Backwater Life

Part of the reason I chose to visit Kerala in India was because of it’s famous backwaters – the canals, waterways and lagoons. Aside from the fact that they are pretty idyllic to ride along, you also get to see the community of people who live along the banks.


Most of the local communities here originally served the boat making industry to transport rice crop to the surrounding cities. Since the land infrastructure has been developed, the boats have mainly been used for tourism. 

At first I took a day trip to Vaikom which is quite close to Kochi. That included a canoe boat cruise down very narrow canals followed by a bigger boat trip across its lagoons and lunch served on a banana leaf (what else?) My favourite trip however, was definitely a further few miles south to Alleppey. Also known as Alappuzha or ‘Venice of the East,’ it’s the most popular spot for riding the backwaters and where many people stay overnight on the houseboats. Just so you know, it’s NOTHING like Venice. It doesn’t even compare. Yes they are both cities connected by waterways but Alleppey is just something else. See for yourself…

The boat ride sellers tell you “the people you will see are very poor,” like it’s a sales pitch which is a bit weird. I did find it strange at first to stare and take photographs of the people living their lives. I wondered if they were okay with being a tourist attraction but they seem to find it amusing and love a good wave and smile as you go past so I soon got over it. You do have to be mindful of this though and respect their privacy. There has however been some concern about water pollution which is not surprising but it’s unregulated boats which can be partly blamed for this. It’s a good idea to book your boat trip in advance from a tour operator. This way you can hope for a company who follow safe tourism standards. I also recommend making a couple of chai stops or for lunch which is a great way to hand over some cash to the locals. 

On the waterways, you really see people using the waters as part of every day life. Washing pots and pans, fetching water, fishing, farming, washing clothes and themselves. 

The basic constructions of the banks homes look like they conceal just one room. You can just about see inside some of them and they are mostly unfurnished with some plastic chairs, brick interiors and some cooking equipment. They clearly serve a basic living purpose with little or no luxuries. 

Watching them work and go about their every day lives is so humbling and I think about how much stuff we buy in the West that we don’t actually need! 

I like to think I care a bit less about having loads of material things since living in London and spending all my money on rent and food. I will however, probably always get carried away in a charity or second hand shop. Mainly thanks to my Mum and Aunty Lizzie. I remember as a young girl thinking that having all the latest new clothes, a TV (remember those?) and a cool car (a black Fiat Punto of course) were all really important. I left school wanting to work so I could buy all these things. I don’t remember thinking about anything else. I lived in my own little bubble for a few years with a shit boyfriend. My exposure to the world was pretty limited and my main influences as a teenager were him and MTV Base. Lolz. 

I’m so, sooo glad we all grow up although there is just so much to learn about the amazing world we live in, it feels never ending. I think everyone who can, should travel, I think it’s important to understand more about the world. I can’t believe I left it so long. 

I highly recommend Kerala to anyone wanting to test the water (lol) of travelling in India, especially solo. I have been to India before but in a small group and I wasn’t ready to take on too much my first time alone although that’s just me and I’m a bit of a sensible Sandra. There is so much to this amazing country and although I need a break from curries for a while, I can’t wait to go back and travel around some more next time!


Author: Barbie Goes

In December 2016, I quit my job and London life for a spot of solo backpacking. I started this blog to share my trip along the way with family and friends. Since returning, my life has changed. I no longer feel the pressure of the expectations of a life I thought I should be living. Now, I just focus on creating the life I want, in my own time. I want to continue to share my journey, here, in the hope that it will inspire others.

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