The Backwater Region – A Magical MUST DO in Kerala, India

Kerala, India has so many things that make it unique within India and rest of the world.  It has an amazingly high literacy rate (about 95%) and the lowest birthrate in India.  The landscape ranges from the coconut palm lined beaches of the Arabian Sea to the gorgeous Backwater lakes and canals to the mountains, spice & tea plantations and hill stations.

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Kerala is home to a mixture of Hindus, Muslims and Christians (accounting for almost 20%) of the population.  Over the years, the state has ruled by Portuguese traders who were then kicked out by the Dutch merchants and then the British…Vasco De Gama was originally buried in Kerala.

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All left behind parts of their culture.

Tuesday morning we woke early to head to the Backwater region (the name “Backwater” is a tricky one…but once I saw the area, it no longer held any negative connotations).  Let me stop talking and get to the pictures.  I can not take enough in Kerala.

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We started our day at a gorgeous hotel for breakfast.  And we were ushered in by a parade.  Yes…that’s right.  A PARADE.  Incredible drummers.

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Men in traditional costumes that take HOURS to don…

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The staff waiting for us with ropes of fragrant jasmine, fresh coconut water and smiles.

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And ROSE PETALS RAINING UPON US.  I felt like I was at my coronation…or at the very least my wedding.

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It was absolutely overwhelming.  After breakfast we headed up to the spa to take a look at the view.

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Our first look at the series of freshwater rivers, lakes and man-made canals through what is called the “rice bowl” of Kerala.  Gorgeous rice fields dotted with birds and water lilies, narrow walkways…an area where the main source of transportation is boats.  And we were spending the night on one.

The area is called “The Venice of the East” and it is stunning.

Our group boarded a tuk-tuk for the ride to our boats.  Tuk-tuk driving (or being a passenger) is no joke.  HOLD ON.

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Our fleet at Rainbow Cruises.

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And the door to our room.  TV, air conditioning, a crew of 4, 3 bedrooms…totally amazing.

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We set out onto a large lake and…well…here are some pictures.

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And down through the more narrow canals.

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Everyone so friendly.  I have not met one person who says “no” when I ask to take their picture.  IMG_9796

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Towards sunset, we pulled up to one of the narrow walkways that separates the canals from the rice fields…or in this case, one giant flat of hot pink water lilies.

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And just a bit past, brilliant green grass.

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Pulling into our final berth.  A man bringing home his two water buffalo.

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Is she saying “take me with you” or “back away”…very hard to tell with water buffalo.

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Have you seen flowers more beautiful?

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Or a pink sunset like this?

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We ate a huge meal (we are doing that at least 3 times a day…if not four) and went to sleep.  We woke as the boats were pulling out into the morning haze.

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We passed the local floating “supermarket”…

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and returned to our dock.  The crew had prepared some fantastic meals, snacks, delicious sweet coffee and teas and desserts all on the boat.

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We were off to ANOTHER amazing hotel for some beach, pool time, lunch and…30 bloggers!

Just like it says on the bus.

IMG_9739 IMG_9756 You know there are going to be a ridiculous amount of selfies.  Here’s Betty from Bulgaria with the selfie stick.

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And for me…just footsies.  Baby steps.

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  • Wayne McCrae

    Love following your trip Rebecca.

  • Susan

    Wow so exotic! Would love to go for a tour on those boats! Some of your crew were pretty good looking too! Nice scenery inside and out! LOL

    • Right? I will not lie, I find Indian men quite handsome.

  • Billizer

    …beautiful pictures and narrative.

    • Thank you. I am doing it no justice…it is amazing. I am stunned by this oppurtunity.

  • That last photo is gorgeous (and I am not even a foot fetishist!) Flowers and the boat are amazingly stunning. I’m totally envious. Do most people there speak English? Just wondering since you are asking to take local’s photos.

    • Most people speak some English and many quite a bit…plus, you can always just point at your camera 🙂 I do that quite a bit.

  • thomas varghese

    Dear Rebecca, Thanks for the nice write up.
    May I put a few facts for your information.Some aspects of the Kerala history which is now taught in schools & floated around is actually not true.this history is primarily based on history written by N Indians & Tamil Iyers who were the clerks of the British. The Portuguese & Dutch never ruled Kerala.The rulers of Kerala gave them Land with permission to build ware houses & trading post for spices.When the Portuguese started to make trouble they were thrown out & they went to Goa. Refer Battle of Colachal in the net for information on the Dutch rule. The British rule started in Kerala in the beginning of the 1800s.The Hindu population of the State is only about 55%.Rest are Christians & Muslims.The costume shown is not a traditional daily wear.It is the costume of the woman actor in the Dance Drama Kathakali. Sure it takes hours to dress up. Hope you noticed that the rice fields are below sea level & also that the canals on which the boats ply are higher than the fields.

    • No definitely not traditional wear but thank you for so much information. I am amazed by how many churches I am seeing throughout the area – especially on the drive upward into the Western Ghats. One fact: It is a gorgeous area.

      • Thomas Varghese

        Thanks.
        There is a bit of History behind the large number of churches in the hill areas.
        Christianity came to Kerala (Malabar) in approx. 50 AD.Brought directly by St. Thomas.When the Portuguese came to Kerala in the 15th century they fleeced the king of Kochi (Three kingdoms existed in the present day Kerala-1. Travancore in the South.2. Kochi in the middle.& 3. Zamorin in the North) with gold presents & more money for spices than the Arabs.Later they impressed upon the king to grant them rights of all the Churches in the kingdom of Kochi as the Pope had declared Portuguese the carriers of Christian faith in the East. The King passed a decree to that effect.The Orthodox Church of Kerala protested. But the king said he could not go back on his word.The orthodox Christians took a pledge not to give the churches to the Portuguese.For the pledge a long rope was tied to the cross for convenience to hold.Due to the pressure the cross bent.That bent Cross is on display at FORT KOCHI. It is called the COONAN KURISH.But to overcome the resistance the Kings solders accompanied the Portuguese to the church.Many orthodox Christians who fled Kochi were welcomed by the king of Travancore & allowed to settle in the hills which were dense forests at that time.It is history that the fertile lands made them rich & the Kochi king kicked out the Portuguese later.

  • thomas varghese

    Except tea which was introduced by the British other spices like pepper, Cardamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg,turmeric etc grew in the wild in the hills & mountains. Later plantations came up. these crops were collected,brought to the rivers and lakes & transported by the kettuvallams ( now house boats ) to the ports for export.

  • Linda Young

    OMG! Those Waterlillies! And the Jasmine ropes! And Plumeria! I would be Drunk on the beauty! Blog on!!!

  • Michelle Lynn

    As if I weren’t excited for you and this amazing trip as it is, with each post, I become more and more verklempt for you and this life changing opportunity! Enjoy EVERY little speck of this journey and keep on posting! Also, I think when you return to Belize, you should head eastward so you can say you’ve circumnavigated the globe! Feel free to swing by Shanghai while you’re at it 😉

    • I’d love to see Shanghai…I actually feel SOOOO much better about the flights. It wasn’t all that bad!