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Old 9th November 2015, 22:00   #1
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Default The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

I love travelling the length and breadth of my home state Kerala using public transport and my recent trip home was no exception. Last time around, I had cruised the back waters around Alappuzha (Alleppey) on the highly recommended but mostly unknown initiative "See Kuttanad" service of the Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD) where I was able to do a 3 hour cruise for a very reasonable sum of 80 Rs.

That only whetted my appetite for more cruising. So this time I decided to do the most famous backwater trip in Kerala. This is the boat trip between Alappuzha and Kollam (Quilon). Since I was in Kochi and wanted to visit Trivandrum, I thought doing the Alappuzha Kollam segment by boat would be a pleasant "alternative" route.

After a long gap, a few years back, the SWTD has restarted this route as a "Tourist Service". A 75 seat "double decker" boat departs from both Alappuzha and Kollam at 1030 and reaches the destination at 1830. The distance is approximately 80 Kms There is a stop for lunch at an en-route lakeside cafe and also another one for tea. The fare is 400 Rs. However there are 5 designated enroute "on request" stop-over points and thus cheaper and shorter segments are available. For example, from Alappuzha end you can opt to disembark at Thottappally, a two hour hop and you pay only 70 Rs. Other designated "fare stages" from Alappuzha are Thrikkunapuzha ( the lunch stop - 3 hours journey- 140 Rs) , Aayiramthengu (200 Rs), Amrithapuri (270 Rs) and Chavara (350 Rs).

Unfortunately there is no online booking facility available. You have to purchase the tickets on the day of departure from the starting point which are the SWTD boat stations at Alappuza or Kollam both of which are adjacent to the respective KSRTC bus stations. The boat can get very full during peak holiday periods from October to January. hence try to reach the starting point by around 9 AM. The boat does not operate during the monsoon months of June, July and August.

Since I was doing the trip in the first week of November and that too on a weekend, I decided not to take a chance and reached Alappuzha around 8 AM after a 90 minute bus trip from Kochi. The SWTD terminus at Alappuzha is the busiest in the state but being a Sunday morning things were very relaxed. A very friendly employee at the terminus asked whether I was heading to Kollam and pointed to the boat which was already moored at the dock. He informed that since local government elections were being held the coming week , not many tourists are expected to travel that day and hence tickets will only be sold on the boat after departure. This meant that I had a long wait at Alappuzha. Had a leisurely breakfast and made my way back around 0845. The staff member at the boat station told me that I can safely leave my backpack on the boat itself.

The pictures are shot with my S4 Mini and hence the clarity is not too good.

This is the boat which did the trip. However this picture is taken not at Alappuzha, but just before departure after the stop for a tea break at Alumkadavu, about 2 1/2 hours before arrival at Kollam.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-boat-aq.jpg

The lower deck is really spacious, has comfortable cushioned seating and has lots of space to move around easily with a high roof.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-boat-ld.jpg

The upper deck as you can see has basic metal seats but more importantly the roof is slung quite low which means that you are mostly confined to the seats and cannot easily move around.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-boat-ud.jpg.



You an carry your luggage aboad the boat. Indeed quite a few tourists do this Alappuzha-Kollam boat trip after staying at Kochi or Alappuzha and continue on from Kollam onwards to Varkala or Trivandrum. However heavy luggage will be stowed on the lower deck of the boat and is not allowed in the upper deck.

In the previous journey I undertook (See Kuttanad), the upper deck had a high roof and was very comfortable. Hence I was curious about the different design for this boat and in particular the rather cramped layout of the upper deck and spoke to the crew about this.

There were a couple of reasons they gave, one of them being the presence of a few low bridges near Kollam below which the boat had to pass through. Since the clearance is not much, the roof has to be low slung.

Another reason the driver gave was that the route takes you very close to the sea at some places and hence under currents can be very strong. The low slung design ensures that people cannot easily move all together to one or the other side and cause stability issues. This is also the reason why heavy luggage is not allowed on the top deck.

Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 13:08.
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Old 16th November 2015, 16:42   #2
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Default re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Despite the low head room , most of the passengers preferred the upper deck which has only around 20 odd seats. This also meant that with a low occupancy the day I did the trip (we were 21 passengers in total), the lower deck was more or less emptry which made the journey very comfortable. Weather was mostly overcast wth a few brief spells of rain which made the journey very pleasant.

From 9 AM passengers started tricking in. The crew of 5 were all on board by 0930. The boat crew consist of a conductor, a driver who handles the engine controls (his control position is towards the rear of the lower passenger deck), a person who steers from the front of the lower deck, and two deck hands. One boat each from the Kollam and Allapuzha SWTD depots are assigned for the trip. The boats are parked overnight at the destination and returns back the next day. The day I travelled it was an Alappuzha based boat.


