I am Arjun and I am from Kerala, working in Bangalore. We were a gang of 12 members (7 guys and 5 girls) from Bangalore. We booked a 4 bedroom house boat for us at a price 15.5k. They quoted us with 17k and we negotiated it down to the final price. I know, the final price isn't an appreciable one. We were in a hurry and that was the best we could get. This trip was made on end of August 2013. I thought this might be helpful sharing this for the ones who are planning for one such trip?
We reached the boarding place, Pallathuruthy Bridge right at 12 PM as mentioned by our boat agency. The boat manager was waiting for us near the boat. He collected the balance amount from us and introduced us their 3 men who operates the boat. One captain, one cook and one assistant. The manager left immediately wishing us a good trip.
Boat started in a matter of 5 minutes and we were enjoying the breeze. Cook came and asked me when to serve the lunch. I told him to serve it by 1. We were taking pictures all along. Boat operators were quite friendly. They took us to Punnamada Lake and showed the us the place where the famous Nehru Trophy boat race happens every year on August 15th. We also got to see the kind of boat - Chundan Vallam, which is used for the racing purpose. It was long and narrow and appears like it could accommodate ~30 people.There was a big and showy resort facing this lake and also the Boat race viewers gallery near by. We halted there for lunch. Captain docked the boat near to land area at around 1:30 PM and they served lunch. Out of 12 of us there were only 4 non-vegetarians and that we had already mentioned in our preferences. Lunch consisted of rice (white rice/boiled rice - based on your preference that you submit before hand), moru curry (curry made out of curd), cabbage upperi, beans and carrot dry fry and pappad. For non-vegetarians, delicious Karimeen fry was served one per head. After lunch, they said, they'll start boat by 3 PM as lunch break is 1.5 hrs and all three of them had their lunch from the kitchen and they went asleep till the break gets over! Sharp at 3, they started the boat and they rode us to the mighty Vembanadu lake! Vembanadu lake was such a vast beauty! We could see land only a bold line at the end of water body on all four sides. Wind was so strong to pull one out of the boat from the edge. So the captain told us to be cautious while standing at the edges of the open area of the boat. He also gave chance to drive the boat for those in our group who were enthusiastic about driving it. After the lunch, we were all lousy, adding to that this strong breeze made few of sleep and others were lying here and there. They took a u-turn and started riding back. In between, they asked us if at all we want to have additional fish or toddy or any thing, they'll stop at the shops on the shore. By 4 PM, they served tea/coffee based on the preference along with a snack (Onion Vada for us). We were still hungry and wanted to buy some snacks and maggi. So they stopped near to s shop were we could get those. I was skeptical about the price that they would quote for it. It was fair, they priced us with the MRP except for the cool drinks for which they took additional 5 Rs as "cooling charge"! We didn't have a choice. They also had a cold storage loaded with fishes. Tummy of our non-vegetarians in our group was left with no more space to take up any more fishes. Still, just for the sake of my information, I went and inquired on the prices and I was taken aback! Lobsters were on 1200/Kg, Crabs - 900/Kg and Karimeen - 750/Kg! I was damn sure that was like atleast 500Rs for than the market price! We disappeared from there as fast as we could. Few guys wanted to try out the local drink - toddy. So they stopped near to a toddy shop and the gave two kind of toddy to taste. One mild one also locally known as Madhurakallu and other one strong also known as Moothakallu. Strong one was extremely bitter and for those who just want to try, I strongly recommend the mild one. In between, the cook of our boat came near me and murmured to buy them also one bottle of strong one. We ended up buying 3 bottles of mild one and one bottle strong one for the boat guys. It was priced 150Rs/bottle. That is damn expensive and we didnt have an alternative but to pay.
As I abstain myself from such drinks, I didn't try it and my friends were having it and they seemed to like it. By 5:30, they docked at the place were we boarded the boat. They told us, if at all we want to take a walk in the paddy fields we could do so. So we all got out of the boat and took a so called "Village walk". We went to the big paddy field behind the houses and clicked some pics. We were back at the boat by the time it was dark. We found some mosquitoes in the boat and we requested them to put mosquito net and he did so.
We took bath from our respective rooms and got freshened up started playing UNO. In no time, the cook came and asked me when to serve dinner and I suggested 8 PM as the time. It was already 7 and we didn't realize it!
At 8 he came and we were all deep in to the game. I asked him to wait for another 10 mins. He told dishes are hot and ready and if it cools down, he wont't warm it up again! What else choice do we have, we started with the dinner. It was delicious. They served rice, chapathi, gobi manchurian, aloo curry and chicken curry. Chicken curry was so heavy in quantity that 4 meat eaters couldn't complete it. Once done with that, we started with dumb-sherads. One boat guy came at informed me at 9 that AC is ON and we can set the temperature in each room.
We were so noisy and jumping in the boat. At around 9:45, cook came and told us he would be switching off the lights at 10. So we dispersed and got into one room and started with UNO again. All of us slept by around 12-1. I had kept alarm for 5:45 to see sunrise. I woke up at 6 to see the sun rise but it was a failure. As it was couldy, sun rise wasn't so eye candy.
By the time every one got and finished with their morning activities, cook served us tea/coffee. By 8AM, boat started again and along with that we served the breakfast. Breakfast consisted of Bread, Jam, Butter, Idli, Chutney, Sambhar and Pineapple. Every one enjoyed the morning ride with hot breakfast. Soon it all came to an end and at 9 sharp they brought us back to the place we boarded. Captain gave me their visiting card and also a feedback form and murmured at me to pay the boat guys with something! We all packed and left the boat by 9:30 and gave a 100Rs each for three of them. They appeared very happy and walked towards the bus stop to board a bus for Alleppey town.
From my experience:
1. If you are crazy about fishes, make sure your boat people will cook the things you provide first of all and then bring fish from the market before boarding the boat.
2. So is the case with toddy. If you are passionate about it, get toddy from else were and not from the shops where they take you to.
3. Have a box of mosquito coil as there will be few mosquitoes that enter through crevices with are not covered by the net.
4. Buying the boat guys Toddy is up to you. I wouldn't recommend it though we didn't have any issues because of that.
5. Before buying anything from Alleppey, be sure that the price that you hear from shopkeepers neither are the actual price nor is anyway close to it. This happens especially, if they understand you are a tourist. Speak in Malayalam isn't what I am suggesting here! I know that is not easy! Visit at least 2-3 shops and try negotiating as much possible.
Special note for foreigners: Watch out for the prices! The prices I mentioned here could get multiplied by 10 when it comes to you people!