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A Budget-Friendly Option on Kerala's Backwaters Palakkad  India

A Budget-Friendly Option on Kerala's Backwaters

Our car turned sharply onto a gravel path in search of the motel our family had booked online, but the sign "Backwater Breeze" was nowhere to be found.

Because it was getting dark, we called the hotel manager, Ajit Lalwani, who met us on his motorcycle, roadside, and led us bumpily towards the 11-room property on the banks of the Pennar tributary.

A wispy hammock, a mini coconut grove and a brilliant, rail-less view of the river and many humming houseboats greeted us; we were pleased to find that our hotel room faced teal-colored waters which looked demure and inviting.

Backwater Breeze's rooms aren't luxurious: they're quite basic, with a Khaitan ceiling fan, beds with firm mattresses and barely-there amenities. But for around $30 a night, you get not only a view of the Pennar and its waters flowing into India's longest lake (Vembanad), but freshly-prepared Kerala-style meals and gracious service.

The staff treats you like family. Francis, an elderly server with an impressive mustache serves us piping-hot coffee in a thermos daily; Lilly brings us Kerala-sized rice (larger than the traditional basmati), avial (a local stew), fresh idlis and buttermilk dancing with neem leaves.

Houseboat rides are two feet away, and the boatsman whisks you away for a two-hour sunlit journey where you can gaze at shapely barge-like mobile homes floating in the distance.

Heaven on Earth comes at a pretty price, after all.