One of the must do activities in Kerala is to take a trip into the backwaters, a maze of rivers, canals and lakes/lagoons that run along much of inland Kerala.
We took our boat trip from Alleppey and inadvertently had two quite different experiences. Our first night was on a large ten room houseboat which was about as sterile an experience as could be imagined. With little, if any, orientation on where we were going and how the overnight stay would plan out, nor any attempt to bring our disparate group together in our floating hotel. Also as a larger vessel we cruised the larger canals, limited by size as to where we could travel.
The set up for these trips are quite formulaic it seems and you will see many other boats along the way doing the same thing. You will depart around 1pm, be taken along some of the canals, go across a large lagoon and then stop at a fish stall by the riverside should you wish to buy your own fish for dinner! If not a fairly generous meal is provided anyway.
The vessel will dock around 6pm and serve food later in the evening. Once docked you may get to use the AC if you have it! The rooms can be rather small, basic and stuffy for the money you will be paying! You then may take a small trip back to where you started after breakfast before disembarking around 9/10am allowing them time to prepare the boat for the next guests.
This means your likely actual boat riding time is limited to around 5 hours only.
We were lucky to spend our second day aboard a single cabin boat, making it ours for the duration allowing for what became a wonderful experience as we cruised the smaller canals, closer to the life along the riverside, seeing both the natural and human world pass us by. This experience was luxurious in comparison to our ten bed floating hotel and in the evening we docked up by the riverside allowing us to explore along the path prior to a meal being served for us, again, great food and generous portions were provided.
Sitting back watching the world go by at a slow pace was wonderful, seeing the myriad of birds, boats and riverside homes along the way was fascinating. People watching here is great too, watching the people wash themselves, their cooking utensils and their clothes in the river was a very common sight as was seeing ladies fishing by the side of the river and school children making their way to school by boat in the morning.
A really great trip, top tip being to spend the night and to try to get a smaller boat, both to provide more intimacy to the trip and to allow you to venture into the smaller canals to check out the riverside life around you, fascinating!