A tropical town in southwestern India, 700 mi/1,150 km south of Mumbai, Alappuzha lies in a region webbed by canals and fishing areas. It's a starting (or ending) point for the exquisite inland waterway trail (called the backwaters) stretching from there to Kollam (Quilon).

The maharajahs once used the 300-mi/483-km network of canals for communication. Now tourists chug slowly on riverboats through the shallow, palm-fringed lakes (sometimes running aground) to see a part of Kerala society that revolves around fishing and the processing of coir (coconut fiber), copra (dried coconut meat) and cashews. Families live on impossibly narrow strips of land, somehow managing to raise cows, pigs, chickens and ducks and cultivate small vegetable gardens. Residents paddle rapier-thin canoes hewn from trunks of the jackfruit tree across the open stretches of water to sell groceries and deliver rice hay. For visitors, the excursions are a relaxing, unhurried journey.

Numerous boat races are held June-September, including the Snake Boat Races and Nehru Trophy Races the second Saturday of August. Each boat holds more than 100 rowers and glides through the water like a snake.

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