From the lush mountains of Munnar we depart towards the coast to experience the backwaters of Alleppey. This is one of the most stressful and terrifying bus rides we’ve had so far, because the driver seems to be on a rally as he passes all other vehicles on the road—motorbikes, trucks, cars and buses—without lifting his foot from the gas pedal or his hand from the honk. “Beep, Beeeep, BEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPP!!!!!” We are officially deaf and hysterical after 6 hours of ride, thank you so much, dear driver.
At the hostel Carlos meets a diversified group of travelers from different European countries who invite us to join them for dinner, and from here on we’ll share the few next destinations with two of these guys: Filip from Serbia, living in Switzerland and Shan from Germany.
The following day our houseboat quest starts; we check about five different ones that afternoon and finally decide to share a big boat for the 5 of us. The manager explains the itinerary we will do and assures that we will go through small canals, which is the most beautiful part of the experience.
When the moment of our trip arrives we go to town for supplies. We want beer but alcohol is sometimes hard to buy in India. We all go to a shop that feels more like a speakeasy gangster meeting point. You have to line up to enter a very narrow and smelly space that leads to the counter—not visible from the outside. The staff is behind bars, so you feel as a prisoner in jail being served your pasty ration of rotten beans puree, handed through an aperture in the bars. Behind the bars all the alcohol is piled up in different lots or shelves—beer on one side, whisky on another, next to the rum, etc.—and each person can only buy a limited number of drinks. At every one of our turns, another of us squeezes inside with a plastic bag to help carry the bottles outside and so that we can exit among the other customers, who hide their bottles under their robes. Irene is the only woman and all this feels extremely weird!
All passengers aboard, it is raining cats and dogs! A bad omen? But as we sail off the dock, the sun comes back. The houseboat is mostly made of wood with a very characteristic thatched roof. It has two double rooms fully equipped with a double bed, private bathroom, fan and air conditioning, a “living room” in the bow and an upper deck with comfy mattresses and chairs from which one can sunbathe and enjoy the view. The staff aboard is comprised by the captain, the chef and one assistant.
We sail the backwaters surrounded by palm trees, cozy and colorful houses and some scattered temples and churches here and there. We cross many other boats, but it is peaceful and sunny and it feels like paradise.
The crew is very nice with limited English, but they prepare a delicious and fresh feast for every meal that we can never finish entirely. This is hard life!
Then, we realize the itinerary does not quite match what we were told… Many different times we take the map and try to make our captain understand we want to go to the smaller canals, at what he of course nods the Indian way (they always say “Yes” or “Ok” even if they didn’t understand a word) but he continues sailing on the big, widest canal. On the second day and after new attempts, he finally says that it’s not possible with this boat, so our suspicions that we were sold a fake itinerary are now confirmed… Despite being lied to, we enjoy 1.5 days of absolute relax that recharge our batteries for our second and highly intense trip in India. But that will come in future posts 😉
Lake King houseboat in Alleppey – Review
This company is not listed on Trip Advisor (only mentioned by someone else who reported other issue) but we still wanted to warn other travellers about the owner of this houseboat, who deliberately lied to us about the itinerary in two occasions.
We checked the boat by pairs, first the two of us, then another two friends the following day, and we were all shown the same path, which included small canals and supposedly stopping the boat somewhere to swim. None of these guaranteed activities happened, and when we were back on the dock after our cruise the manager did not show up and we had to insistently call him on the phone. When we finally got him to answer and explained the problem, he said he would not return any money, and that since we had done a longer traversy, we now owned him more money and would be glad to discuss it at the Police station.
We had to leave Alleppey some hours later and knew it was a lost cause for us, so we didn’t fight more. We’d like to prevent this scammer to keep lying to prospective customers about what should be a pleasant and unforgettable experience for them.
The boat was nice, although we missed some cleaning of the floor and the bathrooms. The food was delicious and plentiful, and the crew very kind and attentive. We don’t recommend hiring your cruise with Lake King house boat, though, go with someone else who will be willing to give you what they promise.