A Glimpse into the Kerala Backwaters:
A labyrinthine network of 40 odd rivers, canals, streams and lagoons form the famed backwaters of Kerala. The landmass along this pulsating water way has a lifestyle and ethos so unique that it gives rise to a form of tourism non-existent anywhere else in the country. Paddy cultivation, fishing, coir making and toddy tapping are the economic activities that the local populace is involved in. Houses are made on narrow slivers of land between water bodies and naturally small paddle boats and canoes are the only modes of transport.
To get a glimpse of the quintessential character of Kerala's Backwaters, a ride on the traditional Kettuvallom or houseboats is best. Travelers invariably quote this to be one among the most memorable experiences of the Kerala trip.
The Backwater cruise Experience:
A cruise over the languid backwaters which has been associated with the houseboat experience proves to be the panacea for the worn out traveler seeking escape from the constant bustle that spells modern life. Offering picture perfect verdant palms set in expansive lakes the tranquility of the experience is incomparable. The Kettuvallom also offers an intimate glimpse into another world lifestyle – children rowing their way to school, vegetable laden boats selling from house to house, toddy tappers on the coconut trees, men baiting for fish on bamboo rods and schools of ducks swimming past. The life here revolves entirely around water. Sitting in the relax space of the Kettuvallom you can see all this in a cameo.
No description of the houseboat experience is complete without a mention of the superlative food on offer here. The welcome drink served is refreshingly sweet tender coconut water. The meal prepared live on the houseboat is the traditional Kerala fare. The fish used in preparation are caught fresh from the lakes. The quality and freshness of raw material combined with the touch of a blessed cook makes the food proffered truly exquisite. The classy bedrooms and bathrooms with all conveniences makes it easy to forget that you are on a boat!
How are these boats made?
Houseboats which are locally called Kettuvallom were originally built to carry consignments of rice, bricks and other produce along these waterways. These have now transformed to full fledged hospitality centers. The construction of these houseboats is fascinating and clearly sets them apart. Kettuvallom literally means 'Boats tied with Knots'. Everything was either tied or sewed and not a single nail was used. Every part of the boat is made by hand and is made totally of natural products like bamboo, coir and palm bark. The boat itself is crafted out of evergreen tree called Anjili. Cashew oil is used on the exterior to waterproof the wood. This hand crafted wonder takes 10 artisans about 6 months to build.