Oct 30, 2008

A back water cruise in houseboat at Alleppey, Kerala

Punnamada boat jetty - starting point of houseboats

The houseboats in Kerala, south India, are huge, slow-moving, exotic barges used for leisure trips. They are a reworked model of Kettuvallams (in the Malayalam language, Kettu means "tied with ropes", and vallam means "boat"), which, in earlier times, were used to carry rice and spices from Kuttanad to the Kochi port. Kerala houseboats were considered a convenient means of transportation.

The popularity of Kettuvalloms has returned in the function as major tourist attractions.

Such a houseboat is about 60 to 70 feet (about 18 to 21 meters) long and about 15 feet (about 5 m) wide at the middle. The hull is made of wooden planks that are held together by ropes of coconut fiber; the usual wood is 'Anjili'. The roof is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. The exterior of the boat is painted with protective coats of cashew nut oil.

Govt passenger boat

The tourism industry in and around the scenic town of Alleppey ( which includes the famous Kumarakom Lagoon and Kuttanad - the largest paddy fields in the world below sea level ); was revolutionized with the advent of House boats. Originally, these house boats were meant for transportation of goods between various towns in southern Kerala.

Alleppey ( or the more politically correct Alapuzha) is known as the Venice of the East due to its well connected (but unfortunately weed infested) water ways. Its vast expanse of greenery and the broad waterways makes it ideal for a vacation spot. Even though a house boat trip is quite expensive by Indian standards, the Western nationals find it much cheaper.

Personally I found the trip very enjoyable and refreshing - Worth the money paid. I testify that I will go again if an opportunity comes.

A typical house boat journey starts from the Punnamada jetty on the banks of Punnamada Kayal ( Back waters). Depending upon one’s need; one can hire a boat ( 1,2 or 3 bedrooms or conference halls) and also for the number of days ( one day ie 6 hrs, two days ie overnight or even for a week). Depending on the size and facility the cost also varies ( for a 6 hr trip we paid around INR.5500/ just for the 1 bed room boat and the special cuisine of 3 non-veg dishes including sea food. The boat has got aTV, double bed ( aircon) and a washroom.

Punnamada Jetty itself is a great view – as one can see unending rows of house boats of different decoration, size and capacity. The boat rides start around 11.00 am. Moving away from the crowded marina, the boat cruises leisurely to the broader back waters. The cool breeze and the greenery is really soothing. Slowly the boat wades its way to Kuttanad ( known as the rice bowl of Kerala)– the place with coconut tree lined paddy fields. One will wonder how the paddy is cultivated in the fields which are much below the water level - yes it is really wonderful. One can see the government transport boats picking up and dropping people at the boat stops at different island blocks in Kuttanad ( just like we move around in city thru city service buses); as boats are the only means of transportation to most of them.

The boat crew typically consists of a guide, boat driver ( the pilot or captain) and a chef.

A brief stop over at the toddy shop( coconut beer) is an opportunity for the adventurous to taste the heady stuff. One can alight there and taste the cuisine – typically sea food( kanava, varaal and konju) preparation – cooked to order. The friendly boat crew made things easy for us.
Around 1.30pm is the lunch. The boat was parked and tied down in one of the island blocks. We all had a sumptuous Kerala meal with boiled rice, chicken curry, prawns fry, Karemeen fry, moru kachiyathu, pappadam etc.
Visit here for Kuttanadu Toddy shop ( kallu shaappu ) photos and awesome seafoods !!!!

Again the boat started moving thru various canals. We had a light refreshment of piping hot coffee and pazham pori ( banana flitters – fried in the quintessential coconut oil) at 4 pm.
As all good things ends, this boat journey also ended around 5 .30 pm.

Carrying all the good memories, we alighted at the Punnamada jetty.

Nearest airport - Cochin- ( 1 hour 30 minutes from the airport to Alleppey )
By train - get down at Alleppey railway station

You may also contact Damodar Tour for house boat ( A single bed room houseboat is ideal for a family of 4 - 6 )

Contact details - Rajeev # 9496230498 / 9847428893

Babychan # 9446855833 / 0477-272249
Details of 6 hours package tour
Welcome drink - lime juice
Lunch menu
1, Kerala kuthari choru
2, Sambar
3, Cabbage thoran
4, Ladies finger fry
5, Salad
6, Pineapple salad
7, Butter milk
8, Pappadam varuthathu
9, Lime pickle
10, Karimeen fry
11, Kuttanadu chicken curry
12, Kerala style prawns fry
Evening tea / coffee and pazhampori
Visit here for '' House boat '' kitchen.....

Punnamada kayal

Open cabin at front

Roof top balcony

Alley (the walk way )

Bed room


1 comment:

krishna said...

hi niya.. had a virtual cruise thru ur blog to alapuzha.. we are planning to go next month. which trip u prefer? around aleppey or aleppey to kumarakom. ur feedback could be of great help to me..