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Old 20th November 2008, 10:30   #1
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Default A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters

Inspiration for this travelogue was the one by MysticeEyes on the same subject/location - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...mad-roads.html (Lazying in Backwaters..Far Away from the Mad Roads)

I did this in July-2008, but did not get around to posting a travelogue here because I had been posting about this on my blog. I was too lazy to repeat it all here, especially the photo-uploading part, which is a big pain. But after seeing the above thread, I decided to have it all here in a single thread. So, here goes.

An unforgettably awesome 24 hours on water :

Well, to be exact, it was 22 hours on water. But there is a certain magic about the number 24, especially in the context of time, which 22 seems to lack. While 24 hours convey the fullness of a day, 22 seems somewhat incomplete. Anyway, it is immaterial whether it was 22 or 24 hours. What matters though was it being about an out-of-the-world-experience of being away from land, home etc and instead being on a boat in the beautiful backwaters of Kerala.

Spending a day on an houseboat in the Kerala backwaters has been a very long time dream of mine, which finally came true last Saturday-Sunday. In 1999, I had gone to the Aleppey backwaters with some friends that included a Belgian colleague and his girlfriend. They wanted to try out the houseboat experience and opted for a 12-hour stay on one of them, spending the night in the backwaters.

Since then, I had been having this in the back of my mind. However, I wanted this to be a kind of a full family outing, involving my sisters and their families too. And after planning for a month, it finally happened. Being a group of 4 families, we opted for two 2-bedroom houseboats for the night stay. But during the day, we spent time in one of them so that
the whole family was together and could spend time together.

It helped that my brother-in-law's maternal uncle owns and rents out houseboats and so we did not need to bother about anything. All we needed to do was land at the Aleppey tourist office (where all the houseboats are berthed) by 11:30AM, which we did manage, even though the group was to reach Aleppey from different places. I was coming from Madras by train, while my parents, elder sister & her family were coming from Cochin which is some 65 kms away. And my wife, kid and my younger sister & her family were coming from Kollam, some 80 kms away. And we all managed to make it on time.

Everyone had a whale of a time, including the sceptics like my elder sister and her husband, who took a lot of my effort/time in being convinced that this indeed would be an experience to cherish. The mental picture she had about a houseboat was exactly the opposite of what it actually was and the moment she entered the boat, she was like, "I am so glad you convinced us to come for this. It would have been so stupid, if we had missed this".

Well, I am glad everyone loved it. Especially the woman folk got a good break from the usual kitchen activities and got to sit back and relax. And that too in the lap of nature. Since there are lots of interesting stuff to post concerning not just our houseboat stay, but about the place in general, it would be boring to make it one single long post. So, I would post this in parts that would hopefully stick to a single topic each.

I leave you with a snap of what this whole thing is all about - a house boat in the Aleppey backwaters.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc00986.jpg

Stay tuned for more.

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 20th November 2008 at 10:32.
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Old 20th November 2008, 10:55   #2
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Nice writeup SB. Did you board the house boat from Allepy or from Kumarakom. Did you stop at " Padiramanalle " and " R Block " ??

Hope you tried out the famous Karemeen pollichedee and the local toddy ( if you drink )
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Old 20th November 2008, 10:57   #3
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This has been on my list of must do things for quite a while now. Biju, eagerly awaiting the rest of the travelogue.
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Old 20th November 2008, 11:01   #4
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What a picture!!! waiting for more reading. I always had this question. may be you can answer. If we do a night's trip on house boat, where can i leave the car safe?
next time when i plan (i haven't done this house boat thing yet) will consult you.
Last time, i planned and almost booked Jayram's own boat house. Don't know the status of the same now.
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Old 20th November 2008, 11:17   #5
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supremembaleno, the house boat pic looks awesome! am glad to be reading all this because it encourages me to do the same in near future!
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Old 20th November 2008, 11:30   #6
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Excellent start, eagerly wating for the rest.

Abhi
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Old 20th November 2008, 11:53   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kutlee View Post
If we do a night's trip on house boat, where can i leave the car safe?
You can park your car in the hotel where you stay or if you are going through some tour operators they will arrange it for you. Parking a car safe in kerala in no big deal.

BTW after 6:00 in the evening all the house boats would be anchored, so if you are looking out for a nice boat ride make sure you do it in the morning and before 6:00 in the eve.

Last edited by jango : 20th November 2008 at 11:54.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:00   #8
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I and my family did it this time when we were touring Kerala during Jan 2008. It was a wonderful experience, the one that I will cherish for a long time. In fact, we are planning to do just Kumarakkom some time either in 2009 or 2010. It would just be Bangalore-(some town midway)-Kumarakkom and back all the way.

My little daughter was the one who really enjoyed that day long cruise the most.

Next time around, we are also planning to rent a small boat and do the waterways that connect the town. That also will be a lot of fun I guess.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:23   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jango
Nice writeup SB. Did you board the house boat from Allepy or from Kumarakom. Did you stop at " Padiramanalle " and " R Block " ??)
We boarded from the Tourism Office Alappuzha. No, we did not do Padiramanal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jango
Hope you tried out the famous Karemeen pollichedee and the local toddy ( if you drink )
Karemeen yes. But no toddy - I am kind of afraid about what sells as toddy today - its not like olden days. So stuck to Signature whisky.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mclaren1885
This has been on my list of must do things for quite a while now.
Rahul, you should do this (atleast once). It is just out-of-the-world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kutlee
What a picture!!! waiting for more reading. I always had this question. may be you can answer. If we do a night's trip on house boat, where can i leave the car safe? .
Thanks. Your car will be safe in the premises of the tourism office. They are very professional and tourist-friendly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kutlee
next time when i plan (i haven't done this house boat thing yet) will consult you.
Sure. Would be glad to help in any way possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by getsurya
supremembaleno, the house boat pic looks awesome!
Thanks. More pics to follow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy
Excellent start, eagerly wating for the rest. Abhi
Thanks, Abhi. Maybe you should include Kerala in your "Alto, Let's go" travels.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:31   #10
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Thumbs up way to go..

nice beigining buddy. come out with more words and snaps please..let's make this an envy for others meanwhile i've uploaded the lunch session too with karimeen pics
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:33   #11
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Default It sure can leave you overwhelmed the first time around.