We were 21 on board, around 8 foreigners and the rest Indians. No big groups which meant things were pretty quiet. Quite a few were individual travellers and the biggest group was one of 6 new recruits of TCS from West Bengal who were celebrating the end of their training stint at their Trivandrum . There were a couple of other solo Indian travellers, a NCC officer from North India stationed in Kerala and a youngster from Tamil Nadu working for an automotive major. I was the only Keralite "crazy" enough to do the end to end trip although a group of three others did the three hour "pre lunch" segment to Thrikunnapuzha.

The boat station handles a lot of regular passenger ferries with a published "boat" schedule.


The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-schdle.jpg

We were off sharp on time at 1030 AM.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-boat-allpy.jpg

The conductor came around to issue tickets.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-tkt-.jpg

There were a few other scheduled boats departing at the same time as our boat.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-other-boats.jpg.


Soon after our departure, the conductor came around taking orders for lunch. The stoppage for lunch at the village of Thrikkunnapuzha is at a lake side restaurant where food has to be pre ordered. The only option is Kerala style vegetarian meals but it was tasty and freshly prepared. Please note that this is a smallish place and if the boat is full, lunch will be served in two sittings. You will also have to share a table with your fellow travellers unless you are a big group.The rest rooms are clean.

You can stock up on snacks, soft drinks and bottled water at a couple of outlets in the Alapuuzha boat station premises.


A word about the crew. I had occassion to interact with both the driver and the conductor and found them very dedicated. The driver Mr Dileep was seen convincing a few passengers who had come to the boat station but were undecided whether to embark on such a long trip or go for a shorter local ferry trip.

Similarly the conductor Mr Sreekumar was making sure everyone in the boat was kept informed about the various points of interest which we passed by. Both of them were always ready to answer questions when free and were a store house of information. I was particularly impressed by the way both of them were referring to passengers as "Guests".

Here are a couple of pictures, taken after obtaining due permission.
Attached Thumbnails
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-conductor.jpg  

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-driver.jpg  


Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 12:58.
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Old 17th November 2015, 14:43   #3
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Default re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

The SWTD boat station at Alappuzha is along a narrow rather dirty canal. Soon after departure we passed the boat fueling station and the dockyard for the ferries and shortly after hit the wide expanse of the Vembanad lake.
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-1.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-2.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-3.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-4.jpg


We headed accross the lake to Pallathuruthy, a village in the middle of the Kuttanad belt surrounded by paddy fields.We passed the village around 1115. The famous church and the bridge on the Alappuzha Changanacherry road can be seen. This area is also one of the main areas of houseboat activity.
Attached Thumbnails
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-6.jpg  

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-7.jpg  

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-8.jpg  

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-9.jpg  


Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 14:16.
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Old 18th November 2015, 15:16   #4
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Default re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

There were spells of brief rain and heavy overcast but it only made the journey even more fantastic.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-rains.jpg

Around 12 noon, 90 minutes into the journey we left the Vembanad lake and entered some narrow canals.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-kttnd.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ktnd-2.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ktnd-3.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-12.jpg

It was a few days before local elections in Kerala and campaigning was everywhere.




The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-cmpgn-2d.jpg

Some of the campaigning was obviously by boat.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-campaign.jpg

Soon we passed by the village of Karumady, famous for the eleventh century granite statue of Buddha.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-enr-11.jpg

Around 1245 we reached Thottappally. For those who want a two hour cruise, you can buy a ticket upto this point (2 hours @ Rs 70) and get off here which is on the NH 47 between Harippad and Alappuzha. The bridge on the NH 47 can be seen on this picture.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-thotappally-bridge.jpg


Soon after Thottappally we passed Pallana which is where the Malayalam poet Kumaranasan died in a boat accident. There is a memorial for him

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-pallana.jpg

At 1330 we reached our lunch halt, a lake side restaurant at Thrikkunnappuzha. The other three local passenngers got off here.
Attached Thumbnails
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-lunch.jpg  


Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 14:17.
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Old 18th November 2015, 16:59   #5
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Default re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

The crew announced a lunch break of 20 minutes. After the simple vegetarian lunch, we set off at 1350 and shortly after 1400 entered the wide expanse of the Kayamkulam lake.

