Wednesday, 29 May 2013

"This is a place created by God for complete relaxation"

"Relax by the lake side."

Kumarakom Experience: Kumarakom, where the famous backwaters of Kerala exist, is a place created by God for complete relaxation. Or was it man that made the place so? In any case, there is nothing like Kumarakom to rejuvenate your mind and body. Take a room by Lake Vembanad, that impossibly large lake that borders Kumarakom, Alleppey and many other unknown towns and villages. Enjoy morning tea by the serene waters of the lake, go for a boat ride before the sun gets too hot and then when the wind starts blowing over the lake, spend the afternoon in the shade, enjoying the breeze and watching the restless waters of the lake move flower-filled floatsam along the lakes edge.

Food, sight-seeing and shopping: A motor boat can be hired for your exclusive use (ask at the reception or go to the Government jetty and bargain for one) at the rate of around Rs.400/hour or you can get a speed boat (completely different experiences) for Rs.1,750/hour. Kumarakom is used to rich Europeans who dont need to share their boat with other mortals, thanks to a good exchange rate. With the INR appreciating against the Euro, it is likely that Kumarakom will see either lower rates or the concept of sharing of motorboats very soon! Then there are the houseboats. Kumarakom, I suppose, is one of the few places left after Kashmir where you can still sight-see by houseboat. You can hire the houseboat again for your exclusive use only- for 4 hours or for an overnight stay. Note that the houseboats drop anchor at 6 pm (Government rules) so you cant really glide over dark waters past lighted villages like in the thriller books. However, what you do get is a very royal experience of watching the lake and villages pass you by in the day while you recline on sofas in a covered viewing area and eat the fresh food served by the galley. Our hotel charged Rs.8,000 for an overnight stay and Rs.7,700/ for a 5 hour cruise. But the poorer of us travelers can take heart  the Government boat jetty charges a nominal Rs.1,500/hour and the houseboat is quite nice too  not as posh as our hotels was but with two neat rooms, a viewing gallery and tiny kitchen, it was quite sufficient for most travellers needs. After this long description of houseboats, I must confess I didnt spend money on one.

 I went for a motor boat ride instead and realized that 3 hours was more than I could manage on the still waters of the Vembanad lake. Upto a point it is interesting to see village life lived by the canal but I got bored after a couple of hours. The backwaters look stagnant and slightly dirty. And the lake looks the same after an hour. So a whole 5 hours spent on the lake was out of the question for me.
Activities & things to do: Try the Kathakali performance if you are interested in art. It is held in a shady looking building in the village and was quite a novel experience for me. At Rs.200/head for an hours performance, it felt expensive but was a nice treat from doing nothing for the rest of the day. The Driftwood Museum, a 20 minutes drive from the main resort-infested area of Kumarakom, makes for an interesting change too. Mrs.Leena Poonnoose charges Rs.50/head to show visitors the varied types of driftwood that she has collected over a lifetime in the Andamans. Her interest in the driftwood is contagious and her explanations of what the driftwood pieces represent very believable. Kumarakom is not for the active travelers, it is meant to be enjoyed at an extraordinarily relaxed pace indeed.

Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: There isnt much to do outside the hotel/resort as the place is basically a village, parts of which have been developed for tourism.