An attractive feature of the Kerala landscape is its famed backwaters. It was probably the flood of 1866 that silted up the harbours of yore and gave birth to lagoons, called kayals, of which the major ones are the 83-km long Vembanad Kayal, the 16-km long Ashtamudi kayal and the 30-km long kayamkulam Kayal. These form the main waterways linking the landmass and act as highways, transporting people and goods. Life along these waterways takes on a different complexion, with its own unique culture. Here the skyline is different, the green is reflected in the waters and presents a dreamlike landscape. The cultural festivals, the shrines with their domes and spires, the markets with their commercial activity all have their peculiar flavour. A trip through these waterways can be a memorable experience.
In Kuttanad, which is the rice bowl of the state, farming is done at 1.5 to 2 meters below the sea level. These areas have been reclaimed by the unique native engineering skills that remind tourists strongly of the dykes of Holland. A leisurely travel by boat along these farmlands will be etched in the mind. The farms here grow banana, cassava and yam.
The network of canals that pass through Alleppey has earned for this town the name - 'The Venice of the East.' Here small, low-slung country boats act as taxis ferrying passengers and goods. It is not uncommon to see boats sailing with their cargo of cycles, goats, fisherwomen with wicker baskets, toddy tappers with their knives, Syrian Christian priests in their cassocks with bare-chested boatmen at the helm.
A boat ride through Kuttanad's shimmering, green paddy fields with their tail-wagging ducks and coir workers soaking coconut fibre in pools and weaving tough strands into ropes is an idyllic sight. During August-September Alleppey plays host to the annual snake boat race, the unique water regatta that draws tourists and visitors from far and wide.
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