective rooms to freshen up and prepare for our dinner. It was only then when I finally had a chance to explore my room. Apart from the huge and comfortable bed, it had a huge receiving area, but the most surprising part is its beautiful bathroom.
While others had access to a common swimming pool, my room had its own Jacuzzi, a rain shower, the best in class toiletries, and a beautiful veranda. The resort also had a beautiful swimming pool located near the docking station with a beautiful view of Vembanad Lake.
Kumarakom Lake Resort (resort info) is an award-winning, state-of-the-art-facilities resort located on the banks of Vembanad Lake. The resort offers beautifully designed cottages, with the interior of each carefully constructed using materials from authentic historical Kerala houses.
After half an hour in the Jacuzzi, I proceeded to the restaurant for dinner. The buffet area was huge. It had a bread section, a salad station, a cheese bar, a soup station, a main dish area, and a dessert Area. We were seated in front of a stage where cultural performers entertained the guests that night.
As we enjoyed our dinner, we were also lucky to witness a rare performance from Ottamthullal artists. Ottamthullal is an ethnic classical performing art that is unique to Kerala, India. Accompanied by a mridangam or an idakka (drum and cymbal), a solo performer with green makeup and a colorful costume (decorated with a long red and white band and painted wooden ornaments), acts and dances while reciting the Thullal (lyrics).
Apart from the fantastic food choices, the Ottamthullal performance was definitely one of the highlights of our short stay at Kumarakom Lake Resort. I know I will definitely find equally beautiful resorts in my future trips, but this trip will always be the most memorable one because of the overall experience it gave me.
After dinner, we headed back to our rooms to rest and prepare for our early morning activity the next day.
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