Cruising down the river.
Sorrel takes a leisurely cruise in beautiful south India, in her very own houseboat.
Fifty years ago there were 5000 kettuvallams working the canals. Some additions have been made to the 60 that remain. The handcrafted teak, bamboo and coconut palm vessels have a fully stocked galley, one or two bedrooms, a toilet and a deck which is open to the breeze and wonderful views. There is a chef, skipper and deckhand to do the hard work, so you won't miss any of the colourful and dramatic scenery as you glide along.
Most houseboat holidays are around the central coast of Kerala and range from two days/one night to a 15-day tour around southern India. The slow travel pace is very relaxing, and everyone is flexible about when and where you get off the boat to explore. The kettuvallams do not have electricity, and lanterns provide a soft, gentle light.
Kerala has a fascinating mix of cultures 60 percent Hindu, 20 percent Muslim and 20 percent Christian, and the literacy rate is extremely high at 90 percent. Before Vasco da Gama led the Portuguese to India, the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Chinese had already visited the south-west coast.
The city of Cochin with a population of 600,000 sits on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas. It is one of south India's busiest ports, and crops and products from here are shipped all over the world.
Cochin is a historic city with evidence of Portuguese, Chinese, Jewish and Indian cultures. Its historic sector is on the southern peninsula, with hotels, restaurants, shops and tourist facilities on the eastern side.
The net fishing method introduced by Kublai Khan in the 1200s is still in use and is fascinating to watch. Bustling spice markets, with their earthy colours and wonderful aromas, are worth a visit, and are another reason to make sure you have plenty of film.
St Francis Church is India's oldest European-built church, constructed by Portuguese Franciscan friars in 1503. The Dutch made it a Protestant church in the 1600s, and in the late 1700s the British turned it into an Anglican church. It is now a place of worship for the Church of South India.
The Jewish Synagogue in Jewtown was built in 1568, destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt by the Dutch. It has a small but devout congregation.
One popular shore excursion is a visit to an Ayurvedic treatment centre. This ancient science heals in a holistic way, using the earth's natural ingredients. You can be treated for several days for serious problems, but most tourists enjoy a massage for minor aches, pains or stress.
Another enjoyable side trip is to see the very colourful Kathakali dancers. This ancient dance of Indian mythologies is intriguing, and 20 years ago a school was set up especially for foreigners to learn the dance and local art forms.