A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey - Shreya Nair

Kerala to me has always been about going to my hometown of Shornur, spending time with my grandparents, and catching up with relatives. It was, and still is a fun break I look forward to each year. But growing up, here’s what I realized. I had been fortunate enough to have my hometown in ‘God’s own country’, but never really took a chance to actually explore it beyond the limits of my hometown. And the funny thing is, my friends who weren’t from Kerala had explored it before me in their own ways! 

That’s when my cousins and I, decided to take matters into our own hands. We made a pact to actually explore the beauty of the state before we step foot into the comfort of our hometown.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Plotting Of The Plan Begins

Now, it was that time of the year again to go to Kerala. This time we began planning an elaborate itinerary for our much-awaited trip. After lots of squabbles, we decided on covering three main places - 

  • Trivandrum - The idea was to chill at the Kovalam beach, have a coffee from the Indian Coffee House, catch the sunrise at Veliyathura Pier, and seek blessings from Shri Padmanabhaswamy temple.
  • Varkala - Being a more happening place, we decided to stay here for more days. We planned to cover Varkala beach, Anjeno fort, the lighthouse, try some water sports, and go street shopping.
  • Alleppey - We wanted to tick off staying overnight in a houseboat in Alleppey and then heading back to our hometown.

However, since a girl’s got to make a living and we were on a budget crunch for the trip, we tweaked this itinerary further. We chose to stick to just one place and make the most of our time there. After considering the distance and the time constraints, our chosen one was Alleppey. Now, all we had to do was quickly come up with an ultimate 3-day itinerary that covered only the best of Alleppey, and so we did!

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Money Matters

Two other things that needed to be taken care of were our accommodation and travel. We booked a rental car, a Toyota Innova that charged us around INR 2,600 per day. And for accommodation, we wanted something with a homely vibe, so we chose to go for a homestay named Tharavad Heritage. The tariff at the time was around INR 2,500 per day inclusive of breakfast. All in all, the total expenditure for our trip was roughly INR 17,000. After making all these arrangements, we finally left our homes to begin our adventure!

We took a train from Mumbai to Alleppey since we wanted to relish the scenic routes of the Western Ghats and the budget to be light on our pockets. We reached Alleppey in the morning, got in our cabs, and headed straight to our homestay. 

Just like its name Tharavad, meaning an ancestral residence in Malayalam, the homestay had all the features of the same. The white walls, the old-fashioned brown tiled roofs, and the wooden furnishings left us completely nostalgic reminiscing about our own tharavad. The host of the homestay was very kind and helpful throughout our stay, making it all the more comfortable for us. So we checked in, freshened up, and went on to explore Alleppey.

A Combination Of Plans And Spontaneity

Going Back In Time With The Karunakarans

On our first day, we started by visiting the Revi Karunakaran Museum, which is known for its magnificent crystal collection. Revi Karunakaran was a renowned coir exporter of his time. After he passed away, his wife went on to build this memorial museum for him, which showcases all the unique and antique items the Karunakaran family collected over the years. 

The huge white structure of the museum and the graceful fountain in its front is sure to catch any passerby’s eye. Inside the white halls were several paintings of the family, a gorgeous vintage car, a variety of statues and structures made out of ivory, and the most special Swarovski crystal collection.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Coir Coir Everywhere

Post this, we went to learn more about the coir industry by visiting the International Coir museum. Here, we saw different items made out of coir, like a model of the Eiffel Tower, a boat, and many other items you never would have imagined could be made out of coir. The biggest highlight among the exhibits was an entire house made out of coir! You read that right, it wasn’t just a small model of a house but a life-size model of a house. It had a small veranda to a kitchen, equipped with all basic amenities like a bed, dining table, and much more, all made of coir. 

As per the guide, the overall cost of the house was around 2 lakh rupees! Unlike other normal museums, here we were also taken through the entire process of coir production and how it changed over the years. You can also take a look at how things work in the coir factory behind the museum. All of this was so fascinating that we actually requested the guide if we could stay a little longer in the factory and see the process closely to which they happily agreed.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Food, Toddy, & Beach Served Together

After taking in all the information, it was only natural that our stomachs were growling at this point. So we decided to grab lunch from the nearby Kream Korner Garden restaurant. We got a table and ordered some mouth-watering seafood, which literally made our day. It’s not a big set-up, but a cozy one surrounded by lush green trees and plants. The highlight? There’s a small art gallery right next to the restaurant where you can go in for free and check out the mind-blowing paintings of the local artists.

