Cruising through the Backwaters of Kerala

Four years ago, I was sent to India as part of a company training—a trip I was wholeheartedly excited to take after being heartbroken (LOL). If you read the first post in my India series, you will have gathered how I managed to do it. Taking it was probably the best decision I ever made. Not only did I truly move on, I also experienced a lot of new things.

Perhaps one of the best and most memorable was our trip to the Backwaters of Kerala—the Venice of the East, as it’s fondly called. I’ve never been to a cruise before, not to mention a wooden one—a houseboat or kettuvallam as Indians call them—and especially not while traversing a network of rivers, canals, and lakes in the countryside. Think of the Amazon, but less scary. Greenery everywhere, some small communities, clear skies, and the endless waters. What could possibly be more relaxing?

Had I been in Manila, my idea of a good weekend would be one of the following: (1) a good movie or a TV series marathon at home; (2) a food trip with family or friends; or (3) a Saturday of partying and drinking followed by a Sunday of hangover. Fortunately, I was not in Manila—I was so in the mood for some shred of real life, and yes, nature.

We rented a cute medium-sized houseboat along with our friends from the other batch of trainees—a vessel big enough to contain about 50 people. Our group, composed of Indians, Chileans, and Filipinos, assembled in the morning and started sailing from Allepey, or Alappuzha.

The houseboat had a lower and an upper deck, the latter more ideal for sight-seeing. There were a couple of bedrooms, bathrooms, and a dining area—which later transformed into a bunong-braso arena.

This was how our boat looked like.

Lower-deck boys

Upper-deck boys

I like trips like these because it’s so unconducive to Facebook. For once, I didn’t see anyone buried on his phone—well, as if there was any signal or Wifi there; everyone was either chatting with somebody, playing games, leaning against the railings while breathing in the scenery, or taking fragments of this wonderful memory in pictures.

From the starting dock we could see the other houseboats—most of them looking very much like ours except for others that were more colorful and competitive, LOL!

The Kerala Backwaters actually plays a crucial role in product trade between Kerala and neighboring states as well as in providing livelihood to the inhabitants, like fishing. There were small communities riverside—complete with churches and schools. In more than one occasion, I spotted an Indian lady doing some clothes-washing. There’s a slice of Indian life every direction you look!

Obviously, the only way to get to other parts of the area is by boat—look at her, is she going to the market?

We had lunch aboard: some fried fish (surprisingly not too spicy), rice, vegetables, and the sweetest bananas I’ve ever tasted. Seriously, the bananas in India are insanely delicious!

Someone played music and people began dancing. My batchmate Karen, whom I never expected to be a break dancer, did some handstands! On the other side of the deck, some guys began a bunong-braso tournament. The laid-back ones, like me, sang along with some guitar-strumming.

This is one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever had. There’s something about sitting down, doing nothing and just watching everything that calms the nerves and rejuvenates the senses. I don’t know how to explain it better. The touch of the breeze on my skin seemed like the best sensation at the time. I was in the houseboat with my friends, and nothing else mattered.

my favorite coach, Sanjay
After about six hours of sailing we went back to our departure dock and made a side trip to the Allepey Beach. We arrived before dusk and was able to catch the amazing sunset!

An interesting attraction—one I’ve never seen anywhere else—was this camel that you could ride for a few seconds (for photo-ops only) for a minimal fee. I didn’t ride, but I did take a photo beside it.

We lounged around for a bit more and even dipped into the water despite not having extra clothes. Did you know that it was very common in India to get home still wet after soaking in the beach? Imagine doing that in the Philippines—riding a jeepney or bus straight out of the pool!

The night ended by dining in an Indian Café where everything looked spicy, I ended up eating hard-boiled eggs. LOL!

If ever I do get the chance to revisit India, I would definitely do this Kerala Backwaters tour again. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s absolutely one of the top places one must see before he dies—and I’m so happy that I have!

Don’t miss other posts in the India series:

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