India: Chennamkary Island - Backwater Village Life in Kerala

What?
A small green island in the heart of Kerala's backwaters, with nothing to do. Paradise on earth?

Why visit? 
The backwaters are one of Kerala's main attractions. For most people this means spending a night on one of the many houseboats for tourists, which ply the canals and allow their guests to observe village life- from a distance.

Observing life from a distance with a humming diesel engine behind you may be fine for some, but for Minor Sights it's rather unsatisfactory.

Chennamkary offers to the chance to chill out right in the middle of a backwater village, sans cars, motorbikes, or diesel engines. It's tranquility personified. What's not to like?

Where?
In the middle of the backwaters, about an hour away by public ferry from Alleppey. Map.


KERALA IS GREEN and beautiful. It's also quite touristy. The tourist's romantic dream is to charter a houseboat, supposedly a converted rice barge, and slowly meander through the backwaters. In reality, these boats are purposely built for tourists, decorated with palm fronds for that rustic look, and often feature AC and widescreen televisions, and chug along pre-determined routes, belching diesel fumes. So much for the old-fashioned rice barge experience...
There are thousands of these boats, many of them owned by large companies. Not much of a romantic boat tour- it's become just another victim of too much tourism, a packaged experience.

Many boats are rented by groups of friends and family from India's burgeoning middle class, prone to blasting the latest Bollywood songs from the boat's HDTV.

When Minor Sights saw the gazillion boats moored in Alleppey, we realized that being cooped up in a floating trailer was perhaps not exactly what we were looking for. So we looked for something else...

Chennamkary is a small island not far from Alleppey. The journey there is part of the fun. You take the local public bus- except for that the bus is a boat. Stopping every few hundred meters or so, eventually you get dropped off next to St Joseph's church. This is as good as touring on a houseboat- or even better since it costs about a 1000 times less.
Last stop- St Joseph's church. 
This is India- even the graves are colourful. 
Once settled in your homestay, you could charter a paddle boat. Or read a book, or watch the coconuts fall. Because Chennamkary's entertainment options are limited, and that's exactly its appeal. This is truly the Keralan boonies, with bugger-all in terms of restaurants, shops, and services. Which is great!
This is your captain speaking. I'll be taking you on a paddle boat tour...
...where we will encounter washing... lots of it...
...as well as mysterious floating heads...
...obscene-looking banana bunches...
...and the odd canoe. 
Sunset in paradise. 
The island has no cars or motorbikes. In the morning you can watch the kids go to school by boat. You can walk around the island- in the safe knowledge that it's impossible to get lost, unless you fancy going for a long swim.
Time to catch the schoolboat.  
If you're a bird-spotter, you can spot to your heart's content. The big prize is the kingfisher, a flash of turquoise and blue, plunging into the waters.


Getting there:
The best way to get there is the local ferry from Alleppey's main ferry station. Costing less than 10 rupees, it's a true backwater experience. You alight at St Joseph's church, about 70 minutes after your departure.

Useful links:
The best, and perhaps only place to stay is Green Palm Homes, a collection of rooms in the houses of various local families. Meals are included, although unfortunately they've toned down the spice level for those wimpy foreign palates.
Home sweet Homestay. 




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