For a very relaxing look at one of the most laidback areas of India, yes, there are some, head to Kerala on the Malabar Coast to cruise aboard a converted rice barge.
The vessels themselves are very comfortable as they slowly wend their way along the narrow waterways near the town of Alleppey.
The town beaches are excellent too, but to experience the rarity of peace and quiet in India, the inland waterway cruises will present you with a very different experience than you will get in that country’s larger cities and towns.
The Ketuvallam, as the vessels are called, come in a variety of sizes, from small one-bedroom barges, up to larger boats containing up to six cabins. Some are single storey, whilst others have an upper deck.
The cabin that I had was very comfortable and had a good ensuite with a western toilet and shower.
The skippers know their way around the waterways after many years of plying these calm waters.
Food was sensational. The galleys are small, but the meals are simply wonderful. Indian food is very tasty, and the Kerala cuisine doesn’t seem to contain too much chilli but is filled with aromatic flavours.
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To sit at a comfortable table on a covered deck and watch the world slowly pass you by is simply amazing.
The Ketuvallam docks each night in a quiet place, and the captain leaves the vessel to change places with a chef/nightwatchman who cooks both dinner and breakfast.
Sleep is very easy in this quiet environment.
I awoke early to watch the locals fish for breakfast, and transport themselves in small, canoe-like boats. There also seemed to be longer canoes that acted as a water bus service.
One of the most enjoyable aspects, for me, was watching people go about the normal canal-side business. Cooking, washing, bathing the kids, harvesting the rice fields. The captain even stopped to take me to a small hut containing about 30 locals who were watching the test cricket between India and Australia on a small TV. They were very welcoming, but Australia took several Indian wickets whilst I was there, so I thought that I’d better leave.
The Kerala Inland Waterway cruise was an absolute joy. Not only did I enjoy the serenity. But I had ample opportunity to interact with locals, which only added to a perfect, and unusual, short cruise.