“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
The penultimate stop on our Kerala tour was Kumarakom in Kottayam. Kumarakom is set against the backdrop of Vembanad Lake, the perfect place from which to explore the backwaters and take a famed Kettuvallom tour, the converted rice barges that are better known as houseboats.
Vembanad Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Kerala that actually stretches all the way from Cochin (Kochi) in the north to Alleppy in the South and is connected to the Arabian Sea. It’s home to many different species of birds and fish, in fact fishing is the major source of income in the area as well as agriculture and of course tourism. It’s a beautiful and scenic lush green area surrounded by mangrove forests, rice fields and coconut trees that all provide food sources for the locals as well as being farmed for export. There’s an abundance of bananas, mangos, jackfruit, tamarind, guavas, pineapples and the local fruit ambazhanga growing here as well as cocoa trees and coffee plantations.
What we did……..
We had been advised via social media and reading a few blogs not to take an overnight houseboat tour so instead the ever reliable Nisanth booked us a six hour day tour departing from nearby Alleppey (Alappuzha). The area is a labyrinth of interlinked backwaters and canals (forty four rivers/lakes/lagoons making up the 900km canal system), where you drift along the shimmering quiet waterways which have earned themselves the nickname ‘Venice of the East’ because of the large network of canals.
We were the only passengers on our boat with our own driver and two chefs who prepared a traditional Keralan curry lunch cooked on board. The staff were courteous and friendly, the driver encouraging us both to have a go at driving but being a self-confessed creature comforts kind of girl I’m glad for the advice not to stay on board as it was altogether a bit too local for me especially the bathroom facilities.
Kettuvallams are made from planks of jackfruit wood bound with coir knots (no nails used) and covered by a coir roof, most, like ours are two storey with an upper observation deck and seating area reached via a ladder. These boats were originally used to transport rice from one part of Kerala to another but since the 90s have been converted into tourist boats since the 90’s and are extremely popular.
The cruise gave us insight into how isolated life is residing waterside, where the locals lead a simple existence living off the land and water and in most cases their only transport is by small wooden canoes. The waterways are used for washing clothes, washing themselves, drinking and watering crops, the most important life source in the area. The children go to school by school boat rather than bus and shops and modern day life as we know it are pretty much non-existent.
On the way back to the hotel we saw lots of locals collecting shells in large baskets from the lakes which are then burnt in kilns to make lime for building in the area.
Where we ate…..
Exhausted from another epic long road trip on our first night we ate at our hotel at the open-sided Ettukettu restaurant which served local traditional Indian dishes alongside international cuisine. We had a traditional Keralan lunch on the houseboat, fresh coconuts bought from the riverbank and Indian tea.
Looking for a change of scenery on the second night and based on our positive experience at the Taj hotel in Cochin we visited the nearby Vivanta by Taj – Kumarakom for dinner.
Where we stayed…..
We stayed at the very picturesque Kumarakom Lake Resort, a vast five star property located on the lake where Prince Charles stayed when he celebrated his 65th birthday! A traditional style hotel with lots of modern comforts including beautiful rooms with outdoor bathrooms and access straight to the pool from the terrace. The best news about the property’s star rating was it served alcohol, great to have a glass and a beer at dinner after a couple of nights alcohol-free, read more about the hotel here.
Read my eight previous Kerala posts In Pictures: A Postcard From Kerala, India, Discover Kerala: Faces of India, Discover Kerala: Cochin, Review: Vivanta by Taj – Malabar, Cochin, Discover Kerala: Munnar, Review: The Fog Resort & Spa, Munnar, Discover Kerala: Thekkady and Review: Greenwoods Resort, Thekkady
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.