The big attraction on Kerala’s coast is backwater touring, and Alleppey is ground zero for it. When you arrive by bus, touts will descend on you brandishing beautiful but faded pictures of houseboats. The iconic Kerala houseboat looks like a huge wicker basket mounted on a barge, but these aren’t actually the best way to see the backwaters because they can only travel the big canals, like a convoy of monster trucks on a freeway.
We got a Sikkara instead. That’s a small narrow boat with an outboard motor on one side, a sun roof, and a few seats. It can go where the big boats can’t, where village life is undisturbed by the wicker basket behemoths. Sikkaras are slow but quiet; in five hours we could see only a small part of the enormous network of canals, rivers, and lakes. Sikkara tours cost a small fraction of proper houseboat tours because tourists are stupid.