After exploring Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur on tour in India, traveler Shannon headed south for the extension in Cochin, Kerala, and Mumbai. One unexpected highlight of her trip? Spending a night on a houseboat, cruising the Kerala backwaters. Here, she shares what this peaceful experience was like.
Despite growing up on an island, the extent of my nautical experience has mostly extended to the occasional ferry ride, one afternoon snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, and having most of the songs from The Little Mermaid memorized. I’ve always been more comfortable on solid ground—so if you were to tell me before I went to India that my favorite part of the tour would be boat-related, I probably would have laughed.
That’s what happened, though: amid the many memorable experiences offered on the India tour and its extension, the time we spent on houseboats in the Kerala backwaters managed to be the stand-out. After a busy week and a half exploring Northern India, the extension allows for a bit of a quieter change of pace, which was never more exemplified than in sitting on a boat deck, cruising down the water, drinking straight out of a coconut. While the water was dotted with other houseboats and occasional canoes and fishing boats, for the most part the shore was populated by wide-leafed trees and other vegetation.
My tour group was split across four houseboats to accommodate the 18 of us. Each houseboat was a world unto itself, with its own kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, deck, and staff. While we ate our meals on our separate boats (including a traditional lunch served on a banana leaf), the entire group came together for a party at sunset on the deck of the largest boat. We ate some area delicacies, like cashews and banana fritters—served in some of India’s best spices—and reminisced about our trip highlights. There had been the option to go canoeing in the late afternoon, though many of us stayed behind enjoying each other’s company and the hospitality of the houseboat.
We all had time to ourselves after dinner; one of the other boats did some fishing, and I relaxed with some of the provided local papers, translated into English, to do some crossword puzzles. We disembarked the next morning after breakfast, 20 hours after beginning our boat adventure—20 hours I consider one of the highlights of my tour. While I can’t say the experience fully won me over to the side of water (I’m a landlubber through and through), it somehow doesn’t seem quite as unfathomable as it did before.
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