Sunday, 1 May 2016

Through the Backwaters


Canoe on the Alleppey canal

Alleppey was like a holiday weekend away, especially after living in Munnar for a few weeks and falling into a kind of routine (even if it was a very very chilled routine). It was a new city, we had a beach and went on an amazing boat trip through the backwaters.

True, people do say that the beach is probably not worth your time if you visit Alleppey (they're not lying), but the sea breeze and salty air was still appreciated as I spent most of my time so sweaty that I looked like Adam Richman from Man V Food after eating 100 chilli burgers. Alleppey was so hot and humid - Southern India is currently in a drought - that I wanted to beat Spencer over the head every time he suggested the cheaper option of actually walking to the town, which I would have enjoyed if I didn't have to cover up and wear a bloody snowsuit every time I left the house. Unfortunately, India is a much warmer experience for girls than it is for boys. When we did venture into the town one evening, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the mayhem of an Indian city again. Alleppey comes to life at night, it's too damn hot during the day, and we found a nice handful of restaurants to try local, non-tourist priced fish curry, at last!

But, the main reason backpackers and tourists flock to Alleppey is to see the backwaters. As soon as you step off the bus or out of the train station you are surrounded by tour guides trying to sell you one of the hundreds of different boat trips, the most popular being a 24-hour stay on a luxury houseboat. 

Luxury houseboat in Alleppey
One of many luxury houseboats on the canal in Alleppey.

We opted out of the traditional houseboat in favour of a much cheaper option in an unmotorised canoe boat. Not only did we chose the cheaper option due to our backpacker budget but also because we wanted the opportunity to see more of the backwaters than just the main stretch of the canal. The huge houseboats are too big to venture down the smaller tributaries where many of the locals go about their daily routines. The larger houseboats are also damaging the environment with the amount of fuel needed to run them and there doesn't seem to be a limit to how many can be jetting up the canal at any one time; we saw herds of them every five minutes, followed by clouds of fumes, beeping at each other for prime spots on the water... It was like Delhi all over again.

Residents in Alleppey

Our chosen boat trip meant we first had to jump (literally) on the local government-run ferry which took us along the main stretch of the canal out of Alleppey city, during the morning boat commute.

After about 40 minutes of trying to keep my eyes open (the heat really took its toll) and returning enthusiastic waves to every boat that went past, we arrived at our ferry spot and made our way across rice fields to the family home where we were to devour a much-needed breakfast of idli, sambar and chutney. After breakfast, and a flustered two minutes trying to chase away a chicken that followed me into the bathroom, we headed out to the backwaters in our little environmentally friendly boat, with Baboo our Captain.

Backwaters in Alleppey

Village in Alleppey
Being on a smaller boat also meant we could take pit-stops which gave us a chance to interact with the locals.

We also got to finish the day off in our favourite way, with a mountain of rice and an unlimited supply of Keralan chutneys; all hail The Thali! The family that hosted us for lunch, in typical Indian style, didn't let Spencer decline any second, third or fourth helping until all the food was gone, and it's safe to say he left with his belly the size of Brazil (and spent the rest of the afternoon on the toilet)!

Backwaters in Alleppey

Backwaters in Alleppey

Backwaters in Alleppey

Women in Alleppey



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