An island in the lake

Local relaxing on a palm tree

Monsoon season!

Buying giant prawns

Houseboats at the dock

Palm trees in the lake

Palm tree lined path

Thin ribbons of green

Green rice fields on the interior

A houseboat navigates a channel

Colorful clothes laid out to dry

Colorful buildings hiding behind the palm trees

Churches on the waterfront

Waiting by the school

An old watertower

A church on the waterfront

Alleppey, India


July 13, 2013


Dance floor is like the sea

Ceiling is the sky

You're the sun and as you shine on me

I feel free, I feel free, I feel free

- Cream

If I had to judge, I would say the beautiful scenery and tranquil waterways of the Kerala Backwaters near Alleppey were worth the total transit time of close to 28 hours on a mini-bus from Bangalore. The contrast between the dense and suffocating traffic and air of Bangalore and the calm and serenity of the Backwaters was stark, to say the least. Alleppey itself is divided by narrow water channels that flow into and between a few lakes. The further you go away from the city the greater the transformation from another Indian town into something special.

The main mode of transport here is boats. The area is known for its houseboats, large boats with one to many bedrooms that are complete with kitchens, bathrooms, and for the deluxe ones, air conditioning and AV systems. These boats ferry tourists around the lake to experience and enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings and authentic way of life on the water. As it was monsoon season the water levels were high; where there would normally be larger strips of land and islands there were now palm trees jutting out of the lake and thin ribbons of land partitioning the lake and channels. This created a vision of a waterworld with isolated structures seemingly surrounded and engulfed by water. Our boat stopped at a fish market to buy some seafood and the houses in this row were almost inundated with water. Walking from one to the next required wading through six to ten inches of standing water. All this water and rain must do something to the local shellfish because this market had GIANT prawns, so big that it took only 3-4 to make up a kilogram (~1/2 pound each), and they tasted great rubbed down with an array of Indian spices.

While the houseboats ferry the tourists, more regular boats and water taxis provide links for the locals to move around. On the narrow edges of land clothes were hung up to dry and locals shimmied by the palm trees on dirt paths to get to the docks where they would wait for the boats. Perhaps it is the historic European influence here but there seemed to be a large proportion of churches lining the river banks, their bright pastel colors emanating from the dense tropical fauna. I saw children splashing in the water and people fishing for their next meal with a short fishing line connected to a stick. While there were electrical lines to even some of the more isolated buildings, life seemed pretty much unchanged from what it must have been in the past. As dusk settled in, the world around the backwaters grew quieter; little transport moved and the loudest noises were the mosquitos buzzing near my ears, I imagine, just like it has always been.