Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ages since I last blogged 09/09/2016

I guess blogging has become old fashioned, now that tweets, instagram and other daily briefs have taken over. Well, guess I'll put one out just for old times sake.

Here's some of the main developments over the last couple of years. I have given up my lake front guesthouse, and sold my boat. It was getting too hectic and too busy with trying to control all three entities. So I now concentrate only on the guesthouse, and have taken a houseboat on lease.

I am in the third year of indulging in my latest wonderful new passion. No, it's not a new girlfriend, although I will forgive those who think so, because, well there is a new girlfriend. No, this is better than a girlfriend, and almost better than sex. It is a new hobby, the only hobby that I've ever had that does not cost me money. I am writing a book. Yay, now you know. Yup, its an epic historical (light fantasy, a bit of horror, romance, theme, martial arts, etc. thrown in) novel set in eighteenth century India. I will not say more. Read it when it comes out, if it comes out:-)

In the business front, we are still there, but not flourishing as before, because of competition. Thus, I have just completed a total overhaul of the property, and hope to catch up with online promotion, and seek other avenues such as domestic tourists to augment the drop in International tourist check ins.

I bought a car, taxi actually and gone on some wonderful India vacations.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not Johnson's alleppey kerala, "Romance" is where its at

I acquired this picturesque lakeside guesthouse - 'VJ's Rice Garden- a backwater resort, a few months back.. I took it keeping in mind the requirements for my eco houseboat. It's a nice quiet spot and i can draw power for the boat from the guesthouse there, as well as other advantages. It has 5 rooms and as the reason tourists come to Alleppey is for the backwaters, what better than a budget guesthouse right on the lake front as the perfect antidote for those tourists who are on a budget and cannot afford a houseboat overnight cruise? But, the more time I spend over there, the more I realize that it was a brilliant acquisition. Just sitting by the edge of the lake, looking out on to the water, or watching the sunset over the paddy fields, or watching the birds, insects, butterflies passing over the property- it's magic fairy land countryside. Walking over the narrow pathways adjacent to the resort is refreshing. And I have bought a goat (which has delivered two cute playful lambs) exotic hens, ducks, quails, turkeys, geese, etc.It's almost like a farmhouse now. It's a great spot for fishing, for walks, or simply to sit there looking at the lake, it's all good. Go for canoeing,and the sunsets over the paddy fields are amazing. This place is much better than most of the lakeside guesthouses by the finishing point or Punnamada lake, as it's less busy here, and there's a much more wider lake to gaze out to. Less houseboats passing by also, unlike the busier Finishing point side guesthouses- it's almost completely noise free. An island maybe, as you have to take a canoe to get there, (5 minutes crossing). The only debate I have with myself is should I go in for Internet or wi fi here. Right now, it's techno free. But i am not sure how long i can keep it that way, as all tourists now want access to the net. I have named it 'Romance', and the rooms have been painted in romantic hues. The whole woody feel to the place is great- lots of plants and trees, the river in front and the paddy fields behind, a little paradise, really!. And I have just released fish and prawn hatchlings into my pond on the resort. In a couple of months time, there will be fresh fish and prawns for my guests there also. And i am planning to put some lotus and lily plants into my pond as well. Can it get any better? :-) I never realized the value of this place till I started spending time there. Now, I try to spend as much time as possible there, whenever my busy schedule permits. Can't understand why tourists come to Alleppey and stay in beach resorts. Folks, the backwaters is where the magic is!! In alleppey, go to the lake, cruise on a houseboat, stay in a lakeside resort. Do not stay at Johnson's,Alleppey,Kerala or the Secret beach:-). "Romance" is where it's at. Johnson Gilbert 18/10/2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