Around 1430 we passed our pairing boat, the boat which does the trip in the other direction from Kollam to Alappuzha. Sadly it was virtually empty.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-aq.jpg

Some views of the vast Kayamkulam lake.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-kk2.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-kk3.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-kk4.jpg

Around 1500 we passed Arattupuzha fishing harbour, very close to the Arabian sea.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-arattupuzha.jpg



Soon after we approached Amritapuri, the heaquarters of Mata Amritanandapuri Math. Many foreigners use the Allappuzha Kollam boat service to reach Amritapuri , mostly from Kollam but some from Alappuzha as well. Although the Mata was on a foreign visit during that week, we still had passengers . One European lady got down while an Indian couple boarded the boat to travel to Kollam.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ap-1.jpg

At 1600 we pulled into the Green Channel resort at the hamlet of Alumkadavu for a tea break. A cup of tea along with that delicious traditional Kerala snack "Pazhampori" (Banana Fritters) cost Rs 30.

We were back on board soon after for our last leg to Kollam.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-tea.jpg


Around 1645 we left the vast expanse of the Kayamkulam lake and entered some narrow canals as we approached Chavara. The water became very polluted as we approached the outskirts of "Indian Rare Earths" and "Kerala Minerals and Metals" , industrial units which process Titanium, Ilmenite , Monazite etc.

Definitely not pretty!

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-chvra-2.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-chvra-3.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-chvra-4.jpg


We barely squeaked through under some bridges (the reason for the upper deck design).

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-brdge.jpg

Soon we approached the Ashtamudi lake and that famous landmark- the Neendakara bridge on the NH47 just after Kollam.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-neendaka-brdge.jpg

By 1730 we were in the Ashtamudi lake and being early November light was fading fast.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ashtamudi-lake.jpg
The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ashtmdi1-1.jpg

And five minutes before our scheduled arrival, at 1825, the boat pulled into the Kollam boat station which is next door to the Kerala SRTC bus station.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-qln.jpg

Thus ended a trip which I enjoyed much more than I initially thought. Soon after I caught a JnURM Volvo headed to Trivandrum and reached by 2030.

Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 14:20.
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Old 18th November 2015, 18:24   #6
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Default re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

This trip is not for everyone particularly with young children mainly due to the duration of the trip. However for those wishing to explore the Kerala backwaters in depth, this is the trip to take with vistas ranging from narrow canals to wide lakes.

The upper deck has limited seats and most people prefer the upper deck, hence get to Alappuzha early by atleast 9 AM and "claim" your seat if you want to travel in the top deck. Lower deck is definitely not bad particularly when the boat is not crowded as it is much easier to move around and the windows do not have many grilles, making it easy to take photographs.

There is a basic toilet on board the boat, however the places where the boat stops for lunch and tea have good washroom facilities.

This is a very interesting alternative way to travel from Kochi to Trivandrum provided you have a full day to spare .Boat stations at Alappuzha and Kollam are both next to Kerala SRTC bus stations. Railway stations are a short auto rickshaw ride away from both places. However do keep in mind that if you are coming by train, you do not have convenient connections from Kochi in the morning as the most suitable train leaves Ernakulam at 0530 to reach an hour later at Alappuzha, which is too early for the 1030 AM departure. If you prefer trains to travel to/from Trivandrum and Kochi then do the trip in the reverse direction from Kollam to Alappuzha as connections are better in that direction. Bus connections are fairly fast and frequent including an increasing number of JnURM Volvos.

The boat trip runs all year except the monsoon months of June/July/August. However do check before hand with the water transport department whether the boat will operate on the date your plan to do the trip as boats may go for maintenance or sometimes construction work on bridges can disrupt services.

Avoid peak holiday times. According to the crew during this year Dusshera holidays, the boats were totally full and this may result in having a less than comfortable journey. Summer months of April and May should be avoided if possible as it can get uncomfortably hot and the boat is not airconditioned.

All said and one, as far as Value For Money is concerned, at 400 Rs this trip cannot be beaten.

Last edited by TKMCE : 19th November 2015 at 14:23.
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Old 20th November 2015, 12:31   #7
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th November 2015, 14:19   #8
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TKMCE View Post
Alappuzha and Kollam at 1030 and reaches the destination at 1830. The distance is approximately 80 Kms
Thanks for sharing the details.

It takes 8 hours for 80 KM journey? Is it very slow?
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Old 20th November 2015, 21:45   #9
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Wow TKMCE, myself being a Keralite never knew such a service existed, I guess many wouldn't else the boats could be loaded with Tourists all the time !!

Your write is great as well buddy and makes we want to do this Travel as soon as possible

Coming to the rates, that's quite fair and hope they do not intend to hike any soon. Also 80kms in 8 hours I feel is a tad long, though would not be boring with the views.
Happy to see that the eateries & restrooms are well maintained.
Looking forward to see many more similar initiatives across our country.
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Old 21st November 2015, 10:52   #10
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

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Originally Posted by pramodpk View Post
Thanks for sharing the details.

