Who doesn’t love to stay relaxed in a heritage boat on the calm waters of Alleppey or Alappuzha? Surrounded by the vast paddy fields and lush coconut groves, floating in a houseboat is the dream for many. What makes the houseboat vacations in Kerala a challenge is the soaring tariff. When a friend suggested a cheaper alternative to Alleppey houseboats, I did not think twice but joined him for a boat ride from Alleppey to Kollam through the backwaters of Alappuzha.
Is there a real alternative to Alleppey houseboats?
That’s what I was asking to myself. The alternative to the houseboat is a state-run boat service from Alleppey to Kollam. There was very little information about the service, but we wanted to explore and experience the option by ourselves.
What’s Alleppey or Alappuzha?
Nicely tucked into the Arabian coast of India, Alleppey or Alappuzha is mostly associated with backwaters and beaches. Visibly different from the rest of the world, Alleppey has characteristic serene backwaters, lush green fields, and uniquely built houses. The charming villages of Alleppey are ideal for leisurely morning walk or an inquisitive evening stroll.
While backwaters and houseboats stand out prominent in Alappuzha, there are a lot more to explore and experience in this nature-blessed destination in Kerala.
Being a travel blogger, I am always on a lookout for authentic experiences to share with the readers. The internet is overfilled with travel suggestions and destination guides, but there are still places on Earth that we are yet to explore. Yes, there are at least a good number of destinations that are unspoiled by the massive tourist flow. In this trip, all I wanted was a sneak peek to the cheaper alternative to Alleppey houseboats, which are otherwise considered luxurious and exorbitant.
We began our journey by catching a government bus from Vyttila hub in Kochi to Alleppey, and we were now walking on the inactive streets of Alleppey. I was recalling the canoeing experience I had a few days before in the backwaters of Munroe island, but here it is the queen of all backwaters of Kerala.
Unsure about the direction, we inquired to a vegetable vendor who was arraying his shop for the morning sale. We followed the direction he pointed and marched along the muddy canal with a few Shikara Boats anchored within their sheds. Not far from the vegetable vendor was a row of hot chips sellers. They were seasoned to campaign and canvas the tourists, and we were pulled in.
Chips of different varieties and colors decorated the shops. They were happy to give us a sample from every variety that they displayed there and we tried a few of them. The skill of peeling plantains and then slicing them in a bunch to the hot boiling oil was a scene that impressed me.
Not so far from the chips vendors was the boat jetty. Much like a bus stop, people waited for regular boat services to their villages which could be accessed better by water than by road. Though an information center was open, the office was deserted and we were compelled to seek advice from the other travelers. One of the travelers who was waiting for his boat pointed his finger to an anchored boat and said, “that’s the one. Just go inside and they will issue tickets during the journey.”
So, we walked inside. What attracted me on the boat was the roofed seating facilities on the deck, and naturally my steps led me through the stairs to the deck. By then the canal was active with Shikara boats plying both sides with guests. We found seats that offered better views and so relaxed ourselves on them.
While most of the seats were vacant in the basement, the boat started its voyage at sharp 10:30 am. A friendly driver explained the service details to us and we were on an eight hours sail in the backwaters of Kerala, a perfect yet cheaper alternative to Alleppey houseboats.
As we sailed along the busy streets of Alleppey, the conductor approached us for the payment. I was astonished to listen the fare – Rs. 400.00 ($ 6.15). As I expressed my joy of experiencing the backwaters of Alleppey at a reasonable tariff, a co-passenger expressed his displeasure. “How come you feel that it is cheap? Alleppey – Kottayam boating is much cheaper; less than Rs. 25.00,” he said. While his argument shadowed the joy I had a while ago, I regained the spirit by comparing the fare with that of a houseboat which would cost Rs. 10,000.00 or even more during the peak season.
Soon we left the canal that was running along Alappuzha town. I quit my seat and walked towards the bow for enjoying a wider view. The serene waters of Alleppey, vast and spectacular with several houseboats in it, seemed extraordinary. Far until the horizon, the waters of Kuttanad lapped its shores. Boats of different styles and sizes, some sailing while others anchored, showcased the demand for the backwaters of Alleppey.
What is Kuttanad?
Kuttanad is a region spread across Alleppey and Kottayam districts of Kerala. The place is famous for its vast paddy fields and a network of backwaters that connect several canals, lakes, and rivers. Kuttanad can be accessed from Alleppey or from Kottayam. Kumarakom is an charming attraction, if you plan to explore Kuttanad from Kottayam.
As the time passed and our boat cruised beneath the vibrant sky, the vastness reduced to a narrow canal and we were steaming along the coconut ridges that stretched a boundary between the lush green paddy fields and the wobbling waters. Our discovery of a cheaper alternative to Alleppey houseboats stood taller in front of our expectations.
The boat further sailed for another 7 hours with two stops in between. The first place that we stopped was for a lunch from one of the home food facilities while the second stop was for evening snacks at a waterfront government owned resort. In between, the sailing route changed its width several times.
The trip exposed Karimadi – a half broken idol of Lord Buddha, which proclaimed the centuries old presence of Buddhism in Kerala. As we cruised through the refreshing sights of Kuttanad, we experienced the village life that is well connected to the backwaters. Fishing villages, coconut groves, paddy fields, lakes and lagoons, and large man-made shutters that blocked salt water from entering the sweet water of backwaters. The sight of Arabian Sea staying away from the backwaters by a long strip of natural land from the waters of Ashtamudi lake was even stunning.
We continued our navigation as the sun bid farewell by leaving a long trail of colors on an otherwise dull sky. Heritage palaces, tall statutes, and islands that made luxurious resorts were also the part of our journey which revealed a cheaper alternative to Alleppey houseboats.
But, can these government boats really substitute Alleppey houseboats?
Not really. The houseboats are much luxurious with several bedrooms, balconies, and even kitchen and dinning room within it. If you are traveling with a family to enjoy a vacation in the backwaters of Kerala, I believe houseboats are the best to experience.
Then how can you say the government boats as an alternative to Alleppey houseboats?
Well, if you are a solo traveler and if you wish to enjoy the backwaters of Kerala, houseboats can be a lot more expensive than this government run boat services. This is a perfect alternative only if you are traveling solo (or in a very small group of 2 to 3 members) and wish to reduce your cost – but by sacrificing the luxury.
What you should know about this boat service?
Journey: Alleppey to Kollam or Kollam to Alleppey
Tariff: Rs. 400.00 ($ 6.15)
Departure Time: 10:30 from Alleppey
Arrival Time: 6:30 at Kollam
Lunch: There is a stop for lunch. You need to pay for lunch extra.
Prior booking: No prior booking is available. In fact, you do not require a prior booking.
The service is available on alternative days.
There is a small washroom within the boat for the passengers.
Anyway, before you travel, it is good to read about…
- Kumarakom Backwaters
- Things to do in Alleppey
- Places to Visit in Kollam, and
- Major attractions in Kerala
So, Happy Traveling!
Author: E Jey
Just a passionate traveler who loves scribbling his expeditions @ www.jauntmonkey.com, www.outonroads.com, and www.blogthatall.com