Houseboating on the serene Backwaters of the Malabar Coast regularly pops up on Top 10 Things You Should Do lists. A source of much Indian pride, the Backwaters are a world-unique watery ecosystem of palm-fringed rice paddies, small villages, and lovely lagoons, a meeting of the fresh waters of 38 rivers as they meander westward to the sea. We wend these waters aboard the intimate and delightful, eight-cabin Oberoi Vrinda, inspirationally designed proof that Oberoi excels on water, as on land. Our days are active—according to our tastes— and our nights are graced with cultural performances and Vrinda’s much-praised, resoundingly fresh and imaginative dinners.
Spread across palm-covered islands and headlands, Cochin—now usually known as Kochi—is beloved for its palmy scenery, its location near the famous Backwaters, and its unique history of foreign influence, reflected in an intriguing variety of architectural styles—fine colonial houses built by wealthy British traders, Dutch cottages with split farmhouse doors, and narrow streets where homes hide behind yellow walls. We’ll have a chance to stroll in the town before our restful overnight in sea-view rooms at the Vivanta by Taj Malabar, beautifully set on Willingdon Island, with a magnificent view of Cochin Harbour.
After boarding Vrinda at Alleppey, about an hour and a half drive from Cochin, we begin three days of exploration (and relaxation). We’ll visit with local fishermen and learn their traditional crafts, lunch aboard Vrinda, sail to Vembanad Lake for a sunset dinner and an evening Kathakali dance performance, which celebrates stories from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the Hindu epics that seem to be in every Indian heartbeat, past and present.
We’ll board a traditional rice boat and wend smaller waterways, stopping for a visit to the ruins of a thousand-year-old temple of the Lord Buddha (seen by Hindus as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu) and St. Mary’s Church, established three centuries ago by Kerala’s St. Thomas Christians, who trace their lineage back to Thomas the Apostle, two millennia ago. After our customarily grand dinners aboard, we’ll enjoy more performances: Vrinda Vadiyam, a musical fusion of classical Kerala instruments and the gorgeously costumed Mohiniyattam, Dance of the Enchantress, a sensuous classic dance form.
We’ll drive to Cochin, fly to Mumbai, and enjoy dinner and use of a day room at the Leela Mumbai, tranquilly set on eleven acres of ornate gardens and cascading waterfalls, a fine place to dally before our late night international flights.
Land arrangements, per person (2019)
Internal Flights: Delhi/Cochin/Mumbai or Mumbai/Cochin/Mumbai – $850