One of the reasons why we decide to go to Southern India was for the famous Kerala Backwater Tour. Friends spoke highly of this experience, and it sounded like a great way to explore a new place.
Our trip was in December, but I was already getting in touch with houseboat companies via email as early as September. I knew prices would be crazy during the holidays, so I tried to get an early bird deal. The chances of getting a good deal seemed unlikely, as most of the quotes that were being given online ranged from 10,000 – 15,000 INR per night. Basing from my friend’s experience, who paid 15,000 INR for four people during the low season, I felt like I was being over charged. So I took Lonely Planet’s advice and decided to shop for a houseboat on site.
From our hotel in Willingdon Island, we were driven to Allepey, which is the docking area for most houseboats. Upon arriving in Allepey, our driver endorsed us to a houseboat company, where a man said he would show us his about. There were hundreds of boats parked on that river, and I was glad that we were quickly directed to one. But remember, Lonely Planet suggested that we SHOP for a boat, meaning, that we should look at more than one. That’s where we made the mistake. The man showed us his houseboat for two people. It was much smaller boat, with very simple amenities… and by simple, I mean, a very thin mattress, old lounge chairs, and a very shabby bathroom. But for the price of 7,000 INR, I thought it was a good deal, so we took it. This 7,000 INR package included all meals and an overnight tour of the backwaters.
Our Indian lunch – fried fish, beet chutney, and two kinds of vegetable curry. I think the rice was the culprit.
The tour itself was lovely, and it was interesting to watch life go by along a quiet river. If it weren’t for our uncomfortable mattress, the airconditioning unit that was blowing warm air, and the food that caused some stomach problems, I would say that it was the perfect date. Mike and I exchanged stories the whole afternoon, drank wine, giggled, and just contemplated the events ahead of us.
So my only tip for those who plan to do this tour is to take your time shopping for a boat. Like I said, there are hundreds of boats out there, and they range from very “rustic” ones to luxurious boats. We saw through a few windows and were envious of the plush mattresses that were in some of those boats. Also, look for a houseboat with an upper deck. Not all boats have them, and that upper deck allowed us to enjoy the breeze more, and it certainly had better views. This could be a once in a lifetime experience, and you want it to be memorable, in a good way. So if you can afford it, get the nice houseboat and don’t scrimp like we did.