This is the second part of our latest update, so if you want to find out what this guy is so upset about then you can read about our adventures in Fort Kochi here.
After arriving in Alleppey, we checked in to the brand new Carpe Diem B&B and Hostel which, as well as being the cleanest place we’ve stayed in India, is run by the nicest and most enthusiastic human beings on the planet.
They went out of their way to make Carpe Diem special for every single guest. For example, on our first night there we were anxiously informed several times that we simply musn’t miss the party at 8.30 for one of the other guests’ birthdays. When we got there, it turned out the manager had brought out his entire family for the occasion – his uncle had made a homemade banner, they’d brought a cake and party poppers and so on. Just like a birthday at home, except for the fact that none of the guests had actually met the birthday girl yet so she was understandably bewildered when she walked in to find ten strangers and an entire extended Indian family singing ‘Happy Birthday to umm…*mumble*, Happy Birthday to You’.
It turned out to be quite a nice evening in the end and we sampled some of the family’s homemade wine. We were assured countless times that it definitely wasn’t alcoholic because of course they don’t drink, but that if you had a few too many glasses you might find yourself rather talkative. Not really understanding this, we pushed them a bit further to explain how the wine is made and, sure enough, it’s definitely alcoholic. They remained very insistent that it wasn’t, but anyway!
We spent part of the evening chatting to Aneena, the owner’s sister who gave us this baffling prediction in one of her homemade ‘fortune cookies’.
She’s one of the smartest teenage girls I’ve ever met and is studying literature – we chatted about the kind of books we like to read (me – Harry Potter, her – Tolstoy) and she told us that she’s going away to San Francisco to study in a few months. She’s a quite girl but one day told us solemnly that ‘Actually, I’m a rebel. My family don’t know it yet, but one day I’ll burst out and everyone will be very surprised.’
She told us how lucky we are to be able to live the lives we want and how the majority of Indian marriages are still arranged. She spent most of her childhood taking inspiration from the strong female heroines of her novels (and from her grandmother who raised her while her mother was suffering from a mental illness) and resents the restrictions placed on her by her family and by Indian society.
She also subjected us to a rather gruelling questionnaire which she says she’s carrying out ‘in the name of research’. We were sat trying to play cards one afternoon and Aneena popped up and asked if we’d mind answering a few quick questions.
We, of course said yes, although we weren’t anticipating the soul-searching hour that followed.
‘If you were to die tomorrow, what would you regret not telling someone?’
‘Tell your partner one thing you love about them’
‘What’s your greatest childhood memory’
‘Name a time that you overcame a challenge’
And so on and so on for an hour… hefty questions for an afternoon in the sunshine!
Awkward questions aside, Alleppey is another great place to hang out for a few days. There’s not a huge amount going on but there are a handful of nice restaurants and cafes on the beach (particularly Café Catemaran which serves amazing fresh fish and has incredible views).
The beach itself isn’t the nicest – full of litter and the currents are too strong for swimming – but it’s a nice place to watch the sunset and check out the catch of the day.
We found a great little spot in the Dreamers restaurant to enjoy even more delicious Keralan food (Calamari Thoran and Kingfish Masala) and when I ordered a wholesome lemon and ginger tea, the waiter whispered to us ‘by the way, we also have beer..’ Turns out the thing to do here if you don’t have a liquor licence (which hardly anywhere does as Kerala is supposedly becoming a dry state) is to serve beer hidden in teacups. Scratch the lemon and ginger, two Kingfisher please!
On our first day in Alleppey, we decided to scope out the backwaters to figure out whether or not it was worth getting a houseboat or whether there was a better alternative. We ended up deciding to catch a local ferry, which was something of a challenge given the signs were all in Malayalam. In the end, we hopped on to a waiting ferry without a clue of the destination – the boatman mumbled something unintelligible every time we asked and we’re still none the wiser where we actually went!
The ferry was an excellent decision anyway and, despite the noisy engine, a great and absurdly low cost (30 pence!) way of seeing the backwaters.
A beautiful cruise through the waterside houses, watching the villagers as they washed clothes, fish, pots and themselves in the river.
We ended up strolling through a little village and saw some banana plantations at our destination, wherever it was.
And a baby goat!
The next day, we decided to head out again in a small private boat just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. Much more peaceful without the roaring engine (albeit still with some pumping Bollywood music on our drivers phone) but mostly the same scenery.
We even spotted some Kathakali dancers having a photo shoot in the water.
We’re loving everything about Kerala so far! It’s far more touristy than the last few places we’ve been, but for obvious reasons. With its peaceful backwaters, hazy sunsets and chilled out locals, it couldn’t be more different to hectic inland India.
We’ve been pretty busy with all the relaxing and so this post is a bit late and I’m writing this from Varkala beach where we headed after Alleppey. We’ve decided to camp out here for a while – more on that in the next post!