Spending a night in a Houseboat

We all struggle to meet our work deadlines, arrive in meetings on time, impress existing and potential clients and spend the rest of time with families. I guess we all forget to do what we all love doing so much- Traveling and spending time with our inner selves!

Those who are fond of traveling would agree with me that whether one travels solo or with family or with a group of friends, one does find a few moments to spend alone and ponder, doesn’t it? Traveling consisting of new experiences fires up the mind and stirs the soul. Whether you are driving at night or are waiting for someone to catchup with you on the long trek or simply just gazing through nature’s marvels. These moments, no doubt, increase the propensity to introspect and enable one to have a broader perspective.

Kerala Homestay and Rural Tourism travel meet 2017, BnBNation
Kerala Homestay and Rural Tourism travel meet 2017

This time, the nomad in me went to Kochi to attend Kerala Homestay and Rural Tourism fair 2017 organized by Kerala Homestay and Tourism society (Kerala HATS). Kerala HATS is an NGO that aims to act as a consortium of Homestay and travel promoters for effective coordination with the state.

About Kochi or Cochin

Kochi is also referred to as the “Queen of the Arabian sea”. It is a cluster of islands on the vast expanse of the Vembanad lake and is considered one of the finest natural harbors of the world. Here, you can witness the Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture as well as a Jewish synagogue built in 1568. Though we all know the Fort Kochi but few would be aware about the St Francis Church, India’s first European church built in Kochi in the 15th century. Kochi is also home to the historic Dutch cemetery.

Bens Homestay and Houseboat

I had heard a lot about the Bens Homestay and houseboat and I planned to stay in a houseboat for a night. Though Alapuzzha or Alleppey is better known in Kerala for houseboat of all kinds but since I had heard a lot of good things about Bens houseboat in Kochi, so I thought I should check it out.

A meal like no other! BnBNation
A meal like no other!

I planned to have paid dinner there and doze off. The houseboat had 2 theme-based rooms. My room was the blue colored Chinese fishing net-themed room having a Television, Air conditioner, a cupboard, a study table and an attached toilet. The other room was a green-color coral-themed room with the same facilities. It had a common dining area for the 2 rooms where guests can befriend each other over a breakfast.

Celebrating Dussehra with a BnB Host

It was my first time in a houseboat and I felt overwhelmed by the amenities on offer, especially because with amenities of an equivalent 4-star or 5-star hotel, the room was spacious and I could keep by bags at ease!

Dinner with the host Mr. Benny on the houseboat
Dinner with the host Mr. Benny on the houseboat

I am a poor eater and the dinner served to me was a lot in quantity, Prawns curry, Egg curry and Rice. I was about to have dinner in the common dining area, when Mr Benny Xavier, owner of the Bens Homestay and houseboat turned up. A warm personality and soft spoken, we chatted with each other during dinner and shared thoughts about topics ranging from the new and dynamic Tourism minister of India Mr Alphons, the Incredible India Bed and Breakfast (BnB) scheme, my experience in the Kerala Homestay and Rural Tourism fair, about tourism in Kerala and how he is carrying forward his family’s legacy through his homestay. He told me that besides the modern 2 room houseboat and homestay, he owned a traditional houseboat and a cruise. We also talked about his vision of tourism in Kochi and how he wanted to spread awareness about Kochi and its houseboats. He wanted the travelers to know that not only Alleppey but also Kochi has equivalent houseboats.

Where to stay in India: 3 reasons why BnB is a better option than a hotel

He shared the method of cultivating Pokkali and discussed prawn cultivation at length. Though I was aware that Pokkali is an environmentally sustainable practice of paddy cultivation but he told me how it is symbiotic in nature. “While Rice resides is a feed for prawns, the prawn excreta forms fertilizer for rice. Thus, we maintain optimum level of water and due to Geographic Indication attributed to Pokkali, we make a fair amount of profit”.

Magnificent view from the Houseboat!
Magnificent view from the Houseboat!

I admired the pearls of wisdom from a person who wears different hats- prawn farmer, Pokkali cultivator, BnB owner and a Hospitality provider! A perfect example of an environment conscious entrepreneur!  Even though I am a poor eater but by the time our conversation was over, I had gulped down the sumptuous dinner!

5 Reasons to Take a Cruise

The next day he offered to take me on a boat cruise to a nearby island from where he had to tow his boat that needed repair. At 9 30 AM I was served breakfast by the maid (she knew hindi and English) accompanying 6-year old Carol, Mr. Benny’s daughter. Carol’s innocent face and a shy “Hi” totally lit up my day! The breakfast was again amazing, consisting of Chapati, Egg curry, and banana sprinkled with sugar. As usual, I gulped it down!

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At 10 30 AM, I helped Mr Benny open up and ready the traditional houseboat for the cruise and off we went to a far-away island.

Path to luxurious night in a houseboat by BnBNation
Path to luxurious night in a houseboat

He was generous and let me drive the houseboat (without license!) for a while. He showed me the different islands along the way and told me about a mobile hospital, that treats old age citizens for just 1 Rupee. Once we reached the island, we met Cyrus, Mr Benny’s son, who studies in 8th standard and helps out his dad. We towed the damaged boat and started on our way back. Cyrus had a good music sense (actually, better than mine) and he put on some songs by Charlie Ruth and Justin Timberlake.

Cyrus grinned ear to ear when i said "Drive safe, my life is in your hands" BnBNation Houseboat
Cyrus grinned ear to ear when i said “Drive safe, my life is in your hands”
Conversing with Cyrus

So, I asked Cyrus- “What do you want to become.

Cyrus- “I don’t know”.

“You are in 8th standard, do you have a stream of studies in mind- science, commerce or art?”

