India will beat the restlessness out of just about anybody given enough time. Take the most wanderlust traveler
and set them loose among the frenetic energy and chaos that typifies much of India and by the month end you will
have a traveler longing for the comforts of home. At least that’s how it was with me. After a few weeks in Northern
India I had enough of fast-talking salesmen, pollution choked streets and near death experiences in the back of a
bicycle rickshaw. That’s why Kerala, India’s most southern state, was such a breath of fresh air and a welcome
change of pace.
  The main tourist attraction in Kerala is
exploration of the coastal canals and
backwaters. The miles and miles of
waterways create a highway of sorts for
boats and are the only way to reach many
of the small rice and fishing villages that
exist in these backwaters. There are many
ways to explore the backwaters, from
canoe to the ferries that transport locals to
private houseboats. Jarrod and I chose to
splurge and go for the third option. We
hired a houseboat for a 2-day, 1-night trip
through the backwaters. We arrived at the
dock expecting to board a small, cramped
and rickety houseboat but were totally
blown away by the luxurious floating hotel
that awaited us. The crew included the
captain who pulled double duty as chef, a
driver and a third all-purpose man. We were
ushered onboard and invited to relax on
deck while enjoying fresh coconut juice as
the captain and his crew made last minute
preparations before we headed out.  We
had a few minutes to check out the long line
A typical houseboat on the Kerala Backwaters
of other houseboats waiting to set off. We learned that our boat was middle-of-the-road on the luxury meter. We
saw rickety old contraptions that had a good chance of sinking within minutes of leaving the dock and virtual
palaces complete with flat screen TV’s and fully stocked bars. Houseboats are BIG business in Kerala. It was
interesting to note that there were more Indian tourists taking advantage of this vacation option than foreigners.
Looking for a job? Why not become a duck herder.
A Kerala backwater home.
  We soon found ourselves leaving the crowded dock behind, sailing into a world of lush green coconut trees and
tranquil and meandering waterways. The farther from the main thoroughfare we sailed the more peaceful it
became. We slowly floated past a whole new way of life in these backwaters. We saw men herding hundreds of
ducks just as cowboys once herded cattle back in the day. Except instead of riding horses these men stood
precariously in the narrowest of canoes, propelling themselves along with a long pole. They smiled and waved as
we floated past, likely laughing at our surprise to see this sight. But come on, who knew that herding ducks was
even possible? We floated past groups of elementary school children huddled on the bank of the canal waiting for
their school’s canoe to come and transport them to school. There wasn’t a car in sight. The only land that exists in
this area is made up of very narrow strips of earth that divide the canals from the rice fields. The solid ground is
just wide enough to accommodate one small house, and the front steps of the house often lead straight down to
the canal. This is where women came to wash dishes and laundry everyday, or to bathe their children.
  Jarrod and I couldn’t believe that this
was actually India. Everything was
different from Northern India, from the
landscape to the people to the food. We
spent our time relaxing on the deck of
our boat, snapping pictures of the simple
yet intriguing way of life that exists in
Kerala’s backwaters, and waving at the
friendly inhabitants paddling past us in
canoes. I’m so glad we ventured down
south during our trip to India. Seeing
this completely different atmosphere
gave us a broader perspective of the
country and an understanding of its vast
diversity. It also peaked our interest in
the other states of India that we did not
visit -from Karnataka to Darjeeling to
Tamil Nadu. If Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
and Kerala can be so completely
different from one another then I can
only imagine and wonder what is left to
explore in the other corners of India.
Relaxing in India.  Yes, it's possible, just head to Kerala.
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Kerala Backwaters
The Backwaters near Alleppey
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