Our group of four was greeted with “tender coconuts” to drink while we got settled into the boat and into our bedrooms. Our houseboat was over 100ft long with three bedrooms, a dining room, an upstairs lounge deck and all the amenities of a hotel (including AC), I was in awe. The outside was covered in a coconut palm woven shell tied together by coconut husk rope. Truly a product of “Kerala”, meaning “Land of Coconuts”. Lake Vembanad is the getaway into the largest system of backwaters of India with over 900km of waterways and stretching more than half way across the state of Kerala. On these waterways, barges once traveled that transported rice from the surrounding areas that were then converted into kettuvallams, commonly known now as houseboats. The jackfruit wood hull of our boat was handcrafted in the traditional way with no nails – hand tied together and treated with fish oil. The farther south into the backwaters, the more the water branches out into narrower pathways giving way to the local community and culture. Locals live on the banks of these pathways (easily seen from the boat) and have adopted a unique way of living that is dependent on the water. Transportation is almost entirely by boat. A very similar resemblance to Venice, but instead of the elegant buildings, a landscape of luscious green has been painted. Houseboats are the ideal way to experience the culture and cuisine of the Backwaters. An overnight stay allow for a longer and less intensive exposure to the area and the food served on the River Escapes boat is typical to Kerala and to the backwaters. Our group was served a variety of colorful and savory dishes that will not leave anyone shy of feeling ecstatic afterwards. Root pachadi, sambhar, karimeen masala fry, fried Allepey fish curry, kappa (the local name for yuca root) and grilled prawns were some of the dished that really stuck out among countless others that I cannot remember.
Overall, River Escapes was the ideal way of spending a relaxing time in the backwaters while eating THE best local cuisine.