Renting a houseboat on the backwaters in Kerala, India.
We arrived in Kollam broken, with the sole mission of renting a houseboat to explore the famous backwaters of Kerala.
The city was dirty, crowded, not-so-tourist friendly. After a disappointing meal of flavored liquid on rice we headed towards the docks in search of a houseboat. We spent hours trying to negotiate with companies. They all offered the same tired package and no one would budge on the price.
Because it was the off season they inflated the price for a trip from Kollam to Alleppey because they couldn’t guarantee they’d be able to get the boat back.
Because it was off season they said there were no deals because locals were still busy booking.
It seemed like a no-win plan. We finally told one guy that we’d come back in the morning to see his boat. He made us sign no contract, didn’t ask for any deposit. As we left the offices, returning to one of the most depressing hotel rooms ever, we were still bombarded by salesmen all wanting to rent us a boat.
We weren’t holding our hopes up. And already kind of over the whole thing.
And then, it rained. They were monsoon-like rains that didn’t stop all night. The sky was still gray and cloudy and misty in the morning. The idea of the houseboat then and there was so unappealing and the idea of staying in a dirty Kollam hotel for one more night was so depressing that we decided to skip town instead.
We took a bus to Alleppey, found a new hotel, started anew in our search for a houseboat. Everyone had an offer, but no one had a boat to show us. After all that time searching it turned out that our best bet would be to just show up in the morning and take our pick.
And so, we did. First we went to see a boat from the owner of our hotel, the railings were made of cheap metal, it was dirty, there was no roof deck. We decided to pass. Instead we found a guy we’d talked with the day before, he had a much nicer boat and we were able to agree on a not-too-horrible price for a two-day journey. We made the deal, left him a deposit, and returned to the hotel to pack up and gather supplies (Coke, cookies, and chips, of course)before returning to our new home.
The first day on the boat was lovely. Quite(ish). Serene(ish). While there were a lot of other houseboats on the water, it didn’t seem intrusive. While the boats still honked unnecessarily, it wasn’t as bad as the normal Indian street traffic. We had amazing meals of home-cooked curries and fresh fish. We had nothing to do but read, play UNO, watch the landscapes drift by.
There was nothing to do, but it never felt boring.
On the second morning we all agreed to extend our trip just one more day, and so we ended up spending three days and three nights on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala, a much needed calm away from the rest of India. Resting. Relaxing. Escaping.