Cyrus- “No”

Isn’t that the ideal way in which childhood should be spent? Far away from the rigors of life and with a carefree attitude! We joked around as Mr Benny and Cyrus drove the boat turn by turn. Soon we had arrived at the homestay.

At 12 PM, I left for Fort Kochi in a cab arranged by Mr Benny. I concluded my trip by catching flight back to Delhi in the evening.

My first trip to the city of Kochi was marked with hospitable people and memorable experiences. Just what i needed! A day on the houseboat in Kochi with Mr Benny is a must if you are looking for an offbeat destination and away from worries of the mortal stressful world.

48 thoughts on “Spending a night in a Houseboat”

  1. Wow, I truly agree with you that sometimes we really love to be alone and find some inner peace after are busy schedules. Anyway, this boathouse is really amazing. I actually haven’t heard about this and I find it really interesting and unique as well. I also love the hospitality that the owner have shown to you. The view is also magnificent, I can truly commune with nature. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    1. I was expecting your comment! I was sure you’d love it since you are a big-time nature freak yourself! I love reading and commenting on your trekking posts! Backwaters are truly amazing. You must try a houseboat once for sure!

  2. Wow! I haven’t tried spending time on a house boat but this is indeed an eye opener. I experience is amazing. The view is stunning. You can indeed do a lot of things while enjoying your stay on a house boat! Thanks for sharing this to us.

  3. The houseboat experience sounds amazing, especially because you got to have dinner with the owner and exchanged conversations with his family. I think that these are the best travel experiences that one can have while on the road. If you don’t get to know the local culture, you can’t say you know a place just because you went there.

    1. Hi Joanna,
      Yes you got it right. I believe that wherever you go, you must understand and appreciate local culture, customs and way of living. On second thoughts, houseboat was just an exotic room. What made my experience even better was the conversation with Mr Benny and his family.

  4. Houseboat experience is a great way to figure the local culture of Kerala.I enjoyed your conversation with the boat owners. It’s good that you manage to do Kochi but the next time I would highly recommend doing Alleppey. What you see on the backwaters is so fascinating – from duck farming to toddy bars.

    1. Hi Ami,
      Thanks for your suggestion. Alleppey was on my mind but then i thought why not try out a houseboat in Kochi since the event was in Kochi. But yes, point noted. Next time Alleppey!

  5. I didn’t know house boat stays existed. It sounds like a unique way to experience the culture and country. The dinner they prepared sounded so yummy! Wish there were some pics of the food, but I know when something is so good I forget to take photos 🙂 Did you ever get sea sick? I was curious since this is something I would love to try, but get sea sick so easily.

    1. Hi Candy,
      Houseboats are in still water not in the middle of the oceans so there’s no way you will get sea sick. Besides when you sleep in a houseboat it stays still, doesn’t move so your digestion stays on track.
      Regarding the food pics, you guessed it right. I was so hungry that by the time i reached out to my phone to take a pic, the plates were empty (food was all gulped down!)

  6. This is quite peculiar, to say the least. I really love how you started the article and I admire your way with words! Congratulations! 🙂

  7. I totally agree! We NEED to find our inner selves when traveling. And it sparked my interest more in visiting Kerala. They also host bloggers to the annual Kerala Tourism event, right? I’ve applied several times, but yeah, more deserving blogs make the cut. Hope to visit you soon there, Ambuj!

    1. Yes they host bloggers but I am not aware of the criteria. I had applied as a company as my company BnBNation aggregates homestays and plan experiences for travelers. Let me know if you are interested next time, may be we can visit as partners (in crime)

  8. Staying on a house boat in Kerala seems to be a true bucket list experience. It looks like it lived up to that for you. Nothing beats those incredible views from the water. Kerala is definitely on our list.

  9. Living and waking up in a house boat is indeed a magical experience. If this happens in God’s own Country, the experience is on an altogether different level. Kochi is an enchanting place and makes for rewarding experiences.

  10. It’s great to read about your houseboat experience; it sounds as if you had an amazing time. We opted to do a day canoe trip instead for several reasons (budget being a key one), however it sounds as if the houseboat stay was wonderful too!

  11. I totally agree that traveling and new experiences is good for the soul! I would love to experience some time on a houseboat, and have heard that this is a popular thing to do in Kerala – I didn’t even think of combining a houseboat experience with a homestay too though – what an authentic experience! So cool that Mr Benny let you drive the house boat for a while !

  12. A houseboat experience in Kerala is one of a kind. We had gone to Alleppey and spent a night on the house boat there. The experience is going to stay with us forever. Great to know you had an equally wonderful time there. And whether solo or with family, I am sure everyone enjoys this experience to the extreme.

  13. I’ve always wanted to stay in a houseboat cursing on the backwaters in Kerala but haven’t come around to doing it. It’s one of those things- you take amazing experiences in your own country for granted! It’s on my bucket list anyway and I hope to cross it off soon!

  14. Great post! I have never been on a house boat before, but I love cruising and love being on the water. I just took my first solo trip and I agree, it was great to just be alone and ponder and to be reminded about why I love travel so much.

  15. Aw I’ve yet to travel to India, so this sounds wonderful. Nice to learn something about Kochi, plus the houseboat looks very cool. You also ate a lot by the sound of it!

  16. Also glad you took time to travel and experience new things with your inner self. Your hotel host seems like a busy and interesting man. The way you describe your food and eating habits paints a wonderful picture.

  17. I would LOVE to spend the night on a houseboat, but only if it were static and not sailing (I don’t do well with motion sickness lol). My friend actually lives on a houseboat on a marina near me 🙂 x

  18. What a great and unique experience. 🙂 I tried living on a 10 wheeler truvk for a few days but this one is interesting.

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