The greatest salesman ever vs the worst

The greatest salesman ever must surely be Barack Obama. Black man with roots in Africa -unlikeliest person to become President of the most powerful country on Earth. Yet he did. He sold the American dream (second one, the first was Capitalism and we know what happened to that)to the Americans, and to the rest of the world, and didn't we buy it. Rememeber those "Yes we can" and "Change" slogans? Them speeches-"This is the time the planet is going to heal" and the soap opera like elections? I was one of those billions who thought this guy was really going to do some good for the world and for America. A few years down the road, and we know that all those promises he made was just words that he never intended to fulfill. It was just the right words at the right time (one could argue that anyone would have been better after Bush).The planet did not heal. Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are still occupied. Oops, forgot Tibet. Now, there's Syria, Lybia, and i guess they will not be satisfied until they have all the world's oil under their control. Regime change for the good of democracty? Hah, as if.

The greatest man who ever lived in quite a few polls would be, should be "Mahatma" Gandhi. He introduced the top most weapon of mass destruction known to mankind - "Ahimsa" or Non violence. And demonstrated it's use by winning India independence from a 'great' nation -England. And how did we Indians thank him. We killed him. With a conventional weapon - the gun. And how did the world honour him? By never using his incredible weapon again- ever. oh, he did inspire a couple of honorable copycat exceptions. Like Martin Luther King. Who Americans say was the greatest man who ever lived. Well, he met Gandhi's fate as well. Then there's Nelson Mandela, who Africans say was the greatest man who ever lived. Though he couldn't resist resorting to violence when he realized Gandhism found no takers in white racist South Africa. Or maybe he realized he wasn't as good or did not have the determination or skill of Gandhi. At least Mandela survived to die of natural causes. Of course, they did lock him away for a couple of decades. Bit of torture too. All forgiven now and maybe even forgotten keeping in mind that the blacks are in power in South Africa. I wonder why the 'World Community ' does not have any problems with black supremacists in South Africa and especially Zimbabwe, where they are throwing out the white boy farmers. Is it because, as the Zimbabweans claim publicly, 'that they do not have oil'. Am I getting off track here. Save that for my next blog.

World needs a hero. So there's hope that the next Gandhi (if or whenever there is such a person again) might not be killed. We could even make him out to be the next pop star icon- - kinda like MJ or Che. Imagine Lennon singing Gandhi's lyrics. A Lennon/M.Gandhi duo?:-) Back to Gandhi. The past dead poor simple Gandhi. Who would probably turn in his grave with the thought of his new incarnation being a pop star/icon version.Technically, Gandhi could claim to be the top arms manufacturer of all time. He demonstrated to the world how brilliantly his weapon could be used. But no one bought his invention. Though it's probably the only way a nation can win a war with no casualties to either side. Hope the people who gloat about how drones & modern warfare by rich industrialized nations can win wars with minimum or no casualties- to their side, are reading this. On second thought, nah, they'll be too busy plotting how to bring down the next dictator (oil rich only). And developing the next 'how to kill from distance' toy.

The world needs a new Gandhi coming from the rich developed nations. Who's going to listen to someone from the less privileged countries? Did anyone follow the ideals or legacy of Gandhi- the original?! Johnson Gilbert htttp://

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tripadvisor scam/ Tripadvisor blog/Tripadvisor alleppey kerala India

It's been only a few years that Tripadvisor picked up in India, but they have eaten into the Indian tourism market. The likes of Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Guide du Routard et al have been caught with their pants down as Tripadvisor is being used extensively now by International tourists.

But, not a lot of tourists realize that Tripadvisor asks hotels to pay a yearly amount of 300 or more dollars (just heard the rate has gone upto $1000/- dollars per year) for their listing. In India. Those who do not pay are punished. How. Read on!

