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Home > Discover Cochin > Sightseeing > Backwaters

Alleppey (Venice of the East)

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Wow! Wonderful it is , tourists watching the fantastic sceneryAll dressed up and nowhere to go! Well, here we were, lots of free time but with a purse the size of a pea shell, enthusiasm alone cannot take us anywhere.

I was idly looking through the million travel brochures that I had collected-an unfortunate little collage of all the cruises we could not take-when I came across a little blurb that advertised, almost like an afterthought-God's own Country. Yipeee…! I had it. Although I have heard a lot about Kerala, I had not really got the chance to explore it. Having convinced my friends who are all strangers to Kerala, we decided to explore the backwaters of Kerala. The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation told us that we could do this eight-hour backwater cruise from Alleppey to Quilon. This would take us through the lakes and inlets that stretch irregularly along the coast, in the Indian version of the Chinese sampan.

A rear view of chinese fish netsWe started out journey one lovely, sunny morning at 10.30. Allepey, also called the Venice of the East because of its intricate maze of backwaters, is interlocked with a large numbers of canals and bridges which adds to the town's alluring beauty. With its extensive shoreline on the west, a vast expanse of placid lakes and lagoons on the east and a number of freshwater rivers, Alleppy occupies its own significant place in the tourist map of Kerala. The town is designed with 2 canals running parallel to each other through the heart of the town linking it with the backwaters which runs parallel to the sea coast. It was on one of these canals that we both were to travel. The canals, some of which are manmade, are not isolated at all. What makes the journey most interesting is that, as you move along the canal, you can taste, hear , smell (quite literally!) and see the way the Malayali fisherfolk live. Our experience was enlivened by the commentary of our boatman, who fed us tit bits of information that we otherwise might not have known.

Nature's paradise, serene palm fringed waterwaysAlong the way, we also saw the huge Chinese fishing nets, the Cheena Vala, introduced in Kerala by the Portuguese traders. The nets that are suspended from wooden posts, remain immersed in water through the day until the fisherman comes and hauls his catch out of the water. We also notice snakeboats weaving in and out of the palm fringed byways of the canal. Our helpful boatman told us that they were heading for the practice races that were a prelude to the famous annual boat festival . These boats, called snake boats, are 30-50 metres long wooden watercrafts with stand-up sterns that resemble the head of Cobra. These are powered by a hundered oarsmen, their motion keeping time with the head oarsman's boat song.

Boats waiting for the travellers at Aleppey boat jetty

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The route winds up the Pampa River to Champakkulam canal. Along the way, we saw, surrounded by water ducks, the statue of Karumadikuttan, believed to be of Buddha. Some see it as a remnant of a bygone era when Buddhist monks came to Kerala with the message of love and non-violence. Off we went, relaxing in the serene beauty and quiet calm of the backwaters, past Trikunna, across Kayamkulam Lake and Ashtamudi Lake, where we saw plenty of starfishes plastered along the walls of the canal. Our trip ended at the port of Kollam.

A high point of the day was our traditional Kerala meal in a village featuring the famous typical local cuisine of fish curry and fried fish for non-vegetarians, and avial and sambar for the vegetarians. It kept us pretty full and half-asleep until the day vanished into the sunset at Kollam.

Throughout the serene backwaters, the scenery continues to be ravishing. So visit Kerala with the serene backwaters enjoying sumptuous Kerala food.

Photos & Text: Ravindra Nayak C.H.

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