It takes 8 hours for 80 KM journey? Is it very slow?
This is operated with a customised regular passenger ferry although it is designated as a "Tourist Service". However these are definitely faster than the houseboats.

For a comparison the Guruvayur Trivandrum train no 16341 takes 1 hour 50 minutes to cover the 84 Km distance between Alappuzha and Kollam . Buses also do the run under two hours.

Keep in mind that houseboats are very expensive (average rates are Rs 1500 to 2000 per hour) aand even though when you hire a houseboat you can share the cost (the rates are for the full boat not per seat), it is still way too expensive.

I have experienced a four house boat ride from Kumarakom with a friend and it worked out at 3000 Rs per person. Even with a basic lunch included, personally I did not find it worthwhile.


Regarding costs, the fare for the Alappuzha Kollam service was only recently increased to Rs 400 per person from Rs 300. Even then I find it worth the money. The trip is indeed long, but it is a pleasant and inexpensive way if you have the time (and the patience) to experience all the Kerala backwaters have to offer.
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Old 21st November 2015, 13:02   #11
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Once again a wonderful boat travel through Kerala. Your http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...d-service.html (Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service) travelogue gave me the infos related to such boat services operated by KSWTD.
Myself being a frequent traveler from North Kerala to Trivandrum, was never aware of such services.
I will definitely try these in near future.

Thanks & cheers

Really nice TKMCE... Your previous post http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...d-service.html (Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service) gave me the information related to such services run by KSWTD.
Being a frequent traveler between North Kerala & Trivandrum, I would definitely try this in near future.

Thanks for sharing

Last edited by Aditya : 23rd November 2015 at 07:07. Reason: Merged back to back posts
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Old 21st November 2015, 14:37   #12
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TKMCE View Post
This is operated with a customised regular passenger ferry although it is designated as a "Tourist Service". However these are definitely faster than the houseboats.
Exactly what I was looking for. Couldn't have come across this at a better time. Thanks a lot for the write up and the clicks TKMCE and also for all the details you have provided.
Planning to take this service along with a group of people this month end.
Quick question: What about the safety offered ? Are life jackets available on board and how did you the find the condition of the boat ? Just being curious here.

Last edited by aswin ajith : 21st November 2015 at 14:39.
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Old 21st November 2015, 15:55   #13
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by aswin ajith View Post
Quick question: What about the safety offered ? Are life jackets available on board and how did you the find the condition of the boat ? Just being curious here.
I think this picture taken on board answers your question best.

The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!-ffe.jpg

There was certainly sufficient equipment on the boat including Life Buoys and Fire Extinguishers. Also due to possible stability issues mentioned earlier in the thread the crew were firm but polite in insisting that heavy luggage was stowed in the lower deck and not carried on to the upper deck. There could be a safety briefing but except the very upmarket private operators , I doubt this is being done anywhere in Kerala.


The boat although not new was definitely well maintained.


Interestingly this Alappuzha Kollam trip is very popular among foreign tourists and many international guidebooks like Lonely Planet have coverage of this trip for the last 20-30 years .


The crew were all experienced people and definitely looked capable of handling any emergencies.

I do know that in Kerala in particular most things related to the government are not held in high regard, but all the SWTD trips I have taken (so far 3) in the last one year have not given me any scope for anxiety.

It is sad that this government organisation which also provides regular ferry services to the interior areas of Kuttanad in particular is hardly recognised for the good things they do.

After a major ferry disaster 12 years back (which was more due to overcrowding than anything else) , lessons seem to have been learned and now things are much better. The recent boat accidents in the state were all by boats which were operated by other organisations or private operators and not by SWTD.

Last edited by TKMCE : 21st November 2015 at 15:59.
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Old 21st November 2015, 19:43   #14
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TKMCE View Post
for those wishing to explore the Kerala backwaters in depth, this is the trip to take with vistas ranging from narrow canals to wide lakes.
...
All said and one, as far as Value For Money is concerned, at 400 Rs this trip cannot be beaten.
This is very good informative piece of write-up .. TKMCE. Thanks for sharing the details!
Definitely looks a very cost effective way of exploring the backwaters.
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Old 22nd November 2015, 12:36   #15
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Default Re: The route less travelled...Alappuzha to Kollam in a double-decker boat!

Thanks a lot for sharing your trip and you have covered almost all the minute details.
I an avid traveller and on planned vacations always take the road less travelled or where it is something unique.

I am planning for this trip soon. Thanks once again.
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