Alleppey is known as the departing point for the famous Kerala backwater. However, there’s more to the town than an in and out houseboat tour. Spend some time in this South India town with excellent food, dramatic beaches with killer sunsets, and relaxing oil-filled Ayurvedic massages.
Eating a South Indian Breakfast at Uduppi
Uduppi is South India’s version of a local diner or hole in the wall restaurant. During my time in Alleppey, I was a regular. Here’s the protocol for a great diner-like South Indian breakfast. Mr. Uduppi, or his helper, slap down a banana leaf place and come around with your starter course: two dosa and a vada. If you’re lucky and show up on the days it’s available, Puri, a fried soft bread disc, will make an appearance on your plate. Both are served with a spicy potato stew, chili paste, coconut chutney and sambar broth. Eat with your hands right off the banana leaf plate and use the starch to soak up the savory and spicy gravies. Don’t forget to ask for chai at the end of the meal. It’s served steaming hot so Mr. Uduppi cools it by pouring it at dramatic lengths into a wider cup . When you’re full and satisfied, stand up and take your leaf to the window in the back, throw it out to the ravens and wash your hands. All this for about 50 rupees.
I became such a regular that one day, Mr. Uduppi took me for a tour of his house, positioned directly behind the restaurant and separated by a small courtyard. It’s humble and he takes me through several bedrooms with TVs, introduces me to his wife, mother, and daughter. Then, he shows me the Uduppi factory. In the back of the house is a room stocked with sacks of ingredients, pots and pans, and a man. The man looks like a swami with is white turban and cross-legged position. He’s bare chested and sitting over a medium-sized pot of boiling oil.His hands work feverishly rolling, patting, and dropping the dough ino the friar. This is where the magic happens, this is where Uduppi becomes Uduppi. I asked, how many dosas per day? 300. How many iddly? 150. How many poori? 200. He answers all with a head waggle. Twenty-five years, six days a week and millions of dosas, of which I get to take a small part.
Uduppi is located near Uduppi Sree Krishna Swami Temple. It’s about a 50 Rupee rickshaw ride from the train station.
Swims and Sunsets at Pozhiyoram beach. Pronounced POUR-ay-or-um. Go figure.
The waves crash hard and the beach is small, but it’s a hell of a swim and sunset. The rickshaw ride is about 10 minutes and runs outside the Alleppey town center. The beach is on a small inlet of sand, a peak amongst rocky shores. The sand stretches about 50 meters to a river that led into the backwaters. You’ll enter through the gates of a private hotel.
The water wis ferocious – waves that scooped me up and tossed me into shore and then tugged me back into sea. At one visit, the sea made me flop like a fish on the shore, enough to convince Delia, a German woman who is pregnant, not to come in for a dip. At sunset, the orange pink sun dips slowly into the soft gray horizon. Several fishing boats rest on the line and are silhoetted by the retreating sun.
Another time, the swim was easier in the water, the tide was not moving me like Foosball players. Both times, I swam with my capri pants and tank top, careful not to show too much leg or stomach. Both times, I emerged with a bra-full of sand and exhausted from the restless sea. And both times thankful to be at the beach, where I feel most at home.
Ayurvedic massage originated in Kerala 7000 years ago, 1 1/2 hours of which I’ve participated. At first, not wanting to be too greedy, I just got a head, shoulders and neck massage. On the second and third times back, I got full-body. An Ayurvedic massage can be arranged through any hotel – expect to pay about 900 to 1200 RS for an hour.
What to Expect – My experience: My massuer, a mumu-clad woman with delightfully powerful hands, sat me down on a wooden stool and asked me strip form the waist up. I got rid of any embarrassment as she worked me scalp for 10 minutes, then my neck for 10 more, and then finally my shoulders for the last 10. She poured oil on me each step of the way and then pushed her way past my stresses and anxieties. With each hand motion she ended with a flick away from my body as if finally releasing all my worries out of my body.
My second massage was arranged through the hotel, which resulted in a much discounted price for a full body massage. The massage started out on the stool like the partial body one. However, this time I was fully naked, save for a thin tissue thong my female masseur had threaded through certain down there parts of my body. I don’t know the purpose of this covering because it covered very little. Maybe it was to given the illusion of covering, when in reality I was Na-ked.
After a full head and shoulders rub down, I got up on the wooden table. These massage tables are not padded and full of discretionary sheets. The are dark wood with body shaped curves and little canals along the edges for all the oil. I laid down on my stomach and Srina (we were appropriately on a first name basis at that point) covered me in oil like I was ready to go in to the oven for Thanksgiving. Then, on each side, she worked me over head to toe, moving her body in elaborate stretched out motions and grinding her elbow across my body. Afterwards, she delicately led me to the shower and soaped all the oil off my body with Ayurvedic soap and drugstore shampoo. I smiled and tipped her well when I left clean and fresh as a baby.