It’s the Venice of Asia.
It’s certainly promoted as that which somehow cheats this place out of its identity, I’m not inclined even slightly to liken one place to the next. There are canals and gondolas and bridges and in the geographical aspects I guess you can pretend it mirrors Venice if you wish. But it’s not. You won’t find pasta, gelato, masks or Prada and surprisingly the budget accommodation is signifigantly nicer here (and vadas satisfy carbohydrate cravings in the most tempting of manners).
It is India; with all the charms of the crazy country at a slightly more relaxed pace that a water drenched landscape commands.
Situated south in the notably calmer and wealthy state of Kerala, ‘the backwaters’ as they are know are accessible via the city of Alappuzha (Alleppey). They are a maze of canals and lagoons that draw visitors here for the slow life, floating the calm waters upon fully serviced houseboats for days.
I would say the lazy days on houseboat are good time but in truth budgets can be unaccommodating, and left me falling short of accommodating a house boat and instead cruising the canals by gondola day trip. In honesty, and from hearsay, I believe that the canals are best explored in the smaller vessels as they allow you to see the real life sidelining the narrow ‘suburban’ waterways.
Effectively the canals are streets, boats replace cars and as you cruise down the calm waters everyday life in these parts is exposed. People wash, bathe and grow in these waters and in a twinge of sadness the novelty and beauty of the place make the residents life a show. It’s an unfortunate reality that they lifestyle and culture of people in the East are almost a spectacle for westerners, and on that level Alleppey is phenomenally different to Venice, we care nothing of how the Italians wash their clothes.
In saying that what a pleasure it was to be invited into the family home of our guide to meet his overwhelmingly positive and determined children, his strong wife (an amazing cook), and see their humble home. There is something special in realising that dirt floors and open fire kitchens can be a home of far greater value than our emotionally deprived white walled assets of the west.
Do I love Alleppey. No. There is something frustrating for me about being surrounded by water and not having the option to be in the water, it’s the Australian in me I’m sure. These waters do hold a charm though and are worlds apart from any place I’ve been. I love how time ticked slower, the town sleepier and the sound of horns ever present in India a distant memory.
You haven’t been here if you’ve been to Venice. And the strongest recommendation I can give is simply to not, at all, ever, try the coconut beer.