Tripadvisor supports those who pay. And they have clever, subtle ways of promoting places that are not listed in the guide books. So these guesthouses (ones not in Lonely planet) pay tripadvisor as it's a great source for getting customers. The guide books- fierce competitors with Tripadvisor do not put in guesthouses that have top listings in tripadvisor. And vice versa. With exceptions, of course. I do not think it's good for the tourism business. Either for the guesthouses or for the tourists themselves.In Alleppey, if you google Allepey, Kerala, Tripadvisor, you will find that invariabily the number one to three ranked Tripadvisor listings are not listed in the guide books. It also pays for Tripadvisor not to have one particular guesthouse on top of rankings for too long. They need competetion amongst hotels, and capitilize on it. Hence, every year, they increase their annual fees. Hotels already caught in their web, have no option but to cough up, or else get punished. How? - contact details taken off site, suddenly no new reviews, or worse, no good reviews. Owners can't give replies to reviews( good or bad ). Those who do pay have all these facilities plus perks. I've done my research. Problem is, nobody wants to put their head out and speak the truth. The whole system is designed such that, however genuinely good the guesthouse or hotel is, or however good they pretend to be,sooner or later a guest is going to put in a bad review- for whatever reason. That's human nature. Tripadvisor cannot protect an establishment from one of their "senior contributors" (hard core tripadvisor types who contribute more bad reivews than good ones). So these people do their job for them. It's brilliant but also criminal. There are some out there, who actually seem to travel just for this.(putting out bad reviews just to trash some establishment 'cause of percieved faults)

It's common knowledgethat a lot of hotels have started pampering tourists so that they give good reviews on TA. I had a conversation with an award winning Tripadvisor hotel owner in Kochi who was all for TA. Of course he was. He's not in the guide books. I do not think he ever will be. So TA is his only source of income. I asked him what happens when a guest becomes over demanding or nasty for no reason. He answered that the customer is always right. That sometimes "we have to act". I do not think so. I do not act. Here, there are some guests who arrive after a long ride and are a little irittable after being harassed by tuk tuk drivers or are simply tired. And India does take a toll on some tourists. So when some guests arrive and are not very pleasant on arrival, I tend to be patient and try to pacify them. But, if the same guest wake up the next day and is still rude or unpleasant then they are quickly put in place.

And this has been happening more and more recently. As soon as I get a row of good reviews then hard core tripadvisor type guests come in and act as if they own the place. They get told off and a couple of bad reviews turn up soon enough.

I try to pre-empt these sort of guests by A) Putting out blogs like these, and I am now on Twitter as well where I can post my opinions. B) Welcome sheet that is shown to all guests on arrival which clearly states,to check the room and take it only if they are satisfied.

I am sure Tripadvisor is not in it for the long run. Sooner or later, someone is going to sue the owners and that will be the end of it. It's already happened in the States where a lot of hotels clubbed together to fight tripadvisor. Not sure what happened to that particular case. It seems that tripadvisor is hiding around some antiquated right to information American law. Not too sure how that can protect them in India if someone decides to sue. And a Uk watchdog government agency has asked them to take off "Reviews you can trust" logo from their site. And they have. Had to.

The good side of it is that Tripadvisor does keep guesthouses on it's toes. There are, of course, a lot of bad reivews that are genuine, and some of it includes mine. So, it's like a kick on the backside, when I happen to start slacking off or my staff becomes complacent. But, honestly, I think a lot of complaints about us on tripadvisor are simply out of spite. If a guesthouse that's in the guide books has a percentage of 75% or thereabouts, it's probably as good as the tripadvisor number one listing which will probably not be in the guide books. And the 75% guide book listed hotel will defenitley offer more genuine hospitality than the number one TP listed one. That's guaranteed.

I know that over 99.9 % of my guests leave happy enough. So while I get a lot of tourists here through word of mouth publicity, the same people do not put in good reviews on TP. Maybe they write to the guide books. Probably why I am still in the guide books after 10 years in the tourism business. And hopefully, it will stay that way. Fortunately there's so many guests coming in on 'word of mouth publicity' that the likes of Tripadvisor do not have any effect on my business, except the sour taste it leaves in my mouth when I read a bad review. I assure all my good genuine guests, when tripadvisor finally comest to rest, as they surely will, Johnson's will still be rocking.

