If you want to know where Alleppey is Click here
From Varkala we took a few local buses on to the small town of Kollam, where we spent an uneventful night. The next morning we packed up and headed for the town jetty, where we caught the eight hour tourist ferry to Alappuzha, aka Alleppey. The ferry winds its way through a section of
the world famous Keralan backwaters, an interlinked series of lagoons, lakes and canals that create over 900 km (about 560 miles) of navigable waterways. We only saw a tiny portion of that, but what we did see was stunning: lazy waters backed up by endless series of palm trees, tons of exotic looking birds flying all over, locals paddling or polling by in small boats. Really it is the greenery of the palms and other plant life that hits you the hardest; it just looks almost overwhelmingly tropical and beautiful.
Unfortunately I’d contracted a bit of a flu-like bug and fever the day before the ferry trip,
and although I’d improved I was still far from 100 percent when we set off. As a result I missed a lot of that amazing scenery I was just raving about, while I slept. The double bench seat Denae and I grabbed for the trip wasn’t the most comfortable for sleeping, so I ended up making a shade fort out of my sarong out back on the stern, where I could stretch out a bit. When that got too hot I ended up lying down on the floor in a bridge area between two cabins. People were giving me some weird looks as they walked by me, sprawled out like a drunk on the dirty floor, but I wasn’t feeling too well and was just thankful I’d found a shaded place to stretch out.
Eventually we made it to Alleppey, the so-called “Venice of the East.” “Venice of the- Whatever-” is one of those annoying and grossly overused phrases that generally don’t apply very well, and Alleppey was no exception. It did have canals that were used for transport, but it didn’t have much in the way
of architectural beauty that makes it European counterpart so famous. To my eye Alleppey was just another bustling and low key Indian town, with not a lot to do or see for the average tourist. The lush tropical beauty of Kerala is much better seen elsewhere. The reason it sits so prominently on the tourist circuit is that Alleppey is reputed to be the best place in Kerala to rent one of the famous kettuvallams, houseboats made along the same lines as the traditional rice barges that have been used to transport grain throughout the backwaters for centuries. These boats are pretty incredible, with beautiful curving thatched roofs and all the comforts of home, things like real toilets, DVD players, large sitting and dining areas, and staff to cook and cater. Not too surprisingly, they are also pretty expensive, generally well over $100 USD per night. That’s pretty big money in India, so we decided not to stay on one of the boats. In retrospect, that may have been a bit of a cheapo mistake, but we’re dirtbags to the core so it is what it is.
So without a houseboat stay, we spent a couple lazy days around Alleppey just wandering around and doing the usual eating and reading and whatnot.
This was high season in Kerala, which has developed quite a reputation over the last few years, so the place was pretty packed with tourists. After Tamil Nadu, seeing all the pale white flesh and backpacks took a bit of getting used to. As a result of the financial crisis and Mumbai attacks, tourism in India has been way down this year, and we’ve enjoying a usual lack of other tourists. Kerala was one major exception. Anyway when we’d cruised into Alleppey we had a hard time finding a place to stay that wasn’t full, so we ended up following some touts a long way through dark alleys and dirt paths and over bridges- Denae was suspecting that we’d be mugged at any time- and finally to a family run guesthouse next to one of the canals. It was a decent place, but the family was very eccentric… Okay they were kind of weird. They were very proud of the food they served us, which proved once again that home cooked definitely shouldn’t be a synonym for good, and we’re pretty sure the adult daughter was gaping and stroking and touching Denae a bit too much to be just friendly girl admiration- not that I blame her.