Solo Travel to India Kerala Backwaters
Travel India travel video Kerala Backwaters
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Sometimes spontaneity backfires on the solo female traveler. My plan was to take the half hour train to Kollam (Quilon), one of the oldest seaport towns on the Arabian Sea and Ashtamudi Lake, planning to spend the night before moving on by boat to the isolated and relaxed backwaters of Kerala. Well, first the Roman, Arab, Chinese, and European traders (Portuguese, Dutch, and British) were here, and now there were a ton of travelers (including many westerners). I tried four guesthouses, but there was no room for this traveler—so off to the 10:30 am-6:30 pm boat to Alleppey.
The fabled Kerala backwaters were just as alluring as the travel photographs and the reports. The backwater canals (kayals) and lakes were lined with coconut palms and the dailies of village activity—children waving, men fishing, and women walking to the market. The more elegant (and often luxurious) kettuvallam (rice barges) plied their way through the canals and waterways, drifting amidst the coconut palms and backwater abundance. They were the romantic option, but alas, romance was wasted on the solo traveler.
Where there is so much water, there is so much life! Kerala was so much more lush and prosperous than any of my other stops in India. Given, I had only been to the western beach ghetto and public transit, but there was a noticeable difference in the standard of living and according to my research, the level of education. In many ways Kerala was easy India.
My first Kerala thali! The lunch stop was a petite restaurant and soda stand in a small, one-cow town. In Kerala, most Indian street food is served on a banana leaf and the food is frequently offered with yummy freshwater or saltwater fish or coconut milk curries. The thali is usually the bountiful and endless plate, but I learned that folding your banana leaf in half was the appropriate way to say, thank you, enough—at least in Kerala. I had already noticed the prolific use of banana leaves all through South Indian cooking—as dishes, to wrap food while steaming, etc.
The boat made an afternoon stop at the Amritapuri Ashram, the ashram of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, one of India’s few female gurus. Amma also known as the hugging mother as her form of blessing is hugging, hugging thousands of people in all night hugging sessions. A truly lovely and interesting batch of folks boarded, a range of experiences and wanderers, and a source of new conversation.
Perhaps I was getting the rhythm of solo travel, or it was the ease of South India—but I was loving the open road and falling into the pace of letting it happen. I was finally starting to feel like I was on the road.
Interested in learning more about the Kerala backwaters and seeing more images? Check out the Kerala Tourism Board’s web page, greatbackwaters.com.
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