February 2, 2015
A lazy houseboat trip on the backwaters of Kerala is supposed to be one of the highlights of any trip to South India. Wanting to see what the fuss was about and because Don loves just about anything having to do with boats, we came to Alleppey (Alappuzha) to find a houseboat and to experience life on the water, if just for one night.
The houseboat trip was the only night of the three week trip in India I hadn’t booked ahead of time. Based on Lonely Planet and on an informative blog, Essential Guide to Hiring a Kerala Houseboat, I decided it would be prudent to look the boats over before committing to anything.
Our hotel, Bella Art and Meditation House, was conveniently located just a couple of blocks from the houseboat dock. We walked over after breakfast at about 9:30. In hindsight I would recommend heading over a little earlier. The boats get in at 9AM and the better boats, of which there were few, go rather quickly.
Touts cruise the pier and will take you to see several boats. Most of the ones we looked at were in sad shape – smelly, paint peeling off the wall, cheap linoleum floors pulling up, dirty upholstery, etc. Also, we were looking for a one bedroom with a comfortable upstairs area; many boats were much larger than this.
It turned out that the second boat we looked at out of about dozen was the best one. Unfortunately it was taken just before we could say yes. We ended up with her little sister,Why Not II, which was perfectly comfortable for the two of us,
although the dining area and bedroom were a bit small. Still, the bathroom was clean and in good repair, the bed was comfortable and the bedroom air-conditioned, a must even at the end of January as the temperatures really don’t cool much at night.
The upper deck, our little sanctuary and viewing post, was very pleasant with a large couch, two benches and two chairs. Senish – the cook and captain, was very nice young man who crinkled his nose when he smiled.
As Why Not II was the only acceptable boat we looked at we didn’t bargain and took the 10,000 rupee asking price. I’m sure we could have gotten it for less under different circumstances.
The price includes three meals, but they also take you to the market (really just a river side stand with fish in large tsunami relief bins) to buy fish and prawns for dinner. We spent an additional 1000 rupees for a nice promfet and two large prawns. Another 600 rupees was spent for two large Kingfisher beers, most likely illegally purchased as the sale of alcohol in Kerala state is strictly controlled, i.e., only from government stores where crowds of men stand in line.
With our boat found we went back to the hotel to get our bags and returned to the dock for the 11:30 departure.