In September, just after the refreshing monsoons had cooled Kerala, I went on my first houseboat along the incredible lakes and rivers of Kerala. The slow life along the river and centuries old traditions, just seemed to be a wonderful break from technology, my fast-paced career and never ending ‘to-do lists’. Really enjoyed embracing a slower pace, if only for a short time!
I love to explore places that are quiet, and sometimes remote, sometimes absolute luxury and at other times more budget friendly. This trip ticks many of those boxes for me.
Once the hippie mecca for travelers in the 60’s and 70’s, Southern India has undergone a transformation. Super chic luxury hotels with rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatment centres have joined the backpacker and budget conscious traveler’s options.
During these changes, the Kerala backwaters still provides a peaceful sigh and slow travel for any budget. We were so lucky to have a unique opportunity to glimpse a traditional Kerala lifestyle at a slow and leisurely pace.
Our travel was in a wooden and thatched houseboat and while on board time seemed to slow to a lazy pace. Our houseboat wound down the palm fringed river where brightly coloured homes and modest lean-tos line the river’s edge.
We became part of river life as the locals wade and perform their daily ablutions on the water’s edge, with the ladies modestly bathing in their sarongs and saris. We loved hearing the thwack of the washing as the clothing is smacked onto the rocks in a centuries old tradition, while fish sellers and homeopathic boats glide past selling their wares. Pristine white uniforms are proudly worn by students making their way to school by boat and long trod river paths, while haunting calls to prayer echo through the rice paddies.
Some rice paddies are below sea level and innovative dykes keep them flooded with water or dry as the rice growing season requires. This is the food bowl for India.
Kerala houseboats can be hired from Kumarakom to Allepy. Houseboats can be private for a couple or family or on a larger house boat with other traveler’s with accompanying lower fares. We choose a house boat from Kukaramon resort and this could be combined with a stay at the resort or stand alone.
Our house boat was for a couple only, thatched with one large bedroom with shower and ensuite. It has fresh open areas in front with lounge chairs to watch the slow traffic passing by and the daily life of those living in harmony with the river. The boat has a captain and a cook and before we left we chose from a varied menu and wine list for the next few days. Added to this, treats such as fish caught along the way meant our food was plentiful, on call and delicious.
A separate dining room was glass encased to be able to watch the river while enjoying the Southern Indian flavours of Kerala. At night, along with the other house boats, we moored anchored to a palm tree and our nights were spent watching the stars and amazing bird life as Kerala comes to life in the early mornings. There were so many birds it was like huge clouds of white as they all raced to get the early morning offerings in the rice paddies. Prices range from super cheap to moderate so suits all budgets!
It’s unplugged, quiet, relaxing and peaceful. Perfect.
Written by: Kim Ward
Kim started her travel adventures as a backpacker travelling through Asia before starting work as an International flight attendant with Qantas Airways. She met her wonderful husband flying and they continue their travels for several months a year. She is a freelance travel writer and teacher and is always looking forward to the next adventure!