In 2012, my daughter and son-in-law went on a vacation to Kerala on a 2-day package tour that included a house boat cruise and coir village. This is an account of the tour from their travel diary.
We traveled to Alleppey by train. A hotel to freshen up was included in the package since the boat normally leaves at 11 am and our train arrived at 5.40 in the morning. However, there was a strike in Kerala that day and all transportation including hotels were to be closed starting 7 am. So we were taken to the boat directly from Alleppey train station and served breakfast there; it took us about 15-20 mins to reach backwaters where the boats are docked. Alleppey is a small town and the car took us through small winding roads. The boat was very huge about 50 feet in length, with 2 bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a deck and a kitchen. These house boats are powered with a small engine. The deck is equipped with a dining table and a TV. However there was no cable or disc, we had to watch DVD’s. During the day the fans ran on the generator. The crew of 3 included a cook, attendant and the boat captain. At about 11 am the boat left the dock. The boat cruises very slowly at roughly 5-10 mph through the backwaters. The view is very picturesque with rice/ paddy fields, coconut and other trees on both sides. It is quiet relaxing. What I found interesting is that the river routes here are named and you see the route name signs with arrows just like the streets on land. This tells you that boats were the primary means of transport in the past. We traveled 40 km in 6 hours from 11 am to 5 pm. On the way we stopped for lunch at a spot where we were served lunch on the boat. After lunch we walked around a little along the paddy fields took some pictures and after an hour the boat took off again. The A/C was turned on after 6 pm after the boat docked for the night as they were able to get power supply. It gets dark at about 6 pm so the only entertainment is TV. Luckily, we had some DVD’s with us so we watched a movie before we were served dinner.
Next day morning, we were served breakfast again and around 09.30 am the boat returned to the same place where we started. It was a good experience on the whole on the house boat.
Coir village lake Resort
As part of the 2 day package tour, we were taken to coir village (Thrikkunnapuzha village in Alleppey) from the dock. It took us about an hour to get there. This is a good place to be in nature; there is no activity as such here. It has been maintained really well; the ambiance is pretty good. It looks like an island/lagoon with water canals on either side of the cottages. The canals feed into the river that takes you to different villages. In the evening we took a half hour ride into the river in a small canoe. It was an extremely relaxing experience. This concluded the package tour but we decided to do some more sight seeing on our own.
Our next stop was a very ancient Naga temple in the town of Mannersala, about 20kms from the Alleppey dock toward Trivandrum. The coir village is another 15kms from there.
Anantha Padmanabh Swami Temple
If you are heading toward Trivendrum from coir village it is easier to board the train at Haripad as opposed to going back to the Alleppey station. We boarded Ahilyagiri train to Tiruvannapurum AKA Trivandrum. It is a 2 to 2.30 hours train ride. We stayed at a hotel ahout 1 km from the main temple parallel to MG road.
Like in any other traditional temples in Kerala, women are expected to be in saris and men in traditional dhoti. If you are not in these outfits, you are able to rent dhotis. Even women in salwar/churidaar had to rent dhotis that they wrapped around them over their churidar. There were police everywhere; they too followed the traditional attire and were in dhotis with dark blue satin uparnas that had ‘police and security’ printed on it. At the gate we were able to purchase a ticket for special darshan that takes you close to the garbhagudi.
In the sanctum sanctorum, Sri Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha and is visible through the doors. The serpent has 5 hoods facing inwards, signifying contemplation. The idol is made from 12,000 saligramas. These saligramas are from the banks of the gandaki river in Nepal. The idol of Sri Padmanabha is covered with ‘Katusarakara yogam’ a special Ayurvedic mix which forms a plaster that keeps the idol clean. The daily worship is with flowers. Next to the temple is a water tank, named Padma Theertham (lotus spring).
Nagercoil, Suchindrum and Kanyakumari
From Trivandrum we came to Nagercoil. Instead of staying in Kanyakumari, where the hotels were a little expensive, we stayed here and at 10am in the morning, we left for Kanyakumari. On the way to Kanyakumari, we visited another temple, Suchindrum which is about 8kms from Nagercoil. The significance of this temple is that the Trimurti is worshipped here. This place was earlier known as Gnanaryana. An 18 feet hanuman is also worshipped here. There are some musical stambhas that are carved from one rock that play sa, re, ga, ma….when you strike them.
From there we proceeded to Kanyakumari which is about 15kms from here. On the way, we visited Kanyakumari Devi temple. Being Friday, there was a lot of rush but we bought special darshan tickets and luckily had darshan 15 minutes before the temple closed. Then we proceeded to the dock and boarded a boat to head toward the rock memorial. This is the place of confluence of 3 oceans, Arabian sea on the west, Indian ocean on the south and bay of Bengal on the east. On the way back, we saw the Gandhi memorial from outside since it was closed.
On the tiny island adjacent to Vivekananda Rock Memorial is the Thiruvalluvar statue, 133 feet (40.5m) tall stone sculpture of the Tamil poet and saint, Tiruvalluthe statue standing on the pedestal represents var, author of the Thirukkural. It was opened on January 1, 2000. The statue represents the 38 chapters of virtue in the Thirukkural. The statue standing on the pedestal represents wealth and pleasure signifying that wealth and love be earned and enjoyed on the foundation of solid virtue. 133 feet represents the 133 chapters in Thirukkural. It weighs 7000 tons.
In the evening, we came back to Nagercoil and visited an ancient Nagaraja temple, hence the name Nagercoil. In this temple, Shiva, Srikrishna, Durga devi and Ganesha are also worshipped.
Same evening we boarded a train back home after having a great time on this tour.