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Kerala black beauty floats on Lankan lake

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: One thousand and seven hundred years after Princess Hemamali smuggled a tooth of Buddha to Sri Lanka, her namesake is serenading the Gregory Lake atNuwara Elia, hoping to attract more tourists to this destination.

This Princess Hemamali, a Kerala houseboat, started operating in the Gregory Lake, which, incidentally, is only 6 km from Sita Elia (Ashoka vanam in Ramayana) where Sita Devi was believed to have been kept hostage after her abduction from south India.

The new Princess Hemamali is the brainchild of two Malayali entrepreneurs who imported this kettuvallam (houseboat) from Kerala to score a first in the Lankan tourism history.

Launched by Saj House Boat Builders and operators headed by Saju Chacko and Jaison Varghese Panikulangara, houseboat Hemamali touched water on April 11.

“The idea was conceived two-and-a-half years ago. But we had to struggle hard to get all necessary clearance,” said Jaison. To get this unprecedented idea floating, Saju and Jaison had to knock at the doors of 14 different departments before they could give berth to Princes Hemamali.

The 17ftX8ft house boat was built in Kerala. “More than 70% of the work was completed at Angamaly by artisans from Alappuzha. It was then dismantled and taken in a container to Colombo,” said Jaison. The boat will have a conference hall that can accommodate 100 people.

Nuwara Elia, situated at 6300ft above sea level, is famous for its tea estates. The destination that resembles Kodaikanal in many ways is visited by thousands every year. “The idea is to provide these tourists with a slice of Kerala’s backwater tourism,” said Jaison. He said the initial response is good and hundreds, including VIPs, have already booked the boat.

Kerala tourism principal secretary T K Manoj Kumar, while welcoming the entrepreneurial initiative, said the house boat tourism in the neighbouring country won’t pose any threat to Kerala. “Tourists take a houseboat cruise for a wholesome dip in the beauty of our backwaters. Lanka won’t be able to offer this magical feel by just operating a houseboat in a lake. And this in no way is going to affect Kerala,” he said.

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Posted by on Apr 29 2012. Filed under Kerala News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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