After four days in Munnar, we made our way to Alleppey and the Kerala backwaters. A vast network of 38 rivers, numerous canals and five large lakes, the backwaters extend inland from the Malabar Coast where the fresh waters emanating from the Western Ghats meet the saltwater of the Arabian Sea.
The best way to enjoy the area is on a kettuvallum, a converted grain barge originally used for transporting rice.
There is a broad range of tours available, suited to every time and budget. A stay of at least two nights is necessary in order to venture deep into the countryside and enjoy the amazing variety of bird and wildlife.
However, even one day is enough to get a taste for the unique environment. The endless parade of vessels large and small, public and private, provides more than enough entertainment.
Kochi, also known as Cochin, lies on the Malabar Coast and was a center of the Indian spice trade beginning in the 14th century and remains a major port city.
The Chinese fishing nets shown above are an iconic sight in Kochi. It takes six men to raise and lower the nets which are ten meters high.
Kerala is also know for Kathakali, a elaborate dance-drama, which has to be seen to be believed. There are nightly performances at the Cochin Cultural Center (which is air-conditioned – a significant factor much of the year), and arriving early provides the opportunity to watch the transformation of a mere mortal (above) into an otherworldly creature (below).
Kerala reminds me a bit of California in the diversity of its terrain, flora and fauna. The contrast between the fog-shrouded cool mountains, the backwaters, and the bustling and the coastal city of Kochi could not be greater. Ideally, visitors would spend time in each of these locales.
While I never need an excuse, some people like to have a specific reason to visit a new place – especially if it is off the beaten path. Art lovers can add this upcoming event to their list: Kochi-Muziris Biennale – December 2016 to March 2017.
For more information on Kerala’s hill country, see my previous post.