And finally I hope the guide books or someone with a little more integrity and understanding of the market start thinking about a worthwhile site to compete with Tripadvisor which is fair to both the hotel owner and the guest. At the moment, Tripadvisor is growing and it's the guide books that are suffering the most. Their main attraction, is that tourists think they can trust other tourists. Also, it's a chance for the average Joe or Judy to play God. And that's powerful human psycholgy that Tripadvisor has tapped into. Of course, to Tripadvisor, it does not matter if your average Joe or Judy the tourist are going to be putting out truthful reviews or not. The guide books could start their own version of tripadvisor and let the guesthouse owner reply to bad or good reviews on a new site that they have the resources and financial clout to start. Unlike Tripadvisor which started off by letting me write my replies, but quickly obstructed me once their presence on my business was established. Now, I have to pay if I want to reply. The hell I will. And even if you reply or not, it still will not change your status on the rankings. The bad review stays and so does the star rating. Meaning that the whole process is loaded in favor of the reviewer. So a tourist who does not get a discount at a particular hotel can put a bad review of that place and even if the owner of that particular establishment replies and proves that the review was not justified, the review and the ranking stays! And the trend of guests giving subtle hints about putting reviews for discounts is also increasing. Sometimes, as I have experienced- they just downright ask for it. No hint here, "do us a favor and we will put a good review, if not..." Tripadvisor needs reviews. Although a hotel can pay and get favors from them ( and they do), their main income is on ads on the site. It's just a scam business that promotes itself as a fair broker. It's anything but.

Let me conclude by stating that no establishment in the hospitality business can claim 100% customer satisfaction- human nature being what it is.

Johnson Gilbert
19/02/2012 8/6/2012 And I just got another mail from Tripadvisor yesterday saying they are going to take away my contact details off Tripadvisor site unless I pay their annual subscription fee of $1000/-. Sure I will :-) Good thing is, it looks like tourists are slowly but surely catching on. However, it's not going to stop them for some time to come. And the owners have already made their fortunes. Johnson Gilbert 9/10/2012 I was just browsing and happened to see quite a few of what I have blogged here on Visit, go to their travel site and search for Tripadvisor. JOhnson Gilbert 16/12/2012 Lot of court cases happening round the world, against Tripadvisor, class action lawsuits in U.S.A., latest being this Scottish gentleman who has won a judgement allowing him to sue for libel and for damages in his country. TA cannot hide under the American laws anymore. And this is definitely going to open the floodgates as far as legal court cases against Tripadvisor is concerned. This is the begining of the end of Tripadvisor. They will go down in history as one of the biggest fraud businesses that happened in the modern world. Johnson's, alleppey,kerala.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eco Houseboat Tariff Options

Option 1 - PREMIUM - Rs.12,000/-/- (For 2 People) 24 hours trip

12.00 noon to 12.00 noon with 2 hours of canoeing.
1/2 an hour lunch break. 6.00 p.m. evening stop.
9 course Lunch includes Fish & veggies, dessert.|
Indian/Continental Breakfast.
Additional lunch before check-out includes roast duck and tapioca.
1 Complimentary Beer per person.
Village walk. Fishing.

And with this option, the Rs.750/- room at Johnson's comes free for a night for two people.

Extra person @1500/- per person. (More people can make the amount less as you pan it around per person).

Option 2 - Mid-range -Rs.10,000/- for 2 people 22 hours trip - 12.00 noon to 10.00 a.m. -
1/2 hour lunch break.
5.30 p.m. evening stop.
6 course dinner includes chicken.
B'fast Indian/continental.
Village walk.Fishing.

And on this option, you are entitled to one night's free stay at the Rs.500/- Eco-art theme room.

Extra person @1500/- per person. (More people can make the amount less as you pan it around per person).

Option 3 - Budget - Rs.8000/- for 2 21 hours - 12.00 noon to 9.00 a.m.
1 hour Lunch break.
5.00 p.m.evening stop.
6 course vegetarian lunch.
5 course dinner including Fish or Chicken. Indian B'fast.
Fishing Village walk.

Choosing this option gets two people a free night's stay at the New Cricket theme room at Johnson's.

