A House Boat in Kerala can be counted as one of the best ways to spend 24 hours of your life. As you float over the serene backwaters of the Arabian Sea, you step back in time and enter a World of fishing nets, water lilies, lush paddy fields, coconut groves, floating villages and temples. The House Boat in Kerala is a journey from Kumarakom to Allepey with a night halt in the backwaters, is one of the must do things before you die!
Kumarakom is located 16 Kms from the city of Kottayam. Kumarakom is well connected by Buses from Chennai, Mangalore, Bangalore as well as all major cities of Kerala. Kottayam is the nearest Railway Station for Kumarakom. The nearest airport to Kumarakom is 85 Kms away at Cochin. Taxis are readily available for Kumarakom from both Kottayam and Cochin.
For a bird's eye view of the backwaters of Kerala, visit The Great Backwaters.
A houseboat in Kerala is called “Kettuvalam” and had been the mainstay for transporting men and material from ancient times. While they come in all sizes, the most common ones are 67 feet in length and 13 feet wide. These boats used to be the most efficient ways of transporting rice and spices from plantations to the markets.
Once Motorized Road ways and Railways came, these Boats became redundant and were converted to House Boats to boost Tourism in Kerala.
"Anjili" or Artocarpus hirsuta is the main type of wood that is used to build a Houseboat. Other material like bamboo poles, coconut fiber, ropes, bamboo mats, carpets are all locally available and ecofriendly. The hull is a series of long cut and carved wooden planks which are tied together using coir. To ensure longevity, a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels is used to provide a coating. Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof. The most popular design used these days for Backwater Tours is a Houseboat with 3 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. A deck balcony on the roof is a popular attraction.
Kottayam district is the hub for Backwater Tourism. A network of rivers and canals empty into the Vembanad Lake and this provides the picturesque backdrop for the House Boat experience. Kumarakom is a small town in the edge of Lake Vembanad and is the boarding point for the famous House Boat in Kerala journey to Allepey.
Kumarakom has a bird sanctuary for migratory birds. It used to be a called Baker’s Estate when it was developed by an Englishman in a rubber plantation. Some of the migratory birds you can catch here are Siberian crane, Parrot, teal, lark and flycatcher. The other birds which make Kumarakom their home are Waterfowl, Cuckoo, Owl, Egret, Heron, Cormorant, Moorhen, Darter, Brahminy kite and the Duck.Dawn is the best time to watch the birds as they leave their homes and fly off for the day’s work.
Another must visit at Kumarakom is the Bay island Driftwood Museum at Chakranpadi. This museum showcases a collection of driftwood articles of artistic value. The museum’s founder was Raji Punnoose, a teacher in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. She started the collection by collecting drift wood washed away by cyclones on the Bay of Bengal. She cleansed the items; removed dead parts removed, scraped and trimmed it to different shapes. It’s incredible to see the power of nature as some of the objects were seasoned in Bay of Bengal for centuries and molded as sculptures through hydrodynamic process of the sea waves. This Museum entered the Limca Book of Records in 2010 and they citation reads as “The Limca Book of Records has certified that Bay Island Museum (est. 2001) located in Kumarakom, Kerala, the only drift wood museum, showcases objects that have been painstakingly recovered and collected from the Andaman seas and beaches by Raji Punnoose (proprietor and curator) during her career as a post graduate teacher in the islands”.
Allepey is the second leg of the House Boat in Kerala journey after Kumarakom. It is situated 62kms away from Kochi towards the South. It is called Alappuzha in the local language and means the land between the sea and network of rivers flowing into it. Allepey is famous for its canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons which led to Lord Curzon calling it the Venice of the East.
Allepey has a thriving Coir Industry which provides the main source of employment to the local population. Historians believe Allepey had trade relations with ancient Greece and Rome in the middle Ages.
One of the seven Churches founded by St Thomas is located in Allepey at Kokkamangalam. St Thomas had supposedly arrived here in 52 AD and performed a miracle. As per "Rampan Pattu", an ancient form of Christian folk-song, St Thomas preached here for a year and 1600 local inhabitants converted to Christianity. While the original Church no longer remains, another one was built on the same site in 1900 and can be visited even today. People of Kokkamangalam are employed in the Cottage Industries of Coir Spinning and Coconut Processing.
The most popular boat race in India is held on Punnamada Lake in Allepey. This is an annual event held on the second Saturday of every August. The most popular event here is the Chundan Vallam, which is popularly known as Snake Boat Race. These boats are more than 100 feet long and are built as per Sthapathya Veda, an ancient treatise for the building of wooden boats. Each boat belongs to a village and is worshiped as a deity!
Allepey has a magnificent Beach and is definitely worth a visit. There is a Light House on the Beach which provides splendid views of Arabian Sea, Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple, Edathua Church, Champakulam Valia Palli, Krishnapuram Palace. Watching the Sun Set on Allepey Beach is a fitting way to end the magnificent House Boat in Kerala journey.
For a travelogue on a quaint village in Kerala which is the world's largest cardamom producer, visit Vandenmedu.