February 9-12, 2017
Accommodations: Lotus Homestay (booking.com) 450INR; tucked in off a small lane and down a shady drive Lotus is very peaceful; it has two chill zones (one at ground level another on the second floor); they can provide breakfast, arrange for tours (our backwaters tour was wonderful – see below), yoga, scooters etc. Azi will arrange it all for you (and with the biggest smile).
Transportation: We arrived via India Rail from Ernakulam Junction South Station; 30INR for the two of us.
While in Alleppey we took a backwaters tour, 850INR each (included ferry to and from guide’s home, breakfast and lunch at guide’s home, and hours of being paddled through the smaller canals – totally, wonderfully peaceful).
And we rented a scooter for a day through Lotus; 350INR/day plus fuel (200INR).
Food: Thaff’s – a small restaurant that always seemed pretty busy, with a mix of tourists and locals. Good food, reasonable prices and friendly staff.
We had one breakfast at a small shop we happened to be passing (very good) and another at Lotus (also very good) plus an early dinner at Beach Hut on Marari Beach (good food, reasonable and on the beach!).
The main reason most people come to Alleppey is either to go on a backwaters tour or to transit to the backwaters to stay in a homestay. We were starting to feel overwhelmed by the heat so elected to book only 3 nights but ended up staying 4 (mostly because our sniffles returned and we wanted to relax and let them pass).
Our first full day we went on a tour, arranged through Lotus Homestay. It was perfect! We didn’t want to do the full-on houseboat, overnight tour (expensive and motorized) or even a mid-sized boat (motorized and unable to enter the small canals). So the combination of the ferry ride out and back gave us a view of the lake and some of the bigger canals, while the paddled canoe took us into the peaceful small canals. We saw a variety of other watercraft, homes by the water, birds and the lush greenery overhanging the water. The water looked pretty clean. Which makes sense as people bath and do their laundry in it. The slapping of wet laundry on flat rocks was the loudest noise we heard. We were served excellent breakfast and lunch at our guide’s home. Although we stopped once for refreshments there were no stops for handicrafts or any other ‘push’ pitches. When we re-entered the big canal we were greeted by the sight of dozens of large houseboats scurrying about, motors and generators (for the air-con units) roaring. The ferry rides were fun too as we mixed with the locals going to and fro on their main transportation link.
On our second day we wandered around town. Alleppey’s busy but not too huge. We checked out the variety of goods offered in the small stores; although, I did visit a larger store, the local Titan watch shop, just to check out their selection. I managed to walk out without yet another new watch. Sue, however, spotted a beautiful kameez in front of a clothing store; she went in to find out if they had her size. Soon I was being summoned in for a viewing. It’s indeed beautiful; orange underneath and a stunning blue/white over top. A bit later we inquired what the tall brass stands we frequently saw in stores were: coconut oil lamps.
Our last day we, for the first time in India, rented a scooter. Right away I felt a bit nervous with Sue on the back without a helmet. But off we set, immediately getting semi-lost as I missed a turn at a roundabout. We eventually got back on track when we reached the seashore and I checked in with Google Maps. We took a back-road, rather than the main highway, to Marari Beach. The various bumps, holes, speeding bikes, cars and domineering buses kept me focused on the road.
We parked the scooter close to the beach and walked out to see the beach extending north and south for miles. Umbrellas and chairs faded off into the distance. Most to the people on the beach were Indians, out enjoying their Sunday. The waves broke right at the beach with a drop-off of a few feet just off-shore. We floated and swam in the bathtub warm water. With plans to head inland to visit the highlands, and escape the heat, we knew this might be our last beach until we’re heading back north so we made the most of our day, even staying for dinner on the beach.
The ride back was just as exciting as the ride out. At the end of the day I felt slightly sunburned and bug-eyed. But, it was a good road to have our first scooter ride on. Maybe one day we’ll graduate to a Royal Enfield…