Alleppey: My first backwater experience in a houseboat
It was last year as I recollect, I had my first backwater experience in a customized houseboat, and that too at the world’s most popular backwater destination, Alleppey, Kerala. Fantabulous! The only word I could use to describe my houseboat experience. I have been longing for a houseboat cruise at Alleppey. The hype about it was too high among my friends and family and at last, I packed my bags. 2 of my friends joined me and we set off our journey to Alleppey. We contacted a tour operator in Kerala recommended by our friends. There were many choices given to us, depending upon our budget such as Deluxe, Premium and then Luxury houseboat. We chose a premium houseboat. Our tour operator informed us the Houseboat cruise would start at 12 pm and ends next day 6 am in the morning. All our meals would be provided within the houseboat, exclusively prepared for us on board. We got even more excited about the fact that we could relish the famous Kerala cuisine.
Destination Arrived- The Alleppey backwaters
The day came, and we reached Alleppey at 11 am. Our cab driver directed us to the houseboat boarding point by the side of a lake, 100 meters away from our parking area. A guy in a shirt and Mundu [traditional Kerala attire] approached us and with a smile asked us to follow him to our houseboat. He stopped near a ginormous houseboat and told us to get in. 3 of us stood there for a minute checking out the houseboat. It was a beauty. I have seen houseboat pics on the web, however seeing it up close was pretty exciting. We hopped into the houseboat. We were welcomed with tender coconut as a welcome drink. The interiors were well furnished, neat and well maintained. It consists of a sitting room, a classy bedroom, a kitchen and an upper deck with chairs to enjoy the sights while cruising. There were 2 cooks and a driver on board. All of them were so welcoming and cautious.
The cruise started and I did not risk wasting my precious time and climbed the upper deck. The view of the Alleppey countryside from the upper deck was lovely. After half an hour the driver steered the boat towards a narrow canal. Now, this was way beyond my expectations. To my left, I could see beautiful coconut farms and to my right, lush green paddy fields. I could see the local residents involved in their day to day life. Some washing clothes by the banks, kids swimming, fishermen on canoe boats and some busy in coir-making which is a major livelihood of the Alleppey people. I enjoyed every minute as we floated through the narrow canals.
By 1 pm noon, our lunch was served. I jumped off the upper deck starving to taste some Kerala style food. All 3 of us were so eager to get hands on the food but we kept our calm since we did not want the houseboat crew to see us wild. On the table, there was white rice, Kerala style Sambhar [a South Indian veg curry], curd, Rasam, some cabbage Thoran [cabbage cooked along with coconut and spices], green pea curry, pickle, and Pappad. You might be wondering where is the big deal? Of course, I am coming to it. There was smoking hot Kerala style chicken curry, bright red thick spicy Kerala Fish curry which they call “Meen Mulakittathu” and my favorite Karimeen fry [a freshwater fish]. A banana leaf was kept for each one of us on which the food would be served. In Kerala, it is a traditional way of eating food.
I did not keep my hands on the veggies, I started off with the Karimeen fry. Hot and crispy, the fish fry was super awesome and I just loved it. I moved onto rice and chicken curry. I savored the flavor of spices used. The gravy was thick and pepper-ginger-garlic are used heavily. The fish curry was too spicy, however, I could not stop eating it. Every bite I took, the gravy oozed out of the fish meat. We all did not even talk to each other while eating as all of us were too busy enjoying exquisite Kerala cuisine. After the main course, Payasam [a sweet dish made of vermicelli and coconut milk] was served to us as a desert. The lunch was nothing less than stupendous. With our bellies full, we thanked the cooks and resumed enjoying the sights.
The evening time we enjoyed a cup of tea and vada [a local snack]. Banana fry or locally known as “Pazham Pori” was also served to us. The scenery during the sunset was exhilarating. A shade of red and yellow spread throughout the sky with bright green terrain downside and the shimmering waters of the lake turned golden in color. The feeling was pleasing and a sense of joy prevailed all over our minds. I took some snaps and captured the scenes to cherish my Alleppey memories. It got dark soon and the houseboat crew informed us that they would anchor the boat by the side since there is a rule, not to stay at the bottom of the backwaters at night.
The cruise was over and we stayed on board. The dinner served was again delightful. After dinner, we had a sound sleep. Next morning, we woke up and the boat was moving. The houseboat guy told us we were moving back to boarding point where we were supposed to be dropped. I understood our houseboat cruise came to an end. Though I felt disheartened, the experience was remarkable. The cook Mr. Ramakrishnan asked us to have the breakfast. He got everything ready for us on the table. There was bread, omelet, some cut fruits, milk, tea, coffee, idly-sambhar, dosa-chutney and Appam with egg curry. Not to mention, the food again did not disappoint us. The cooks really deserved the praise. I thanked them with a hug and offered him a tip. At first, he refused but I insisted and put it in his pocket. By 9 pm we reached the dropping point and our beloved driver was already there waving at us. All 3 of us disembarked the houseboat thanking the whole crew.
I must say, Alleppey backwaters just stole my heart, totally.
It was my pleasure to share my houseboat experience in Kerala. I recommend the backwater cruise at least once in a lifetime to every traveler regardless of their taste in travel. A houseboat cruise at Alleppey backwaters must be on your list whenever you travel to India.
Do share your houseboat experience as well and I am sure it was worth every penny and did satisfy your travel hunger.
Happy Travelling! 🙂