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Kettuvallam is a house boat widely used in the Indian state of Kerala. The Kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’ is called so because coir ropes tied in knots hold the entire structure of the boat together. During the entire assembling work of the boat, not a single nail is used. The boat is made of huge planks of Jack wood (Artocarpus hirsuta) or ‘Aanjili’ and joined with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels.
The kettuvallam or the Kerala houseboat is a large floating structure with a high load-carrying capacity and it has been a part of Kerala’ s culture and heritage over the past many years.
Cruising along the backwaters of Kerala is an unforgettable experience. You can enjoy the lovely homely food served on board, appreciate the fine level of hospitality and go back home, a new rejuvenated person altogether. That’s what a cruise along the backwaters in a house boat can do to you and your family or to you and your close friends or corporate colleagues.
You will be enjoying the finest Kuttanadan delicacies when you saunter down the backwaters. You will be lounging in the best-furnished cabins with a view you cannot find anywhere else in the world, and the entire milieu is ecological. Fresh food, cooked in inimitable Kuttanadan style, is the rage of the international tourists.
The house boats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel but none of those hassles – well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, cosy living rooms,a beautiful kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. Most house boats are powered by remarkably unobtrusive outboard engines; some others are poled by experienced oarsmen.
Surrounded by its all-natural decor, the houseboat provides the ideal observation platform, not only for underwater life, flora and fauna, but also for the charming rural lifestyle slipping by in slow motion. Lulled by the waves into a state of delightful euphoria, you can return to your daily routine, refreshed and rejuvenated.
For centuries, Kerala’s remote backwater communities used kettuvallam boats to transport rice from the paddy fields to market towns.
Today these beautiful craft made of bamboo, rattan, coir and wood are a favorite with tourists. Usually measuring about 80 feet (24 meters) in length, Kerala’s houseboats have been refashioned into stylishly furnished floating cottages.Depending on budget, options include houseboats with two floors, balconies, living rooms and even four or five bedrooms. The lure of the tourist dollar has brought in some ventures that do little to benefit the local community, while others guzzle fuel and dump untreated waste. Options such as Spice Coast Cruises run on solar power and are fueled by vegetable oil, and Goodearth, essentially run by a cooperative of villages, is ethically and ecologically sound.
It’s possible to spend an afternoon to a week on a backwaters houseboat, though two-day trips are the most popular. This allows travelers to lounge on deck as they cruise past a patchwork of pastel-colored houses, churches and temples.
Most companies arrange for stops at villages selling local crafts and wares. River regulations require boats to dock overnight but it’s still nice to stop in a secluded spot, gaze at the stars and listen to the sizzle of freshly caught fish roasting on the grill.
The main rivers are like a watery highway, so the journey won’t always be peaceful. The days of being only the houseboat on the water are long gone and cruisers can expect municipal passenger boats to motor past. But the journey also provides the chance to see duck farmers herd their flock along the river and lone fishermen in tiny boats laden with the day’s catch.