Honestly, we didn’t know what to do next, so we asked our driver for ideas on other things to do around. This is when he made a quirky suggestion, “do you want to try toddy?”. To which we looked at each other, and without wasting a second nodded our heads. So he took us to a nearby local toddy shop where we tried some sweet kallu (toddy), and I agree it is a must-try when in Alleppey. 

We finally ended our day by hitting the Alappuzha beach where we caught the sunset munching on some corn and then went back to our homestay. For dinner, we went to a nearby thattukada (roadside food stall), ate some parottas (parathas) with chicken curry, came back home, and crashed.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Going That Extra Mile

Kayaking Our Way Through The Backwaters

The next day, we woke up early as we had plans for kayaking! So we left our rooms and headed to the location of kayaking which was in close proximity to Punnamda Lake. We sat in our kayaks and rowed our way to explore the much-talked-about backwaters of Alleppey. It truly was a memorable experience in the clear water surrounded by coconut trees, with houseboats moving around, and a cute little island sitting in the middle. 

After an hour of kayaking, our guide asked us if we wanted to take a trip around the island but our energy had slowly started to drain. But then he went on to say, “if yes, then you can get some tea too!”. That was it. We needed no more convincing. So we took the trip around the island, took a pit stop to have some tea, and then came back to the shore.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

Some More Sightseeing And Hogging

After taking in that dose of adrenaline and serenity, we got back to our homestay, freshened up, and enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast of appam and stew. Later, we went to St. Andrew’s Basilica a spectacular church with brown bricked walls, and elegantly painted windows. The church had a bright environment inside out and had statues depicting the different stages of the life of Jesus Christ. From there we went to Marari beach where the cream-colored sand and the white waters perfectly complimented each other. By this time we were really hungry, so we went to Funduq Restaurant & Bakery, where we tried a new dish called Alfaham and Kubbus. It is a non-vegetarian dish, which is pretty well-known among the locals of Alleppey. And we still can’t believe that we ate such good food that too at such a reasonable price!

Next on our itinerary, was to spend the afternoon going on a day tour in a houseboat. We got in the houseboat and toured around in the backwaters while taking in the mesmerizing sunset. Originally we were planning on staying in the houseboat but as they don’t move the boat around at night, we thought it would be best to just get a day tour and come back to our homestay. On our way back, we had a good combination of North and South Indian food from The Krispy House Alappuzha and ended our second night.

A Perfect Date With Birds

For the last day in Alleppey, we didn’t have much on our plates as we had to catch our train to Shornur post lunch. So, for that day we decided to cover a bird sanctuary in Pathiramanal. Pathiramanal is a small island in Alleppey that is popular for the variety of bird species it houses. 

The best thing was we had to take a shikara ride to and from the island. So we reached the island and started exploring it. Though we couldn’t spot many birds, we could hear them go on about their daily rants. Since this place had not caught the attention of many tourists, being here makes you feel like there’s nobody else on the island except you! We clicked a few pictures and just when we were about to leave it started pouring. We had to wait until the rain gods cooled down. Finally, after a wait of half an hour, we made it to the shore, but we were late for our train.

A Small Affair With The Backwaters of Alleppey

The Unpredictable Nature Of Travel

We quickly ate some food and made it to the station only to see the tail of our train. It kind of felt like we were a part of the movie ‘Jab We Met’. After having a good laugh about it (because there was no point in crying now), we got tickets for the next train which would only arrive after an hour or so. That’s when our driver suggested this crazy idea to go visit the Alleppey Lighthouse, which we hadn’t even included in our itinerary.

And so, just like that, we hopped on to the idea and reached the lighthouse. We quickly made it to the top, got a stunning 360-degree view of the city, came back down the spiral staircase, and made it to the station. Except for this time we actually got the train! And with that rush of thrill, loads of laughter, and a feeling of contentment we came back to the warm embrace of our hometown.

Lesson For A Lifetime

It really is essential to keep traveling, as it helps us to keep an open mind. How, you ask? Because we meet different people coming from different places, we hear their stories, and we get a new perspective on life. Not just this, but it also helps in boosting our confidence. Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t easily open up around people then traveling will surely help you mingle with people. And most importantly, it is okay if things don’t go as planned in life. There might be something even better waiting for you at the end of the tunnel, just keep looking.