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November 13, 2003

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Canals, lagoons, lakes, rivers, rice paddies, and coconut plantations comprise an area known as Kerala's backwaters. It's a dream place for tourists. They hire houseboats that cruise thru narrow coconut-fringed canals and cross shallow lily-covered lakes. Tourists can cruise anywhere along the backwaters, which stretch along the Kerala coast. It's best to hire a boat from Alleppey because the biggest selection of boats dock there. As usual for India, the costs are always negotiable but a decent rate seems to be 3000 rupees per day (approx $60 US) all inclusive, which is very expensive by backpacker standards yet there's no better way to relax in hectic India.
Every tourist has his place and in Kerala it's on a houseboat.
Hire a private boat, with cook and driver, and relax in simple luxury on a double bed, bamboo thatch apartment, in a long canal boat.
These tourist houseboats are converted kettuvallams, or rice barges. In place of the baskets of rice and coconuts, the crew puts down mattresses and wicker furniture.
Long, low slung canoes, called chundan vallams or snake boats, compete in races. A hundred rowers paddle the boat while sitting under silk umbrellas.