Kerala is a state in Southern India, famous for its culture, spices, beaches and backwaters...the locals here call it "God's Own Country"...read more about Kerala here
. A group of Hyderabad expats and I have been planning a trip to the Kerala backwaters for several months now...and finally, the time has come to go. The Kerala backwaters are essentially a bunch of backwater lagoons and lakes loosely connected to the Arabian Sea. It's a very tranquil place to visit and is like nothing else in India....and it is most definitely different than the beach areas to the north in Goa. My HSBC friends Kate and Laju had been doing most of the detailed planning and we had all settled on the following agenda...fly down to Cochin on a Thursday afternoon, drive to a hotel in Kumarakom for one night, then rent a houseboat for Friday morning and cruise the backwaters until Sunday. Drive back to Cochin and sightsee there on Sunday morning before departing back for Hyderabad Sunday evening
. Kate actually had a friend flying down from the UK, and we had a couple guys back out...so the final group ended up being me and 4 girls (Kate, Laju, Kate's friend Caire and my friend Tanya)....lucky me. :) As it was currently "off season" for Kerala, we decided that Kate and Claire (who were going down a few days early) would do some investigation and find a hotel for us Thursday night and try to negotiate a better deal on a houseboat than we were getting online.Evening 1:
Thursday afternoon the three of us (Tanya, Laju and me) board an Indigo flight from Hyderabad to Cochin. The flight was boring and took about an hour. As we waited for Laju to collect her luggage, Tanya and I organized a car to driver for the 2 hour journey to Kumarakom/Kottayam where we would spend one night at a hotel organized by Kate and Claire. The two hour drive was full of idle chit chat and jokes with one notable exception. We had asked the driver to stop by so we could grab a couple beers for the long trip. He pulled over about 20 minutes after we started and pointed Laju and I to some dark looking room while Tanya waited in the car. We opened the door to this "bar" and I loved it. It reminded me of some hole-in-the wall dive bar in Dallas and we were most definitely the only non-locals in there. In fact...Laju was the only non-male in there...the bar was completely full of local laborers who come here to get away from their wives
. We quickly ordered three cold large Kingfishers and went back to relay our story of adventure to Tanya. The girls drank their beer too quickly and had to pee almost immediately...but given that we were late getting in to Kochin...I told them we'd wait. And then I did my best to make them laugh until they screamed at me to stop. The hotel Kate and Claire picked was called the Coconut Lagoon and required a short boat journey from the "mainland" to the hotel property. Once we arrived it was dark and we were hungry. Kate and Claire were there to welcome us and they did an amazing job in picking out the hotel. The rooms were all detached bungalows with river/lake views, hammocks, out door showers and amazing interiors. Over dinner we all caught up and discussed the "adventure" Kate and Claire went through to find us a 3-bedroom houseboat. They were evidently shown some pretty crappy boats, but the one that we ended up with was very nice and cheaper than the ones we saw online. As we all had a busy day, we retired to our rooms early and called it a night.Day 1:
I woke up pretty early as a couple of us were thinking about taking the hotels yoga class at 7AM. Unfortunately we all overslept and missed it...but we still were up early enough to walk around and explore the hotel area including a butterfly garden, fish pond, swimming pool, lakeside views and local cows that hung around and started at you while eating grass
. We met Laju and Kate for breakfast (while Claire got a massage) before deciding to spend the rest of the day with the entire group lounging by the pool waiting for checkout time AND for our boat to arrive (supposed to arrive at 11AM...riiiiight). The pool area was welcome relief from the suffocating humid heat and after a while we all left to pack, check out and meet up in the lobby for our boat pick up...at 11AM...riiiight. While we waiting for our boat (it's 11:30AM now), we did a bit of shopping and I bought some local garb that I've seen the local men wearing (go ahead, laugh at the pictures...it's damn comfortable and quite breezy in the heat)...and Tanya and Claire both bought flutes which made the rest of us roll our eyes at the thought of those two playing flutes for the next two days while we're all stuck on the boat. Our boat finally shows up a little after noon and it pulls up right next to the hotel dock. The boat is absolutely huge...it has a full kitchen, two generators, 3 bedrooms with AC units, each bedroom has a bathroom, a full sized dining room and a living area with a TV, DVD and stereo system. Kate and Claire board the boat and both immediately say..."this isn't the boat we ordered.". Turns out the boat we wanted was under repair but this was an almost identical boat so that's all they had. The girls all agree that this boat is fine and I couldn't agree more...it was very comfortable. We undock and begin cruising the lake enjoying fresh coconut water and cold Kingfisher beer
