The second leg of our Kerala weekend took place aboard a Kettuvalam, or houseboat. Historically, Kettuvalams were used to transport rice, coir, or other products down the Keralan backwaters. But most of the ones you’ll see these days have been reincarnated as houseboats for tourists. For the most part, the Kettuvalams are welcomed by the locals, as they are somewhat eco-friendly (at least those with inboard (rather than outboard) motors) and they help to add money to Kerala’s growing tourism coffers. On the other hand, their presence ? and, more importantly, their passengers’ presence ? creates an unspoken tension between the haves and have-nots. In such situations, it’s hard not to feel guilty.
Both guilt and awe came from the scenery that passed us by as we sat in amazingly ergonomic cane chairs on the upper deck of our boat. We boarded right at the resort, so our first sight was of the red-tiled bungalows receding in the distance. Then, it was just inky water and coconut palms. We were also able to get a better view of the long-neck ducks that had been migrating to the area. Those ducks were divers, and their heads looked pretty serpent-like when they bobbed on the water waiting for bugs or minnows.