Kerala, a state in the south of India, often referred to as God’s Own Country is a haven for every kind of traveler. While the state offers hill stations, wild life sanctuaries and wellness holidays, there is no image more descriptive of Kerala than the backwaters. Having visited Kerala 2-3 times in the past our weekend sojourn in the backwaters in Kumarakom left us rejuvenated and recharged.
It is also one of the most easily accessible places from Mumbai for you to take advantage of a long weekend. Kumarakom is only a 2 hour drive from Cochin, and there are several flights to the city from Mumbai making it a convenient destination for a quick getaway.
Almost every image you see of Kerala in the advertising and communication is not contrived but an honest depiction of day-to-day life. Whether it be the House boats, canoes, locals fishing or the Chinese Fishing Nets, you do feel you are in a Kerala Tourism ad no matter which part of Kerala you are in (except the cities of course)
A holiday in the backwaters has to be agenda-less because there isn’t much to do but appreciate the beauty of the backwaters, relax, throw in a couple of massages and of course indulge in some great local cuisine. Following are my tips to enjoy a weekend in the backwaters.
Choose your Hotel by the backwaters
No better way to enjoy the backwaters than to step out to them. The backwaters are lined with hotels and the best part is they are not only five star properties but you can choose one within your budget and enjoy the view.
We stayed at Zuri in Kumarakom and absolutely loved the property. While there are cottages that open out to the backwaters, there is also a lagoon that comes into the property and there are cottages along side that lagoon. We stayed in one of those.
Walking to the backwaters is barely 200 metres. You can enjoy early mornings when there is peace and quiet or enjoy the daily ride into the sunset. You can enjoy Local snacks and tea on the lawn before you enjoy the golden hour on lake Vembanad.
Sunset on Lake Vembanad
Watching the sunset is indeed a fabulous experience, and magical in every sense. Watching the big ball of red go down is easily the best way to devote at least one hour of your day.
A day on the Houseboat
We did not stay on the houseboat, but that’s what people tend to do. I did want to enjoy the house boat, but honestly cannot imagine myself being in one all day. However if you do choose to stay on one, they are pretty self sufficient. A floating hotel room complete with a bed room, kitchen and about 2-3 staff to steer the boat as well as cook on the boat.
We did a 3-4 hour ride along with a meal, which was perfect for us. The lazy lilting boat makes you pause. You cannot do much, there aren’t any other distractions except absorbing the beauty of the lake. The waters have a silky satin sheen to them and once in a while you see another house boat pass you by or someone catching fish. All surrounded by Lush green and an odd bird sighting.
In the midst of all this, we were served a homely kerala meal. This was easily my most authentic meal through the holiday.
Appams and More
Local food is a big part of the holiday that I look forward to. Having my fill of local delicacies and finding them forms a large part of my agenda. When in Kerala enjoy the appams and the stew as much as you can. If you are non-vegetarian the options are a lot more.
I was happy getting my fill of Appam and Stew. What I really looked forward to was the dessert. The Ada Pradaman is traditional kerala payasam and much to my delight made it to several restaurant menus too. It is prepared with Ada, Jaggery and Coconut Milk and spells Bliss in every spoon.
My only regret was not getting my hands on Kadala Curry and Puttu. I think I will have to make it mysel. Hmph!
A visit to the bird sanctuary.
We made a visit to the bird sanctuary. It spells adventure and we made the mistake of going there in the afternoon. It is HOT and has many couples who find refuge in corners. It is a 2 km walk till the edge and a little bit more to the viewing tower. Since I am no bird watching expert and also the time of the year we went in was April we did not see any birds. However we did enjoy the walk in the wilderness.
Also, all was fine until we saw a snake slither in the grass, and all we wanted to do after was get out of there as fast as we can. There are no warning signs but I guess it must be safe, since a lot of locals seemed fairly comfortable hanging out in the wilderness. But if you are reading this consider yourself warned.
- You do not need a cab. We made friends with a local auto driver, as we walked out of our hotel. He took us around and would come back when we needed to be picked up.
- The houseboat rides that you find online and in your hotel are ridiculously priced. We found a house boat for hire board in a local tea/ bakery for house boat rides and the guy hooked us up on a deal of 1500 per hour including lunch. The other quotes we were getting was 8500 upwards per head. So try not to get swayed by the houseboat experience.
- There are snakes, even cobras non chalantly slithering about, so beware. We saw a yellow cobra right ahead of our cab and we waited to let it pass.
- When it is hot stay hydrated, carry your bottles of water.