If I had to describe Kerala to anyone through colors, then I would say Kerala is a beautiful amalgamation of the colors emerald and sapphire. Emerald is the color of the swaying and undulating palm groves that run across the whole state. While the lakes, rivers and the water bodies in various shades of sapphire sprawl across the whole landscape. The white sandy beaches, the light breeze that keeps whistling in your ears, the tranquil backwaters with houseboats ferrying across it, and the beautiful sunsets have never failed to mesmerize anyone.
I flew from Delhi to Kochi, a major port city in Kerala. I went there to present a paper at a seminar. But I was more excited about the backwaters and eager to experience the serenity and peace which Kerala is famous for. I was in Kerala in the month of August and that’s one of the best months to visit Kerala as many festivals take place during these months of monsoon in Kerala.
The day I reached Kochi, I decided to first explore the local historical sites. The first place I visited was Fort Kochi. It’s a region in the city of Kochi and is famous for its architectural beauty. I would say the place is a beautiful blend of Arab, Chinese, Portuguese, British and Dutch influences.
I started visiting the historical places one by one. I went to the Jewish Synagogue, the Indo Portuguese museum, the Dutch cemetery, St Francis Church and the Old Syrian Church, and the Mattancherry palace. To be honest, I didn’t do justice to any of the places I visited. I just went, spent a few minutes in each place and then left. I just had a few hours and I realized I was rushing. Yes, I was. And all because I didn’t want to miss a leisurely stroll on the Fort Kochi Beach.
The following day was my paper presentation. As soon as I was done with the presentation, I took a bus ride to Alleppey or Alappuzha with a friend of mine from Kerala. The backwaters are the main attraction of Kerala and I was dying to have a glimpse of them. Although backwaters are everywhere in Kerala, the one that spreads out across Alleppey and Kottayam is considered the most beautiful. Moreover, it was also the official snake boat racing season in Kerala and the village where the boat races takes place is just a few kilometers from Alleppey.
Finally, after a lot of effort, I made a final list of places to visit in the next five days. I decided that after spending a day cruising in the backwaters, I would go to Kollam and then Kovalam. It is said that Kovalam beach is the most beautiful of all the beaches in Kerala. It has a beautiful palm-fringed coastline with surf-washed shores. Then I decided to visit Thenmala Village, which is an eco-tourism spot. I also added Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a famous tiger reserve, to my ‘to visit’ list.
By the time we reached Alleppey, it was already 8 pm and it was dark. We checked in at our hotel and planned to wake up early next morning and start our cruise across the backwaters in a Kettuvallam i.e. a houseboat. The houseboats are made from wood from jack-wood trees and the planks are tied together using coir ropes from coconut fibers.
The next morning I woke up at around 5 am and came out of my room. I could not believe my eyes.
I remained seated there outside my room until my friend came and asked me to get ready for the cruise in the backwaters. After having breakfast, my friend and I boarded a houseboat and started cruising along a serene web of palm fringed canals. The slow pace of river life made me realize that, in order to experience beauty, one needs to stop rushing and calm down. We saw people going about their daily lives – bathing, washing clothes, fishing, spending time with their family or just leisurely sitting along the river bank.
It was my first day and my first experience in the backwaters of Kerala. It was such an experience that still captures my imagination and calms down my mind. After the cruise, we came back to our hotel and my friend asked me to wake up early morning the next day so that we would reach Kollam on time.
Yes, I spent the next five days in Alleppey. I didn’t go anywhere else. I cancelled every other plan. And I had no regrets. The beauty and serenity of the backwaters was worth cancelling every other plan.