Alleppey, Kerala, India: the Boat Stops Here
Alleppey, aka Alapuzzha, doesn’t look like much at first glance, another decrepit little city in southern India, hot and humid, funky and fuming. That viewpoint, however, ignores Alleppey’s position on the edge of a vast system of inland backwaters that connect much of the region—and also underlie the region’s tourist industry. Long ago the Portuguese and other Europeans decided that this all reminded them of something back home, thus producing Alleppey’s nickname of “Venice of the East.” There’s even a ferry to neighboring villages and towns.
But houseboats are the big deal here. Unfortunately they don’t come so cheap, a one-day tour approaching $100. Ouch! That’s a bit too rich for my blood, just to float around the bayous for a day. They’ve got cheaper boats, also, fortunately, and they’ve got a beach, too. That’s more my speed, what with camel rides and bungee trampolining, everything you need. What’s a beach without a few camels? You know the answer to that already. I don’t know how their exhaust mechanisms compare exactly, but I’m pretty sure they’re cleaner than cows.
Interestingly enough, the real action on the beach doesn’t start until around sundown, and many vendors don’t even show up until late afternoon. Now that’s my kind of beach. I never could figure out why people go to the beach in the middle of the day. It’s too hot! Everyone’s fully clothed here, of course, in the non-European fashion of the day. There’s only one race of people on this planet who go to the beach and take off all their clothes in public—us; Europeans, that is. Don’t try that in Boca Raton. I’ve got a better name for that beach: Sandy Nook.
What there are NOT a lot of in Alleppey are tourists, and that’s quite nice. Oh sure, there are plenty of cribs, just not too many people using them. This is a town mainly for locals and other Indians, and that’s cool. The scene in Varkala is pretty much Goa>Goan>gone, at least in the tourist enclaves, thus violating my 50% role for authenticity: when the tourists outnumber the locals, then a place is officially ruined. Outside of my digs at the Funky Art Beach House, you’d have to go to the espresso joint up near the houseboat dock to find more than a half dozen foreigners in any one place.
Disclaimer: No, the electricity grid and WiFi are no better here than in Varkala, but here you’d expect that. In Varkala, or especially Goa, it seems negligent and downright insulting to the hundreds and thousands of tourists who expect and deserve more and better. After all, many people fly in directly from Europe on pricey flights, expecting a seaside honeymoon, not a sweltering survival course. It’s no big deal for me. I don’t need to get all romantic with myself; I usually get lucky anyway. So Alleppey is fine—but not enough to hold me. I found a bank to take my ATM card. I got wings. C U in Kochi.