Malayalam Resort viewed from lake, showing day bed in yellow. Alleppey, Kerala.
By Tina Su
Alleppey (Alappuzha) is one of those fantastic towns where days can drift by while relaxing with a good book and watching happy village life flow by in front of you. This sensation is in great contrast to northern India. Here, the pace is slower and people are always smiling.
Most travelers miss the gem by rushing through Alleppey and jumping straight into an overnight houseboat. We recommend that you stay in a guesthouse along the backwaters for at least one or two nights (we stayed for 6 nights). Take this opportunity to kick back and relax in one of the most chilled out places in India. We used this time to study the houseboats and decide on the type of houseboat we wanted.
We highly recommend two neighboring guesthouses, located just outside of the town. Both are exceptional places and neither are listed in any English guide books (yet). They are however listed in French guide books.
Keraleeyam Lake Side Resort
This place has our highest recommendation. After having traveled through several India cities (we’re currently in Rajasthan, writing missing posts), this was still the best accommodation we’ve experienced for the price range. Fully equipped with room service, restaurant and ayurvedic massage center. The best options here are lake facing huts/cottages made from palm leaves. Every cottage has a private porch along the lake, built for hours of relaxing. No need to spring for AC, peak season doesn’t bring temperatures high enough to need it.
Cost: 1710 Rs / $45
Recommended: Room 107
- Exceptional breakfast
- Super clean, mosquito nets, lots of light
- 24 hour hot water. Western standard bathroo, minus the roof.
- Limited non-Indian food options
- Lacking village family feel
- Food delivery is very slow. Reserved meals are always late (order for a time prior to 30 minutes of when you actually want it.)
- Cost: relatively pricy
Lake facing hut at Keraleeyam Resort. Alleppey, Kerala.
Partial outdoor bathroom attached to Hut at Keraleeyam. Alleppey, Kerala.
We fell in love with this place on arrival: especially the day bed perched over the lake water. Malayalam has two of these comfortable spots, held up with four wooden anchors, and decked out with bamboo mats and a Persian body pillow. Don’t be mislead by the word “Resort” in its name. It’s extremely down-to-earth here, with a village life feel. This family run place has six rooms (including one traditional hut) and is run by a very charismatic and down-to-earth manager, Jose. The owners, Thomas and Rosie, are kind but do not speak much English. Home-made dinners are served under candle light, and are most delicious but the portions are small. We loved the family here, but after staying at both places, this is our second option due to limited eating options and lack of hot water.
Contact: Jose cell phone 9447505567
Cost: 800-1200 Rs / $20-30
- Family and village feel
- Day beds and hammock
- Limited food options (i.e.. no lunch options and dinner portions are very small), but a restaurant is just a tuktuk-ride away.
- No hot water
- Due to its family-run nature, it’s not as professionally run as Keraleeyam. Do not have laundry done here, at least not white clothing. Tina’s white clothing turned tie-dyed blue (while Adam’s stayed white).
Lake facing hut at Malayalam Resort. Alleppey, Kerala.
Tina reading Harry Potter on day bed at Malayalam Resort.
Eating options are extremely limited. Most guesthouses have some eating options, but your best bet is in the town and in higher end hotels.
Kream Korner, recommended by the Lonely Planet is not bad (good food, bad service and questionable hygienic). There’s a restaurant several doors down from Kream Korner with green signage that serves pretty good vegetable noodles which we frequented.
Staying in a houseboat in the Kerala Backwaters is listed as one of the things to do before you die by the Lonely Planet. We enjoyed the experience, and also learned many lessons that we wished we knew before getting on the boat. Here are some suggestions and tips to help you while selecting a houseboat.
Houseboat we rented for our two day backwater tour.
Houseboats come in 1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms and 3 bedrooms. Prices start at 3500 ($90) per night for a basic 1 bedroom boat, and can cost up to 10,000 Rs. ($250) for a larger luxury boat. The price includes 3 staff (captain, cook, guide/manager/server) and all meals.
Checkin time is 11am or noon, and checkout time is 9am. The boats will either come pick you up, assuming that your pickup location is along the backwaters, or you meet them at “Finishing Point” for check-in.
