Cochin, India and the backwaters of Alleppey

After Sri Lanka we headed west and then south around the tip of India. I think the cruise line decided to introduce India to the passengers in a very gentle way and to give us a small taste of what is to come when we arrive in Mumbai or Bombay as it was originally called.

Cochin is a coastal city midway between the southern tip of India and Mumbai, the capital. Cochin for thousands of years has drawn sailors and their trade to Cochin’s multiple canals and waterways. Pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves were shipped from here for centuries, first by the Chinese, the Romans, then the Dutch and finally the British.

The world famous Chinese fishing nets welcome you to the harbour and have come to symbolize the city. Our tour took us inland to visit the town of Alleppey, known as the Venice of the East. Alleppey is nestled amid a thick tangle of lush tropical vegetation and dense palm groves. House boats travel the extensive network of rivers, lakes, canals and lagoons of this area. LIfe on the river is very different here when compared to the big cities and our houseboat excursion provided a great glimpse of family life, commerce and traditions that have remained unchanged for thousands of years.

Villagers bathe in the waters, clean their dishes, wash their clothes and animals, all at the same time raising and lowering the water levels for their extensive rice fields. Boat building is traditional and there were literally hundreds of houseboats plying the water. Tourists charter these boats for 22 hours. They come complete with bedrooms, a dining room, three crew members and large generators powering air conditioning and all the latest in electronic gadgets that guests may wish to power. The bathrooms (washrooms) were modern but I still cannot figure out how and where the shower and bath water is discharged.

From the cruise ship port to this backwater area was about two hours by bus and it is apparent garbage is disposed by simply throwing it out of your residence window to be piled high along the streets. We were told it is a generational issue with reform coming slowly but only from a younger generation. The smells, the filth and the density of the people and traffic make a stark contrast to the first class resort where we were treated to an amazing lunch cooked before our eyes of fresh Indian seafood, fresh fruit and local desserts.

On to Mumbai for two days.