Guest post: Kate Waite from Eastbourne in the UK visited South India in November 2011. She shares her experiences of Alleppey.
Waking up in one of the luxurious rooms at the premium homestay, Taamara, is a holiday highlight all on its own. Lazily pulling back the curtains I returned to my comfortable bed and curl up to watch the morning activity on the lake. Fishermen paddle by in their wooden canoes to haul in their nets to provide the fresh fish for local markets, luxurious houseboats designed like kettuvallams (rice barges) drift by and exotic birds perch on the cantilevered fishing nets just off shore. In a flash of blue a kingfisher plucks his breakfast from amongst the carpet of green lily pads, punctuated by soft hyacinth purple blooms.
Located in Alleppey, sitting on the shores of Vembernand Lake this beautiful homestay offers affordable luxury in a very special location.
Considered to be one of the highlight destinations of Kerala, it’s the perfect spot for exploring the vast network of backwaters the region is so famous for. Traversing through some of the 900km network of canals and palm-fringed lakes is undoubtedly one of India’s most enchanting experiences. Alleppey isn’t just about the backwaters, as we soon discovered its other offerings; golden sandy beaches, delicious Keralan cuisine and Aurevadic spa treatments.
Arriving at Taamara we received a warm welcome, a beautiful lotus flower was placed around my neck and a refreshing glass of coconut milk in my hand. With just four rooms guests are assured a complete VIP experience as soon as they arrive and it is easy to imagine this place as a secret hideaway for the rich and famous.
The guest rooms are located in a separate building which was designed by a local architect to make full use of the stunning views over the lake, while offering complete privacy. The air-conditioned rooms are comfortably furnished with large beds, crisp linen and modern bathrooms. Most importantly huge windows running the length of the room fill them with light and make the most of that all-important lakeside view.
It wasn’t long before we had the opportunity to get out onto the lake ourselves. Our homestay host, Nirmala, arranged for one of their fisherman neighbours to take us out onto the lake in his wooden canoe, just as dusk was falling. We drifted slowly along the shoreline, the silence punctuated by the gentle splash of the paddle and the sound of singing from a church on the bank of the lake.
The following morning we were out on the water again, this time exploring the canals that make up the famous Kerala backwaters. As our boat traversed through lagoons and small waterways we caught a glimpse of village life on the water, passing people washing clothes, scrubbing dishes and bathing in the canals. Chickens scurried along the banks, chased by children who stopped to wave as we passed by, all set to a tropical green backdrop of palms and waterlillies.
Our homestay hosts, Mr. V. V. Babu, an award-winning filmmaker and his wife, Nirmala were extremely attentive, from arranging our backwater trip to lending binoculars so that we could get a better glimpse of the varied bird life on the lake.
A real highlight at Taamara is the delicious home cooked Keralan cuisine, without doubt some of the best Indian food we have ever tasted. A special lunch served on a plantain leaf was a particular highlight as Nirmala took the time to explain the significance of each item to us, all beautifully presented and packed full of flavour.
Having discovered our love of South Indian cuisine we were invited into the kitchen for the chance to help prepare a meal, learning several techniques and filling my journal with delicious recipes, hurriedly scribbled down between mouthfuls of the delicious fare on offer.
Taamara is the perfect homestay for anybody wanting a bit of luxury, ideal for a romantic break. You are sure to fall in love with the peaceful surroundings of this special property that will stay in the memory for a long time.
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.