After our adventurous car ride to Alleppey, the relaxation of Ashtamudi homestay was definitely welcome. We also decided to book our houseboat through Ashtamudi, which turned out to be a great decision because they linked us with another couple who also wanted to do the houseboat tour, which both gave us company and made the houseboat 1500 RS ($30) cheaper! The houseboat experience was definitely unique! There were two bedrooms with attached baths on our houseboat and two sitting areas, one up with a covered deck and an uncovered sundeck and one down with a dining table, TV/DVD and cushioned benches. Our houseboat had AC (after 9pm only).
We took a trip up the Kerala backwaters and saw plenty of palm trees, houses and farms along the backwaters and gorgeous scenery. Since it was January, the weather had a cool breeze with the sun beating down on us – pretty close to perfect. Samir and I hung out alone on the upper deck of the boat for the most part during the day – laying in the shade, watching the scenery, taking pictures, trying to listen to an Audiobook but getting continuously distracted by the view. Samir would point out random things only a civil engineer would notice J – pedestrian bridges, the banks of the river, irrigation methods, water towers, etc. The backwaters also act as “streets” for parts of the town so we were really amused by the school water taxis dropping the kids off to their bridges to walk home. We had our meals and watched a movie with the other couple, so we had good company as well (the other couple was about our age and they were both working in Pune).
We had three meals on the houseboat – all decent but not spectacular. For lunch, Samir had requested the fish, which was literally a small fish, taken direct from the water, and fried with some seasonings. Samir said that it was mostly bones and hard to pick at. I thought it was gross because I could still see the eyes of the fish, scales and tail. It wasn’t like a neat filet at a restaurant!
The cook and the guy that guided the boat stayed with us on the boat the whole time. Our boat left around noon and had to ‘dock’ somewhere by 6pm (to allow the local fishermen to fish and cast out their nets; also to afford some privacy to the locals whose houses we pass by). And by ‘dock’ I mean tie our boat down to a palm tree… literally.
Overall, the houseboat was a positive experience with a couple negatives:
a) Mosquitos! This was my biggest complaint. Once we docked for the evening, we were just swarmed by mosquitos. We were trying to watch an Indian movie on the boat (they had a DVD player on board with mostly South Indian movies but we found a Hindi movie) but the damn mosquitos kept swarming us. Even with a mosquito coil and a mosquito repellant arm band, they were a complete nuisance. So by 9pm, we just went to our rooms. Since the breakfast in the morning was ok and I think we missed the sunrise, Samir and I both agreed we would have been fine with just doing a day cruise, watching the sunset and calling it a day (which was also an option).
b) Houseboats have become a major tourist attraction in Alleppey and so we were just surrounded by houseboats and basically just going in a line down the backwaters. This is also bad for the backwaters themselves as all the boats pretty much deposited their waste and the pollutants from its motors into the backwaters. We did see some boats with solar panels on them (ours had some) but we couldn’t figure out what they were used for since we had a generator, inverter and motor on board. We figured maybe they gave power for the lights and other minor electronics on board. Also, supposedly there are more ecofriendly houseboats that use LNG instead of diesel or use manpower (though these don’t go too far), but we didn’t find any of these options.
Despite the above, I still really enjoyed the backwaters experience and would recommend at least a day cruise to others. Samir and I had a good time relaxing in each other’s company and the gorgeous nature around us. Plus there is something really amusing about the houseboats themselves – they’re inherently rustic and simple – one would be hard pressed to be anything but at peace!
We picked out some of our favorites, but the whole album is linked from our Photo Album page.