Kerala: Alleppey (Backwater Country)

Part 3 of the Kerala travel diary.

Posted 23rd November 2010 by Rahul Aggarwal

I was up early and strolled around the estate which contained some impressive spice plantations as well as tea. After another delicious breakfast we set off on the drive to Kottayam, which would make for a pleasant stop-off between the Western Ghats of Munnar and the backwaters of Alleppey. The drive was pleasant enough as we passed verdant hills and bustling markets. After 4 hours we reached the luxurious Meena Chil Enclave farmhouse. It resembled something more akin to the Far East, with its exquisitely carved wooden structure, almost pagoda-like.

The owner was full of life, and after some light refreshments, donning a handmade cap made of leaves and his South Indian style lungi, he took us on a guided tour of his estate. All manner of produce is grown here – cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, tamarind, exotic fruits, figs, vegetables and much more. A vast area is also dedicated to rubber plantations. He demonstrated how rubber is tapped from trees (the stench was horrible!) and the subsequent processes involved in sending the final produce to market.

We then went back inside his home for the best meal of the trip so far. There was a huge spread of other South Indian specialities that I had not sampled to date, including a superb banana curry, bitter gourd, banana and yam fries, a pineapple salad, more appams and a vegetable stew. The meat and fish eaters were also well taken care of!

I could barely move from the table, but forced myself up from the table to the waiting van. Next stop was Alleppey which was about another hour from Kottayam. I could tell I was entering backwater-country, as the glistening Lake Vembanad (one of the largest lakes in Asia) came into view. We negotiated some narrow alleys to get to our homestay, aptly named Vembanad Homestay. The setting was spectacular. Straddling two palm trees, the hammock swayed gently in the breeze, patches of water lilies floated magically on the lake and the smell of incense wafted out of the homestay. We were greeted by the smiling faces of Sandhya and Balakrishnan, the owners, and their delightfully cute son, Danush. We were adorned with garlands and a tikka and welcomed into their house.

The sun was going down, so we crossed the stream in front of the home and hopped into waiting dug-out canoes for some night lobster fishing. We were three to a boat and gingerly sat ourselves down. One false move and we’d all be in the water! It really was a magical setting. The Hindu festival of Navratri was going on so I could hear the sound of Hindu bhajans (hymns) being sung against the backdrop of bells. Stars lit up the night sky and there was a calm serenity across Lake Vembanad. Skilled fishermen showed us the art of supreme balance as they shone their torches in the water hoping to catch the reflective eyes of the lobsters, then tossed their nets into the water and scooped up their catch. When we got back to the homestay, our hosts prepared a mouthwatering meal using the freshly caught seafood. Being a veggie I had to settle for appams and vegetable stew again! It was time to call it a night, but from the few hours I’d had in Alleppey I could see why Kerala is dubbed as ‘God’s Own Country’.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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