I was listening to ‘Sunrise Over Sea’ yesterday, which you all know is one of the best records by The John Butler Trio. And I thought: let’s do a variation on that theme tomorrow. Luckily for you, yesterday’s tomorrow happens to be today. Therefore I present to you my own record: Sunrise Over Backwaters. It doesn’t involve singing or playing instruments. But you can still sit back, relax, enjoy the views, grab a beer (preferably an Indian Kingfisher) and smoke a bidi.
But first, a little bit more on the backwaters. When I backpacked through the South of India earlier this year, I stumbled upon a place called Alleppey, which according to Wikipedia is a picturesque town with canals, backwaters, beaches and lagoons. Ah, screw Wikipedia! Alleppey is primarily a shithole, as a town. But it does offer something unique: an entrance to the famous backwaters. An what an entrance it is! The backwaters, a gigantic chain of brackish lagoons and canals, are Kerala’s top tourist attraction. There are 900 kilometers of waterways dividing the land into a labyrinth. A most interesting one! Come to think of it, the Backwaters were probably my favorite stop in India (besides the Andaman Islands).
So, what most people do in the Backwater area – this could be Alleppey, but also Kochin or Kumarakom or any other village at the water front – is rent a houseboat for the day or for a few days. I looked into renting one of those things, but in the end I decided it would be better to spend a few nights on the river bank, while making my way through the backwaters during the day. A wise decision. You see, a night on a houseboat will cost you about 100 euros, which in Indian terms (and also in backpacker terms) is a whole lot of money! In return you get a crew of Indian dudes guiding you through the bigger canals and cooking you lunch and dinner. This might be fun if you’re travelling in a group of at least eight. But a lot of people get a huge houseboat just for two. And when they passed by my guest room at the waterfront, they honestly looked bored out of their minds. They were clearly jealous of me, just drinking my beer, reading my book, getting served by hotel staff, while paying only 8 euros a night. And they should’ve been jealous! In the early morning I went on a ‘private’ sunrise tour on a smaller boat that can actually go to places the bigger houseboats are not allowed to go. It was a brilliant experience. Or you can go kayaking in the area. Or you can take the public ferry that only costs you about 40 cents. If you’ve got money to burn, a houseboat could be a nice option, but trust me, once you run out of beer on the houseboat, you’ll be sorry.
If you happen to go there in the near future, my best tip to stay is Malayalam Lake Resort. Friendly staff is apparently hard to get in India, but in this resort you’ll meet the friendliest of Indian people.