In the Backwaters at dusk and dawn is a magical light that must be seized to take pictures
Cuando estás en las lagunas al atardecer y al amanecer hay una luz mágica que hay que aprovecharla para hacer fotos
From Alleppey, or Alappuzha as it's now called, you can go on organised trips, rent houseboats or hop on the regular boats going upriver to various destinations, depending on your travel plans. Houseboats can be rented from 12 hrs to weeks (they come with boatman/pilot and cook), or there are day tours, but if you are just passing through you should take a regular boat to your destination (Kottayam is regular destination and Kamurakom i think, several times a day, 2+hrs, dirt cheap). Kuttanad is a worthwhile destination also, the rice bowl of Kerela.
Of course this depends on you, but if you wish to meet locals and to travel like a local don't hesitate to take a public boat. They go everywhere and are frequent. I arrived in Kottayam by train, and from there I took public boat to Alappuzha. I was informed this is the most popular route for backwaters and, in fact, I was not disappointed. The weather wasn't good, but I enjoyed a lot the trip. By the way, I wasn't the only foreigner aboard!
Otherwise, if you wish to rent a house boat, save money renting it locally, instead of booking through the internet. You can negociate fares at travel agencies, but it isn't rare to find locals offering their own boats.
Boats from Kottayam (Kodimatha) to Alappuzha
As we neared Kollam, and so neared the end of our Backwaters Tour, we passed by this rather surprising and revealing statue of the Goddess of Light on Ashtamudi Lake. She's bearing quite a lot to the world!
We went past this group of fishermen on a boat who waved at us as we passed by. The Backwaters is big business for fishermen and you'll get to see a lot of them and fishing boats as part of your tour.
I had seen these Chinese fishing nets in Kochi and thought they were only to be found there, so it was a big surprise to see them along the river in the Backwaters. We went past a whole load of them, in a line either side of us, as we passed by some kind of power station (great place to put one, by the way!) and then there were more as we neared Kollam which were being used as it was early evening and the sun was going down. Here, they seem to leave the nets in for a long time before raising them which is different to how they fish in Kochi as, there, they drop and raise the nets between 250 and 350 times a day!
I did my Backwaters Tour from Alappuzha (Alleppey) to Kollam and it was a fabulous day out. We left Alappuzha at about 10am and made our way south past lush vegetation of coconut trees and palm trees and people crossing the river on small ferries and coracles. Daily life all revolves around water as there's so much of it so you get to see people washing clothes and themselves, fishing, and transporting goods. We stopped for lunch at a very simple looking place where we were served veg curry, rice, samosa and fish on a banana leaf and then set off again passing by more of the same.
We then came to a series of Chinese fishing nets which were in a line either side of us, as we passed by some kind of power station (great place to put one, by the way!) and then there were more as we neared Kollam which were being used as it was early evening and the sun was going down. Here, they seem to leave the nets in for a long time before raising them which is different to how they fish in Kochi as, there, they drop and raise the nets between 250 and 350 times a day! We then reached Kollam, past the rather revealing Goddess of Light statue, at about 6:30pm. The trip cost Rs300 in February 2007.
This nice temple is located right in the middle of town. The presiding deity is Goddess Rajarajeswari who, according to legend, is believed to have appeared at the site many times to care for a jasmine plant.
This is the main North Canal in Alappuzha and is where you can catch the Backwaters Tour boat to Kollam (Quilon). This is also where you can take the public ferry to Kottayam from (see transportation tips).
Vembanad Lake is located about 1km east of the town and is where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race takes place. Every year during the second Saturday of August, thousands of people throng to this place to witness the breathtaking boat race. The lake is India's longest at 96km and one of the largest at 1512 sq km and is surrounded by coconut and areca nut trees and lush vegetations. If you take the Backwaters Tour then you'll see part of the lake but you'll actually cross it if you take a public ferry to Kottayam (see my transportation tips).
I suppose this is actually a food tip!
I had the most wonderful freshly made parathas at a food stall/restaurant in Alleppey.
From early morning fresh parathas are made here. You can actually watch as yours are being prepared.
The name of the place was not clear to me, but there are big signs : Hotel Restaurant. You will find this place on the left of the main road, a few hundred metres from the Arcadia Regency hotel.
If you are not planning a houseboat trip, it can be a nice thing to do in order to get the feeling of the Backwaters. From the Jetty on the North Canal, you will find many boats and operators. You can decide on the length of the journey and off course the price. The price depends on the type of boat and the duration of your trip. There are many operators, so it is best to ask around in order to get a good deal.
There are 2 ways of doing a back water trip-either the way of the common keralaite like I did or rent a LUXURIOUS house boat.I travlled from Allepy to kotayam by the common feery and thought it to be fantastic when we get to mingle with the warm local people-school girls primly dressed, Men with imposing moustaches and colourful lungis and the charming local women-why be isolated in a luxurious private house boat and 10 years a go it cost be about 16 Rs for a 4 hour journey!
Well, I haven't put this under 'hotels' as my homestay was so much more than somewhere to sleep: it gave as much of a glimpse into local life as you can reasonably get in 24 hours.
I stayed with a Christian family in a small village in the Alleppey area. The father of the family came to meet us off our bus in the morning and helped us (plus luggage) precariously over the river by canoe. We spent a wonderfully relaxing day in and around their home, watching canoes pass down the river from the veranda. The food was plentiful and lovingly made and we got to ask our hosts all the questions that had been intriguing us about Kerala. We were asked a fair few questions in return.
In the afternoon, we were taken on a guided tour of the village, including the church. I appreciated the opportunity to see an everyday Indian village where the stalls and local people aren't competing with major sights for your attention. Instead, you have time to just relax and look around.
The homestay was easily the best accommodation I had in Kerala. I can't supply price details as went with a tour group, but I'm sure they'd be happy to help if you contact them.
There are various modes of enjoying the backwaters from an expensive house boat to a simple small two seater boat. My favourite and the cheapest was to reach alleppey boat jetty jump in to any of the transport boats take a ticket to the last destination and back . You travel with human beings, animals and birds. The ticket comes to around Rs 5/ and you are back in 2 to 3 hrs never boring. .That way you see the real life in this area. It takes you around winding back waters . It is as if you are travelling along a street in a laid back village.
A boat cruise from alleppey to kollam may take 5 hrs and pass through long stretches of lake with no land or activity in sight and can be boring.