Extra person @1500/- per person. (More people can make the amount less as you pan it around per person).

These Three Options include Free To and Fro Transport. Hygienic drinking water, fruits, complimentary welcome drink(non-alcoholic) provided for all options as well.

Option 4 - Super Off season Budget- Rs.6500/-
12.30 to 8.30 am next morning.
Veg Lunch and Dinner.
Break Fast.
1 and half hour lunch break. 5.00 pm evening stop.
Fishing Village walk.

Extra person @1100/- per person. (More people can make the amount less as you pan it around per person).

On this option, there is no free room, it also does not include free to and fro transport to boat and from. The boat has 3 staff - Captain, cook and an assistant. English speaking guide provided @Rs.500/- per hour, for a couple of hours, on request.

Pls add 20% to the houseboat rates for peak season to the houseboat rates (Dec.20th to Jan 30th). During this period, we only take Option 1 trips, & the time of option 1 tour is reduced by half an hour. 12.00 noon to 11.30 a.m.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Johnson's 2012 - 2013 mixed season

A very mixed season, although I did the numbers well, the complaints I got this last season was some of the worst, and I have to say, I got some really bad tourists here as well. I can blame it on the world wide recession, but also have to admit that my tolerance towards testy tourists is wearing thin. Review sites like tripadvsior are partly to blame too. Guests come in, and as in the case of Barbara Ball, who was on her second visit here, actually threatened (disguised) to put a bad review if she did not get a discount. I did not take her seriously as she and her daughter were very friendly on their last visit, but what happens - a not very nice review turns up soon enough. Barbara Ball's was not the worst, there was plenty of really bad ones, but I still put her in the category of worst tourists this season. And not to forget Shaun and 2 friends - English, who I came to a physical confrontation with. Sadly, the English were the worst guests this season. Surprising too as they usually get on very well with me. On the bright side was the number of recommended guests turning up. One would think that Tripadvisor bad reviews would make a dent in my arrivals, but hell, they can kiss my butt, as we did the numbers very well. Another change I am making now, is that I am slowly opening my doors to Indian tourists. I realize that the younger Indian guests are really nice, as opposed to the days when I was starting and it was a really horrid expenrience dealing with Indian guests. In fact, I am also toying with the idea of restricting my guest age group to under 40 years. I know that I get along well much better with younger tourists than with the middle age more demanding over 40 group. I have also taken a new resort- a lake side guesthouse where we berth my houseboat for the evening. Hope it does well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our Services -Now I have it all and we're going eco.

Eco -eatery.

I had this space at the back of the house which was lying unused. It's now turned it into a garden restaurant for my in house guests. We do bbq's here daily from 7.00 p.m. on and I am getting a wonderful response from it. I have also put in a new smart t.v. there on which I can play 3D movies using playstation3. My guests are mostly amazed 'cause nobody who have been here so far have seen 3D on t.v. Just like on my eco houseboat I make sure that the food we serve is plentiful, and non-spicy. My tables are pretty unusual too. And if I may say so myself, very creative. Visit us to find out what's so creative about it. And order a meal while you're at it:-( It's also become the lounge area and is connected to my old bamboo cottage which has now become the internet and wi-fi hub. As well as the bathroom for the restaurant. And how is it eco? Well I just put in an order yesterday for a bio-gas plant which will convert all food waste to cooking gas. Cool or what? Of course the lights are soon going to be solar too.


I got into yoga and kalari (kerala martial arts) couple of years back and was pretty happy about it. And since quite a few of our guests were into yoga, I asked my yoga/Kalari teacher to give lessons for my guests at home for rs.200/- per class. And it's going good.