. The backwaters are extremely tranquil and loaded with other houseboats cruising around looking at lakeside temples, churches, resorts and small villages. A couple of the girls went back with the crew to observe while they cooked us lunch...Tanya was especially interested and wrote the entire menu down complete with ingredients and cooking prep tips. The others of us got comfortable up front and started reading our favorite books or listening to each others Ipod playlists through some large speakers that Laju brought. Lunch was served about a couple hours after we started which included a baked fish and other goodies all served on a large banana leaf...it was great. I did a bit of fishing with a simple cane-pole and bread-bate and managed to pull a few tiny fish out of the water. After lunch we did some more cruising, stopped off at a water-side fresh fish stop to pick up dinner and then finally arrived at hour stopping point for the night which was full of other houseboats. The evening dinner was fish again and it was excellent. After dinner we stayed up talking and drinking and eventually passed out one-by-one. It twas a good day.Day 2:
I woke up early to watch the sunrise and then Tanya tried to teach me some new yoga moves which was a laughable event. Breakfast was pancakes and coffee which was great. Claire made sure our boat departed exactly at 9:30 as promised...it was cute to watch Claire try and keep a bunch of Indian dudes to an actual schedule. She's the only one of us who hasn't spent significant time in India and understands the concept of India Stretchable Time (IST)...so watching her try to keep these guys in-line was funny. We finally got moving around 10AM and Laju and decided it had to be happy hour somewhere so we cracked our first beer of the day. The rest of the was spent touring through some smaller canals, more church/temple spotting and more lounging and booking reading
. Day 2 was most definitely a very, very lazy day spent doing nothing...which was great. The girls gave each other facials, face massages, reki and other girly things that I may or may not have participated in...hey, when in Rome. Around 3PM the clouds started to darken a bit and it became fairly clear that it was going to rain. Which for us was good as it gave us something new to do...play in the rain. At some point in time Tanya and Kate decided to dress each other up in Burkas and head scarfs...why...I have no idea. We parked the boat in a remote spot and while I did some more fishing, the girls went exploring on land. Our last dinner was served complete with two bottles of chilled wine we stashed aboard and we stayed up that night playing my favorite drinking game...pigs. Day 3:
Claire did a good job of making sure our boat crew got up...and the crew definitely did a bit of partying the night before as they all looked extremely hungover. We undocked around 9AM and on the way to the dock to disembark, the crew cooked us our final breakfast. With everyone packed and ready, we reached the dock, said our goodbyes to the crew and jumped into an awaiting mini-van that Kate had procured to take us 1.5 hours back to Cochin for a bit of sightseeing (and for the girls...a bit of shopping...kill me now). The first place we stopped off was my favorite...to check out the Chinese Fishing Nets of Cochin (read about them here).
It was somewhat hypnotic to watch them dip and down into the waters and pull up a small handful of fish each time
. I took a video...but it's too large to put up on this blog...so instead I've linked you to two videos (Video 1
and Video 2
) I found on You Tube of the nets...good stuff. Laju got invited to go up and help the fisherman pull the nets up which was fun to watch as each fisherman couldn't keep their eyes of Laju's boobs as she pulled the net down. Lunch was fresh seafood of course and then the girls did a bit of shopping while I pretended to be interested in what they were buying. Before we knew it, we had to rush back to the airport for our flights back to Hyderabad...Clair was flying back to the U.K.
Kerala was a great experience and I was happy to check it off my list...good times with good friends. Enjoy the pictures.
We've been planning this trip for a while...so lot's to tell and lot's of photo's to share.