Alleppey – Venice of the East


Just about every place we’ve been recently tries to liken a small part of their city or town to Venice. And having been to Venice ourselves, we understand why. It’s dreamy and romantic. But, understandably, having been to many of the places that liken themselves to Venice in the guidebooks or on blogs, we’re always quite skeptical.


Alleppey, from our experience, is the only one that comes close. Truly a waterworld, the houseboats take you along canals and lakes lined by mangroves where life goes on despite the lack of land for habitation. Families bathe, mothers do laundry, children wash the dinner dishes — all on the banks of the area’s many canals. And, like in Venice, there are water taxis (boat buses) to take folks where they need to go. And if you’re canoeing and need a lift, you just latch your vessel onto one of the many house or public boats and are on your way.


For us, the moment we stepped onto the houseboat was a bit surreal. The boat has a wooden hull — custom crafted locally by skilled artisans and a bamboo/wicker woven top. Complete with bedroom(s), bathroom (with shower and working toilet), family room, dining area and kitchen, the boat is easy to call home. We chartered a small houseboat, but even it came with a 3-person crew: a cook, a captain and a first mate.


As we left the shore with mosquito spray and sunscreen liberally applied, we snapped photos constantly. First, we stopped by a maiden’s house to drop off the earlier night’s bed and other linens for washing. Two men sat nearby playing cards on their bank stones while a goat anxiously stomped about the shore and a child played in the water. This would be a common scene as we made our way about during the day to come.


As we left the docking area, we were joined by dozens of other houseboats who had come to pick up their guests. We took in the views of life along the banks as we made our way to a placid holding spot for lunch. Waterlilies with purple blossoms and visiting birds were commonplace. As were happy scenes of domesticity along the canals. Most locals fish for a living and, hence, living so near to the water is a nicety. And while the scenes of locals doing laundry on the shore are shocking, this option is much better than the alternate that most endure across the rest of the country — having to go many kilometers to a riverbank in order to do the same. Locals seem to have the process down to science. First, they dunk the garment. Then, they soap it. And next they beat the clothing against the bank rocks before rinsing and placing on the bank to dry.


Our cook was talented and we were impressed by the dishes and variety he offered despite his small kitchen’s size and amenities. A local fisherman dropped by to offer fresh caught tiger prawns. Young children and their parents waved from the banks near their homes. School children waved and screamed “one pen” from the banks as they walked home from the waterbus stop. Good thing we didn’t bring a box of Bics as it was money they were after :-). We passed by as chickens, cows and goats sunned on the shore.

At dusk, we docked in the crew’s home village. We had a watched the sun go down over the water, read our God of Small Things books (based on life in Kerala) and had an incredible dinner. As bed time approached, the crew switched on the ac for our sleeping compartment and we comfortably slept through the night.

In the morning, we woke early to the sound of the waterbus leaving the nearby dock to take locals into town. We lounged in the seating area reading our books and watched as the locals and our crew went about their canalside chores. Finally, we were on our way and quickly joined the other houseboats moving toward the docking area to change-out their guests.

And we were on our way to Athripally — our final stop before flying out of Cochin. Check back tomorrow for more on our next destination.

Or check out additional photos from Alleppey.

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