We got a double decker boat for two days. Asking price was 6000 per night, and we bargained it down to 4000 per night (~ $100).
The first day was extremely fun. By second day, we started to get the sense that we were being cheated. The crew was leaving extra late the next morning, driving very slowly, choosing large river ways instead of the more interesting narrower river alleys, taking mid-day naps without request, and all our meals were so similar that they were clearly reruns. Additionally, there was no hot water, and we found lots of small bugs in our bed.
Despite the negatives, we still found the experience memorable and recommend it to others. Though, we do not recommend the boating company we employed.
Kitchen on our houseboat. Fully equipped.
Tips for Renting a Houseboat
Spend at least a day checking out the houseboats by staying at a hotel along the backwaters (or have a drink there). 9am and 11-noon are the best time for doing this, as boats are returning or leaving the general check-in point. Both hotels above are just up the river from “Finishing Point”, and most boats will pass by in the morning. Seeing all the boats will give you a better idea of which boat features and style you prefer. Use this knowledge to be an educated consumer and narrow your options down to a hand full of boats. For example, we decided that we wanted a 1 or 2 bedroom boat with a second level deck, which narrowed our options down to 4 boats, and made our negotiations quicker and easier.
- Know the Market - asking around for pricing. Ask other travelers who have already rented; ask hotel managers (note: managers will likely give you a higher price, because they have something to gain from referral).
- Best Pricing – it’s cheaper to book directly with boat owners by examining boats at “Finishing Point”. Removing agents and other middle men will save you several thousand rupees per night (~$20-50 lower).
- Boat Selection – Give yourself an extra day or two to find a boat, so you don’t feel rushed and you can guarantee the boat you want will be available (boats are most frequently booked for single night stays). Go to “Finishing Point” at 10 am (preferably two days prior to your desired date) and see the boats for yourself. Don’t be pressured by any one owner. Take their information and call them later, after examining all your options.
- Size Matters – During boat selection, we recommend a boat with a larger kitchen. Since, this is where the crew spends their time when you are eating. This is also where the cook spends all of his time (including sleeping time). Larger kitchen means happier cook and crew. Also note that double decker boats cannot enter into many small river alleyways due to height, however, you will get better views on a two level deck.
- Fine Details #1 – Find out where you’ll be going exactly. It’s recommended to get a map of the backwater area and make them draw it out, including the names of villages you’ll be passing. If you don’t do this, their goal is to cover as little land as possible to save gas money.
- Fine Details #2 – Find out exactly when you’ll be stopping and for how long. This includes the time when the boat stops for the night and when it’ll start again. Many boats will try to skim you out by stopping at every meal. The government requires that boats start no earlier than 8am, and stop no later than 6pm, but any other stops are unnecessary. If you don’t discuss when the boat will leave the next morning (ie. 8am), they’ll make sure to leave extra late (ie. 10am or 11am). Not having this ironed out ahead of time will result in reduced boating time (about 4 hours for the whole day). Typically, they are supposed to leave 8am in the morning, stop at 6pm for the night. But many will not follow this format.
- Fine Detail #3 – Find out what you’ll be having at every meal. This is especially important if you are staying for multiple days. We had the same coconut curry dish at every meal, and I (Tina) wanted to shoot somebody by the end of our two days. The food was fantastic at first, but after repeated sightings of the same dishes at every meal, we needed some variety. Ask about variety when negotiating details. Also, because the crew eats the same food (after you eat), if you ask for non-spicy food they’ll be reluctant to give it to you. I found this to be quite frustrating.
- Multiple Days - We originally planned to rent for three nights but went with two instead. By the end of two days, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. The novelty factor will pretty much wear off after a day, and you’ll start to pick up on all the annoyances. We don’t recommend staying for multiple days, and if you must, two days max.
Keralian breakfast served on the houseboat
9 Responses (8 Comments, 1 Trackbacks ):
Add A CommentWe'd love to hear them! Please share:
- How to Keep a Relationship | ThinkSimpleNow.com - Dec 14 08