Background: Since early 2020, International travel has been in limbo due to the !@#! COVID-19. With each country reacting differently to COVID-19, it has been difficult to do International trips. While waiting out COVID-19, I thought why not explore the regions of India I have not been to 🙂 As of Oct, 2021, I had already been to 16 major towns/cities (as an adult), which is nothing considering the size and diversity of the country.
Introduction to Kerala
- Kerala’s biggest claim to fame is that George Attokaran hails from this state 😉
- The state has a literacy rate of 96%+ and ranks high in HDI (Human Development Index) and also has the lowest population growth rate in India.
- One of the smaller states in India.
- “Malayalam” is the official language. (The number of languages and dialects in India is just amazing!)
- Thiruvananthapuram (formerly, Trivandrum) is the capital city of the state.
- The main tourist regions of the state are: Alapuzha (Backwaters), Kasaragod (Backwaters), Wayanad (Forests & Hills), Munnar (Hills), Thekkady (Forests), Kovalam (Beach) Etc.
- Probably due to the relatively smaller size of the state, the state has quite few multi-lane highways, which makes long drives quite tiring, unlike in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
It is a bit embarrassing that I am visiting the Vembanad lake (longest lake in India) region for the 1st time only in 2021. At least we could make it this time. Alapuzha is around 1.5hr drive from Kochi, not due to the distance, but due to the single-lane road.
We started off with an outstanding seafood lunch at Hotel Brothers. The fish curry was lip-smacking! The restaurant was quite crowded and we were a bit nervous about the lingering COVID-19.
We were put up at Ramada hotel, near the Punnamada Boat Jetty. The views from the room were fantastic. There were all kinds of houseboats around.
The houseboats started their sunrise tours quite early in the morning.
Boats are available to cater to every need. Single bedroom, multiple bedrooms, AC, non-AC, viewing deck, kitchen Etc. were the various options available. We got a houseboat with a single bedroom and a viewing deck. We had opted for a 11AM-5PM “Day Tour”.
Our boat ride started from the Ponnamada Boat Jetty, which is around 1.5-2km from Ramada hotel. There were quite a few houseboats picking up their guests. A couple of pay-and-park areas are available nearby, for people coming in their own vehicles.
There is a staff of 2, the driver and the cook/handyman.
There is a sitting area behind the driver and there is also a more comfortable (with better views) sitting area in the viewing deck, which is where I spent most of the time.
The bedroom was pretty basic. We did not use it other than for a few minutes of power nap after lunch.
The restroom was attached to the bedroom.
Till around 2PM, though there were other houseboats around, it was not too crowded.
We could see the town of Kottayam in the far distance. We went along various canals. I got a feeling of going through a network of “water” roads. There were a few “junctions” as well, where canals in two directions crossed each other.
We made a pit-stop at a small fish shop, to buy any special fish we would like to have for lunch.
There were two sizes (small and large) of Pearl-Spot (“Karimeen”), which though bony, is very tasty.
There were other kinds of fish as well.
But we were most attracted by the Jumbo Prawns 🙂
We bought 3 of them for 3000Rs.
As soon as we got back onto the boat, the cook got started on the lunch preparations. He 1st cleaned the Jumbo Prawns. As one can imagine, quite a lot of the parts are not edible.
He had previously spiced up some Pearl Spot fish.
He worked very fast and checked with us the “spice level” we preferred. We requested higher levels of spice 🙂
Around 13:30, the boat was docked for lunch. We could notice other houseboats also docking for lunch, barely 20ft apart.
The lunch was very nice. I focused only on the Jumbo Prawns and Pearl Spot, as Chicken and Vegetables, though nice, can be had often. The Jumbo Prawns was quite spicy and towards the end, I was as hot as a marathon winner 🙂
The kitchen in the houseboat is towards the back side, through the corridor which passes the bedroom.
After lunch, which was at the farthest point of the trip, we headed back to the Punnamada Boat Jetty. You can note one of the “junctions” (below) along the way.
We could see the locals go about their daily life.
As we headed back, it really got crowded in the waterways. At one point, I counted 50 houseboats in my view!
There are a few Rowing Clubs in this region. We could see athletes practice rowing.