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Kerala is blessed with a huge network of rivers, lakes, canals and lagoons that flow into the Arabian Sea. Just before they complete their journey into the Sea these small streams, canals and rivers empty themselves into two or three huge lakes, the biggest of which is the Vembanad Lake, a 240 sq km lake that stretches from Ernakulam to Kollam.
These lagoons and canals circumvent huge tracts of inhabited land growing coconut and paddy mainly. People who live in these islands and low lying tracts of land used these canals to transport most everything from rice and vegetables to concrete and granite.For ages the mode of transport were country made boats hewn out of the wild jack tree and smeared with fish oil to keep the water from rooting the hull.
Boats carrying rice sometimes did overnight journeys and boatman had a small space to sleep overnight or keep themselves dry from the monsoon rain.This space , usually in the middle of the boat, had a bamboo covering across the width of the small country boat.
With the entry of tourism in a big way, one innovative entrepreneur decided to expand the concept of the Rice Boat to fit and include the needs of tourists and thus was born `houseboats', which today measure between 70 and 100 feet and weigh quite that much. These houseboats have been designed with 1 bedroom to 10 bedroom huge boats and have all the amenities of a resort minus the variety of cuisine. The cuisine largely is traditional Keralan food.
Today the houseboat has grown tremendously as a concept and perhaps bears no relation to its founder concept. Having said that, everyone would agree a cruise on the houseboat is a journey of a lifetime, one of those things you should not miss when you are in India.