India has no shortage of ritzy, glitzy, over-the-top hotels. And no question, luxuriating in the gilded bosom of The Imperial, The Oberoi Amarvilas, or The Leela will make you feel like the maharaja you aren’t. But it also puts you in a bubble—isolated from the thrum of daily life.
To achieve a more balanced trip, spend a few nights in a local homestay. One of our favorites is Love Dale in Alappuzha, a.k.a. Alleppey. Anshad and his wife Amina are the warmest of hosts, greeting you from the moment you step out of a taxi, plying you with hot tea and freshly fried jackfruit chips, and helping you plan each day’s itinerary. Want a houseboat for the afternoon? Anshad knows just the guy. Need a tuk-tuk to Marari Beach? No problem. Anshad is well-connected, as his family has lived on this lakefront property for generations.
Amina is an amazing cook, too, and she’ll gladly take you into her kitchen for an informal cooking lesson. Although she’ll cook vegetarian upon request, seafood is what Kerala is famous for—and Amina’s prawn curry is not to be trifled with. Meals are eaten outside, just 10 paces from Vembanad Lake, one of the largest in southern India. It’s beyond peaceful, soundtracked by avian warbling, fishing boats moving in and out of the canal, and periodic calls to prayer. Go for a walk or bike ride (Anshad has wheels you can borrow) and you’ll stumble across mosques, churches, schools, country stores, street art, and more. If you’ve had your patience tested and spirit crushed in big cities like Delhi, this is a great place to recharge. Anshad has even hung a few hammocks for just that purpose.
It’s important to remind yourself, of course, that a homestay is not a hotel. A/C can be sluggish, toilet paper scarce, mattresses thin, and sheets sketchy. There is no phone, TV, clock, safe, blowdryer, toiletries, or even mosquito nets (bring your own DEET). Rooms are not hermetically sealed, so you will cohabitate with lizards and other critters. The water that comes out of the taps has a brownish hue and a distinct lake-like smell. The shower is a cold drizzle; you’re better off drawing a bucket bath and bathing the traditional Indian way. There are no “housekeeping” services to speak of, so don’t expect a made bed, emptied garbage, or fresh towels. On a good day, WiFi works 40 percent of the time.
Still with us here? Okay, good. Because if you’re the sort of traveler who can overlook the stuff mentioned above, who doesn’t need three-star-and-up accommodations, who values real connections, and who wants to eat the best home cooking in Kerala, you might just fall in love at Love Dale. The repeat visitors are testament to that.
Air-conditioned double rooms, with breakfast, cost INR 2,250 (or $34 USD) per night; non-A/C doubles are INR 2,000 ($30); and an A/C room, including three meals a day for two adults and up to two children, is just INR 3,000 ($45).
Puthanangadi Poojaveli East Rd., Alleppey, Kerala, India; +91-98462-10251.