Kerala - Alappuzha ( Alleppey) - Venice of the East

The final leg of this wonderful holiday trip was one of pure luxury & relaxation amongst nature.

After great night's rest in Thekkady and a hearty breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel, we started our journey towards our last destination - Alleppey or now known as Alappuzha. It is the administrative headquarter of the Alappuzha district. This water locked place is endowed with immense natural beauty with an array of rivers, canals, and lakes, ideal for boat cruises.

On our way to Alleppey we passed through the Tur Abdin village where the sister Hatune foundation of the Syrian Orthodox Church is located. I didn't know much about Tur Abdin but was fascinated to learn about the history of the Syrian Church and its relation to India and specifically to Kerala.

We headed out to the backwaters where immediately could see life take a graceful turn with its serene green watery world. Villages with their traditional houses, shops, churches, post offices and even schools - life thrives on these backwaters.

On arrival, we checked in to a traditional Kerala Style Houseboat and cruised through the backwaters. The houseboat itself was fitted with all modern amenities, two well-appointed bedrooms/cabins with ensuites, storage space, facilities for ironing etc. just as in a modern hotel room and a living dining area with a television ( just in case you wanted to skip the enchanting views and wanted to catch up on the NEWS!?). It was monsoon season when we visited and although it did not rain in Alleppey the sky would often be overcast and was humid. So, to get a proper 'good night's' sleep you would need an airconditioned cabin! Well you definitely wouldn't be stuck in a cabin during the day as you would enjoy being on the deck/living area with food and drinks cruising through the backwaters. Floating along and gazing at the swaying palms, watching the rice barges and village life pass by is the most relaxing experiences I've ever had. The gentle breeze fills your lungs and cools you down and you might even drift into a trance or doze off to sleep!

As the houseboat drifts along the calm waters, we passed by flocks of ducks amongst the blooming water hyacinths, a sight to behold. We passed by village folks going about their daily lives. There were boats ferrying children to school, boats carrying essentials, office goers and houseboats with tourists. It really was a city on the water and truly a 'Venice of the East' except it didn't feel as crowded as Venice and minus the concrete buildings all around. Alappuzha stands out on its own without being compared to Venice!

Did I tell you that there was a kitchen too on the houseboat and personal chefs! We didn't have to worry about the meals, all were cooked and served on time, tea coffee, juices etc. It was heaven!

The captain of our houseboat anchored near a shop that was selling green coconut, plucked in front of you and giant prawns and other sea fish and molluscs. We bought coconuts to rejuvenate ourselves with fresh coconut water. We also bought prawns which were happily taken by our chefs for a special dinner for that evening!

The dinner was a special affair with Keralite delicacies - from 'Parotta' - layered bread to Kerala prawn curry,

fish moilee. We had a candlelit dinner which had to be abandoned within minutes as a friendly 'bat' flew in and wouldn't leave till we turned the lights back on! :-) This is a moment that we heartily laugh about even today when we talk about Kerala and houseboats!

At night the boat was moored next to one of the villages, although it feels a bit open and hence unsafe, our crew assured us that it is a friendly village and they respect tourists as it is one of the vital sources of business around here. And we slept peacefully, under the clear, star lit skies, swaying palms, noises of the crickets from far afield. The gentle undulation of the water rocking the boat as if a mother rocking a child's cradle will slowly but surely take you adrift the land of dreams...

As with any new place, food was one of the main aspect here too. We enjoyed a variety of local dishes along with our known Indian and continental food. I list a few here.

Malabar Parotta - This one is a layered bread made with flour, eggs, oil or ghee and rolled flat and roated on a pan with oil or ghee. It is a great side dish to have curries with.

Fish Moilee : This is a famous fish stew made with coconut milk and cooked in a traditional earthen vessel. Usually King fish or seer fish is marinated in turmeric, salt, oil, chilli powder and lemon juice, lightly fried in coconut oil. This is the added to the coconut milk curry flavoured with spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, green chilli. It is a Syrian Christian delicacy.

Kerala Prawn Curry: It is a tangy prawn curry. Prawn is marinated and cooked with a blend of spices such as fenugreek, mustard, green chilli, fennel seeds in coconut milk. The tanginess comes by adding raw mango and a special berry called 'Brindleberry' or pot tamarind!

Appam : Its is a rice and coconut pancake, mainly eaten for breakfast/ brunch along with a vegetarian or non vegetarian curry or stew.

Our trip to Kerala was one of the most exciting and yet relaxing holidays we've been on. I would want to go back again some day and next time it will be a cultural trip or maybe a health and wellness Ayurvedic journey or hang on; maybe explore all the golden sandy beaches or maybe an adventure trip to the Western Ghats!!!! Hmm... there are many choices.

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