Long before the coming of the rail and the road, waterways were the best mode of transport. House Boats (Kettuvallam) were traditionally used to cargo tones of goods across Kottayam, Kollam and Kochi, with a portion covered with bamboo and coir serving as a restroom and kitchen for the boatman. These vessels are built entirely without the use of nails. Planks of jack-wood are joined together with coir rope and coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful maintenance they last for generations..
Kumarakom, one of the very few places in the world, where mode of transportation is through the water ways. Small canoes to very large 'Kettu valloms' are used for transportation. One can find boats filled to capacity with families travelling to different destinations and also bigger boats carrying goods such as rice, coconut etc. The fact that even the mail and morning newspaper are delivered by these boats complete the picture.
Today, widely and appropriately called houseboats, they carry furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony for angling. Sections of the carved roof of wood or plaited palm open out to provide shade and allow uninterrupted views. Most of these boats are poled by local oarsmen while some are powered by a 40 HP engine. Boat trains- formed by joining two or more houseboats together make a convenient mode of sightseeing when the company is large.
Gliding along the calm and serene backwaters flanked by the verdant pasture and palm, seeing the rural Kerala preserved through the ages and completely hidden from the road is a unique experience to any visitor, on these slow-moving, spacious vessels.
Skiff-fishermen launching their cockleshell boats, large flotillas of ducks waddling down to the water from thatched houses on the banks, women neck-deep in water, with their waist-length hair heaped in a crown; searching for fish with their feet and aimless cattle grazing in lush pasture land, where white lotuses lie here and there in small, low lying pools offers a close look into a delightful rustic life. So as you cruise along the network of waterways, on these luxurious houseboats you can even anchor in a lagoon for the night. The backwater experience will be quite different from any other holiday.