Alappuzha – still more romantically known as Alleppey – is the hub of Kerala’s backwaters, home to a vast network of waterways and more than a thousand houseboats. Wandering around the small but chaotic city centre, with its modest grid of canals, you’d be hard-pressed to agree with the ‘Venice of the East’ tag. But step out of this mini-mayhem – west to the beach or in practically any other direction towards the backwaters – and Alleppey is graceful and greenery-fringed, disappearing into a watery world of villages, punted canoes, toddy shops and, of course, houseboats. Float along and gaze over paddy fields of succulent green, curvaceous rice barges and village life along the banks. This is one of Kerala’s most mesmerisingly beautiful and relaxing experiences.