If you are longing to get away from the hustle-bustle of the city, to a quaint little town for a relaxing and peaceful weekend, Alappuzha aka Alleppey is the place. Popularly known as Venice of the East, Alleppey is a city with picturesque backwaters, canals, beaches and of course houseboats.
We took a flight to Cochin from Bengaluru and then a cab to Alleppey. One hour airborne and less than two hours by road to our destination. Boats cruising through the emerald waterways are the only means of transport and essential part of the land's ethos.
Tour companies offer Luxury, Deluxe, and Budget houseboats. Cruise time, boarding and disembarking hours for all three categories remain the same, the only difference would be the amenities provided. Constructed from eco-friendly materials like bamboo and coconut fibre, each houseboat has one to three bedrooms with attached bathrooms and bio-toilets, a living cum dining room and a kitchen. Few have an upper deck. Tourists can choose a houseboat as per pax.
Every houseboat is manned by a crew of two men, a cook and oarsman or captain as we call him. Few might even have a guide. Our crew was absolutely humble and very hospitable. Boarding begins at 12 noon, and the boats are docked at 5 PM. In these five hours, tourists can enjoy their lunch and high tea cruising through the backwaters.
Gliding through the waterways, we could see the backwaters fringed with coconut trees and innocent village life. Almost every house had a boat just like any house in a city owns a motor vehicle. There are no mountains or forest area in this district. Alappuzha is flanked by Vembanad lake, which is the longest lake in India spanning through many districts of Kerala. The lake is separated from the Arabian Sea by a barrier island. Canals link the lake to other lakes and all major rivers of central Kerala empty into Vembanad lake thus increasing its surface area. The famous annual boat race is conducted in a portion of the lake.
When the houseboats are docked at 5 PM we were free to take a stroll through the countryside, witness the breathtakingly beautiful sunset sky and lush green farms.
The night that followed was a full-moon night. I think I should let the picture below describe how radiant, pleasant, and a peaceful night it was. The light from the houseboats only added to the beauty of the night.
If you are planning to visit Alleppey and stay in a houseboat, don't forget to pack mosquito repellents along with all other stuff you intend to carry. Though all houseboats have mosquito nets, you wouldn't regret packing some repellents. We were smart enough to buy from a local store before sundown.
The following morning our oarsman navigated through the network of waterways, one last time before disembarking, while we enjoyed our scrumptious breakfast.
On the whole, Alleppey was an opportunity to enjoy a holistic experience in one of the most salubrious settings on the face of the planet.