This is the place where all the houseboats are berthed and where you start and end your houseboat ride. This is about 2 kms from the Alappuzha city centre. The building you see in the pic is the Tourism office.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc01160.jpg


The moment you reach this place, where the office of the tourism department is also located, you are greeted by the sight of innumerable houseboats berthed side by side. From end-to-end, all you see are only houseboats.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc00966.jpg


Infact there are so many of them that there is not space for all of them to be berthed along the shore and thus some are berthed in a second row, like in the pic below.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc00965.jpg


So, if it happens that your boat is in the second row, you would have to walk through the boat in front to reach yours. And yes, you might be asked to remove your footwear and hold it while walking through the first boat, so as to avoid dirtying a meticulously clean boat awaiting its customers.

The sight of so many houseboats can just be amazing and overwhelming. We were there during the supposedly off-season period (monsoons), but still there were quite a lot of tourists, mostly from North India and Tamilnadu. And ofcourse the foreign tourists. I was taking some snaps of the berthed houseboats, when I overheard the following conversation between 2 young men, in Hindi :

X : Hey, why are you so excited about these houseboats ? Have you not seen one before?
Y : I sure have seen houseboats before.

X : Then why so much excitement as if you were seeing one for the first time ?
Y : Man, I have seen houseboats in the Dal Lake in Kashmir. But these... These are just out of the world, man. They are just amazing.

That is the kind of feeling that anyone seeing the Kerala houseboats for the first time, would have. I saw that with my elder sister too. She was just floored seeing a proper home reproduced on a boat - drawing room, bath-attached bedrooms , kitchen, etc. You even have the option of choosing airconditioned rooms, at an extra cost though.

While we chose boats with 2 bedrooms each, they come in all sorts of configurations like single bedroom, 3 bedrooms, double deckers, and even mammoths like the one below. I can count atleast 6 bedrooms on the lower level. Phew!
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc01015.jpg


Some even have conference rooms in them, which I guess are used by corporations for employee outings/retreats. So, whatever be your need, you can be sure that there is a houseboat fitting it to a T. All it needs is for you to be there, and to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

To be continued...

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 20th November 2008 at 12:35.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:42   #12
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Default Hey, I don't wanna miss my TV serials. What do I do ?

Well, the boat guys have that also covered, if you happen to be someone who is surrounded by nature at its best and still want to be glued to the TV.

While on vacation, the last thing I would like to do is sit and watch TV in the hotel room. I would rather explore the place, walk around and see things. And if I am on a houseboat in the magnificent & seemingly never-ending Vembanad backwaters of Kerala, TV would be the last thing on my mind.

As I found during my houseboat experience, the best place to be on the boat is to pull a chair near the boat captain (called Sranku in Malayalam) and take in the sights as the boat chugs along the water, revealing nature's beauty in all its splendour.

But then, every individual is different and if someone wants to ignore all this natural beauty and catch up on the latest soap on TV, or see a favourite movie on DVD, so be it. And being savvy businessmen, these boat owners have a finger on the pulse of their clientele, and are always ready to add the latest gadget on board, if that will make customers happy and keep the cash register jingling.

Almost all these boats come with a 21 inch TV and a DVD player as standard. Our boat also had them. But unfortunately they do not carry a selection of DVDs with them, which makes these equipment quite redundant. See pic below of the drawing room with the TV set and the satellite dish (Tata Sky) in the foreground.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc00970.jpg


In our case, they just had one DVD of a recent Malayalam movie, which they played at night during dinner on request from a few of our group. But watching TV channels was not possible on our boat because it did not have a satellite dish. However, I did see quite some boats with satellite dishes on them. In the pic below, you can see the dish fixed in front of the steering wheel.
A 24-hour cruise (houseboat) in the Alappuzha backwaters-dsc00969.jpg


Though I am not sure how it would be possible to see TV when the boat is moving, because the dish is fixed (not movable) and due to the boat being in motion, it would not be easy to pick up satellite signals on the go. However, when the boat drops anchor for lunch break or for the night, I guess it would be possible to align the dish with the satellite and get signals.

To be continued...

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 20th November 2008 at 12:43.
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:44   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supremeBaleno View Post
This is the place where all the houseboats are berthed and where you start and end your houseboat ride. This is about 2 kms from the Alappuzha city centre. The building you see in the pic is the Tourism office.
hey, the pic seems very similar to the one i've taken..
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Old 20th November 2008, 12:48   #14
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Well, it is the same place and will look similar.

This pic can be taken only when we return from the houseboat ride. Actually there are hundreds of boats, but getting them all in the frame and still getting a good pic is tough.
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Old 20th November 2008, 13:05   #15
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Biju excellent pics man, especially the 1st one . Can I call it the teaser pic ? My last trip in a house boat was in 2005 in the Vembanaad Lake. Time to do it again.
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