First off, we need to tell you that Kerala is beautiful. Like, seriously beautiful. It’s just so green and peaceful. We loved Kochi for its new year’s carnival, and its festive atmosphere, but we love the backwaters for their serenity.
Our trip to Alappuzha (Allepey) from Kochi was pretty straightforward, although it did start with a trek across Fort Cochin to the Mattancherry ferry port in the blazing sunshine, with our backpacks. It was a race against time as we knew there was a bus leaving at 11.30, and we reached the ferry at around 10.50. Once we’d queued for a ticket and boarded the ferry it was after 11.00 and we were now at the whims of public transport! The ferry docked around 11.10 and we raced to a tuk-tuk to speed us to the bus station like Super Mario kart, where we even arrived with enough time to spare to stock up on snacks for the journey. But what reason for this rush? Don’t public buses in India play fast and loose with the timetable, only leaving when full? Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KRSTC) has a fleet of new buses which are modern low-floor buses with air-conditioning which run a few times a day on popular routes and we were determined to get on one. A bus with the price tag of a public bus but with comfort of a tourist one? Sign us up! After a fast and comfortable journey (a serious rarity here in India) with a few of our hostel friends from Kochi, we pulled into Alappuzha early afternoon, much less sweaty and tired than our usual arrival state!
After staying in a dorm for a week, we decided to treat ourselves to somewhere nice to stay in Alappuzha. We had found a fairly cheap but nice-looking homestay online but when we checked in we were impressed by how fancy it was! Turns out we had got lucky as they were a fairly new business so had dropped their rates to encourage people to stay, so that they could build up some good review scores. We even had a complimentary fresh passion fruit juice on arrival – a first for us! We slept well that night in our private room, free from the snores of other travellers,the traffic honks and barking street dogs. We even had a home cooked Keralan style breakfast both mornings – yum!
The number one reason that people visit Alappuzha is to do a backwater boat trip, and we are no different! There are many different types of boat available, from the luxury houseboats to paddle-it-yourself kayaks! We headed over to the boat jetty in the morning with our bargaining faces on – we were hoping for a canoe trip as these small vessels can get up close and personal, and don’t contribute to pollution so much as they are not engine powered. Unfortunately we were too late to get a canoe but we secured ourselves a Shikara boat for a three-hour trip. These are small wooden boats, so you still feel like you are getting up close and personal in some of the smaller backwater channels. Gliding through the water, watching locals go about their day on the banks and birds flitting over the river, is such a peaceful experience. We would recommend a trip on the backwaters to anyone visiting South India!
We stopped for lunch at a riverside shack and ate a delicious thali from a banana leaf plate. There were two eagles perched on the wall of the cafe and when we got out of the boat they did not fly away – they seemed quite tame and we stopped to take some photos. Seeing our interest in the birds, our boatman picked one of the eagles up to show how tame they were, and offered us the chance to hold it. It was amazing being up close to these magnificent and proud birds – it was a little nerve-wracking too as they gently perched their talons on our wrists and shoulders!
Our visit to Alappuzha was brief but lovely, and we’d definitely return and see some more of the backwaters some day – there’s a reason why some people call it the Venice of the East!
The onward journey from Alappuzha to our next destination, Varkala, was not quite as simple and it turned out that even once we arrived our stress was only just beginning…but we’ll fill you in on all that drama next time!
C & D xx