I knew Allepey is a touristic place, one of the main gateways to the backwaters. But I went there for a reason: I had explored the backwaters in Poovar by motor boat and in Munroe island by canoe, and I wanted to try a different way. And I could do it there.
Where are the tourists?
I reached Allepey by train and walked to the Heritage Home where I had booked a room. I dropped my luggage and went out to visit the city. I was surprised, I had not imagined it like that.
Firstly, I did not see any foreign tourist. Well, I was not in the most popular part of the town (where the backwaters tours start), I was on the other side, but I expected to see someone.
Secondly, since it is so famous, I expected it to have some kind of charm, beauty, interest. It does not. It is just a noisy, crowded city which I found dirtier than Trivandrum (which is larger). Maybe that was why the tourists were not in that side.
Disappointed, I went back to rest. I would explore the backwaters on the following day.
Options to visit the backwaters
Allepey is one of the main hubs to visit the backwaters so there are plenty of choices on how to explore them.
The most popular one is to rent a houseboat for one or several nights. This is the most romantic and, of course, most expensive way. A cheaper option is to take a boat for a tour of three or four hours (while I was walking a lot of people approached me offering these tours). But I had already taken a motor boat in Poovar so that was not what I was searching in Allepey. I went there inspired by The crowded planet, who took a local ferry from Allepey to Kottayam. I loved the idea of sharing the boat with locals, pass by the local houses and shops, so I decided to try something similar.
By local ferry to Kainakari
Kottayam is 3 hours away from Allepey so I thought it would be a bit far for a day trip. I asked in the Heritage Home where I could go by local ferry, and they suggested me to go to Kainakari Island, which takes 1 hour.
I found the ferry stop (jetty boat) at the end of the channel where all the tourists boats were. There was nothing written, no schedules, so I had to ask to be sure that it was the right place. It was.
Every time a ferry passed by I asked ‘Kainakari?’. ‘No, not this one’, they signaled me. After one hour the right ferry arrived, and I went in. Inside, I tried to sit next to the window to see the views. Nobody else was looking: they see it every day! The ferry was crowded, and it did a lot of stops, in both sides of the river/channels. We passed by houses, restaurants, ayurvedic centers, shops, people washing clothes, people in canoes, tourists in house boats…
Overall, I liked the experience. It was not as beautiful as Poovar or Munroe Island, and not as calm, but I could get a good view of how it is the life on the backwaters.
** USEFUL INFORMATION **
- Houseboat: according to the Lonely Planet, prices start at 5000 rupees for two people and one night, and go up.
- Boat: between 250 – 400 rupees for a tour of three or four hours.
- Local ferry: 8 – 15 rupees one way, depending on the boat. Some boats have two floors, the upper one has better views and it costs 40 rupees.
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