Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Backwaters of Kerala

Last weekend Tal and I headed to the south Indian state of Kerala for a weekend away. You CAN fly, but it's far more economical to take an overnight bus. It makes for much better stories too.

Tal and I grabbed an auto-rickshaw after work on Friday, and made it across the city without running into too much traffic. When we arrived at the bus pick-up location listed on our e-tickets, we were told to walk a few blocks to a different location. At that location we were told to walk a few more. At the next location we were ordered (Yes. Ordered.) without any other instruction, to get into an unmarked minivan filled with twice as many people as seats. 

Four months ago I would have found all of this verrrrry fishy. But when the gentleman behind the counter (at what may or may not have been our bus company) suggested that we climb into the van, Tal and I just looked at each other and shrugged. Seemed about right to us.

The van dropped us off at a final location, and our bus was only (Yes. Only.) an hour late.  Our seats were nice and comfy, the air conditioning was the perfect temperature, and despite a series of VERY loud, VERY dramatic movies in a language we couldn't quite put a finger on, we both slept the majority of the next 10 hours.When we woke up, we'd been transported to the beautiful backwaters of Kerala.  

We had a completely romantic, totally memorable weekend exploring the waterways of Alleppey, and the culture (and GREAT markets) of Cochin. But my hands-down favorite part of the weekend was  our hour long cab ride ride from Alleppey to Cochin. Sure the scenery was amazing and I was in great company snuggled up to my best guy. But it was playlist engineered by our driver that was the icing on the cake. For the first twenty minutes we were serenaded by really lovely traditional Hindi tunes. And then, with NO warning whatsoever, our ears were accosted by hardcore American gangsta rap, so offensive that I don't dare Google the lyrics to find out what we were listening to. And for the final twenty minutes? Celine Dion. 

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Residents of Alleppey use hand crafted canoes to get from place to place. Our hotel runs a small ferry shuttle from the main land to their property.

Ice cream truck at the beach.

One of the main attractions in the area is the opportunity to tour on a luxury houseboat. Many of them offer overnight stays as well.

The inside of a houseboat. Tal and I took a lovely sunset cruise but opted, on the advice of my coworkers, to stay on shore in a traditional hotel.

Most of the land in the area is covered by rice paddies. The weekend we were in the area was one of  two annual harvests. 

A recently harvested paddy. 

Tal and me next to a giant pile of unprocessed rice.

A gorgeous sunset.

Our waterfront hotel.

Cochin used to be known for it's massive spice markets, and in many of the old buildings you can still smell the spices. However most are now used as antique warehouses. The majority of the stores we wandered through in the market sell their wares wholesale to shamncy boutiques in Western countries.

Cochin is home to a Synagogue built in the 1500's and still used today. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but it was a beautiful mix of Indian aesthetics and Jewish customs.

Spice markets are still common in the area of Cochin called "Jew Town".

The town clock tower atop the Synagogue was built in the 1700's. 

The giant fishnets in Cochin.

There was a festival of some kind the day were were in Cochin. I love the colors of these ladies' outfits.

To be honest this elephant made me sad, but still made for an interesting sight marching down the middle of "main street" Cochin.


  1. A few weeks ago we stopped by the restaurant at the Statler Hotel at Ithaca. We spoke with the manager. From India? Yes. What state? Delhi, but my family is from Kerala. Oh, where in Kerala? My mother still lives in Alleppey. Well, then we were on to talking about the backwaters, the houseboats, the tourist industry, etc. Very happy to read that you got a chance to take a houseboat. We stayed on one overnight and I remember the lovely swim which Tess, Hannah, myself and Joyce had around sunset.
    Andy Rothstein

  2. Oh Nora! These pictures and your narrative is spectacular! You and Tal really are having the adventure of a lifetime. Amazing. I'm so thrilled for both of you! Meanwhile, is your place in Brooklyn okay? DId you rent it? Sell it? What?

  3. Kerala is beautiful place to visit with good packages. Budget packages in Kerala offers many good packages like backwater packages, houseboat packages etc. One should avail these Kerala Packages to enjoy the vacation.

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