Cooking class

Everyone in Fort Kochi guesthouses are doing it and hey, if they can do it, so can I. i have an excellent lady cook who speaks some english and I charge rs.200/- per person per class for it. All the money goes to my cook, so it keeps her happy. And when the cook is happy, we are happy.Everyone is happy when the cook is happy. Secret to a happy household - keep you r cook happy, never mind the wife:-(

Electric Moped

Ok, so it's our 10th year aniversary celebrations and since i have been bloggin about climate change and how the world should be going eco and all that - well, what better way than to set an example. As a lot of eco scientists say, there's money in going eco. So, I bought myself an electric scooter - the eco-bike I call it. It gives me only 50 kilometers at one go before a 6 hour re-charge, but that's cool. And importantly, I can and am renting it out to my guests for Rs.250/- a day. It's got a speed limit of 25 k's. Which means you do not need a helmet or a license to ride it. That's great for the tourists who do not have to put on helmets and do not need a license. So I put my money where my mouth is - i walk the talk or should I say, I ride the talk.

Internet and wi-fi

Finally I bought a computer and have installed wi-fi in the restaurant. Wi-fi is kinda rare in Alleppey. So my guests are pretty thrilled that I can give them this facility at my place.


My orchid garden suffered a setback recently when I inadvertantly sprayed pesticide on them mistakently. Quite a few died off. But I have now replaced it with new ones.

Washing machine

Another of my X'mas splurges, is this new smart washing machine which cost me plenty. There's a lot of tourists who want to have their clothes washed, and then complain later about stains or whatever. I plan on giving them use of the washing machine at Rs.100/-. However much they can wash at one go. My staff will instruct them on the use of the machine, but the guests do their own washing. And buy their own washing powder and stuff. So no complaints and no extra work for my staff.

Feb 19 2012

20/04/2012 And now, my proudest eco achievement after my houseboat. I have installed solar lights in all guest rooms at my homestay. Cool or what?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ten Years - The Highlights

It's been 10 years that I started Johnson's in Alleppey, Kerala, India. As in every business there are always some moments/memories that one treasures or are unforgettable for a variety of reasons. I will share some of them with you on this blog.

1- Early Years

I remember standing at the boat jetty and bus stand waiting for tourists to arrive so that I could hustle them into staying at my guesthouse. This was really the pits, as I had just finished up with my music shop and party DJ career in Kochi and was something of a celebrity then. But, to start any new business, you have to start from the bottom up and that's exactly where I began. One big advantage I had those days was my English. No one in the tourism business in Alleppey could speak good English. And so I did better than most other touts or guides at that time. There was this couple sometime in that first season who comes to mind. I managed to convince them to come to my place. I put them on a tuk tuk from the bus or boat terminus and waited for other tourists to arrive. When I got back home, the couple met me and asked me what I was doing there. When I said I owned the house, they couldn't believe it!

2- Randy

One of our first guests, I believe it was in the first or second week, was this extrovert 50 something American male nurse named Randy. Randy loved talking, and over dinner one evening the conversation turned to Euthanasia. Remember Jack Kevorkian, he was in the news those days. This was on the 3rd or 4th day that Randy was staying with us and we had become friends, kind of. But, I was stunned and horrified when Randy opened up said he had administered euthanasia to two of his patients. Man, I had a murderer in the house!

3- Basil Gabriel

And there was this other American, Basil Gabriel, also 50 something who came to stay one night and ended up staying 3 consecutive months. Still the record as the longest staying guest at Johnson's or The Nest as we were known then. He loved Alleppey and I think he stayed a bit longer than he would have, especially as the monsoon set in- because in those early days I was not well off, and he was simply helping us by staying. Basil was an India addict and visited us two or 3 times more over the next couple of seasons. Basil Gabriel never left India. He died of a heart attack somewhere in Rajasthan. Dear sweet Basil. Will never be forgotten.

4- Lonely Planet

One day, in only our second season a friend received a call from a guest who said they wanted to stay with us because we were in the Lonely Planet. I did not believe him. At that time I wasn't even sure I wanted to continue on in the business. A week later a couple turns up and showed me the new Lonely Planet and yes, we were in it. I was stunned- in only our second season? We haven't looked back since.

5- Worst guests ever

French couple from hell- One of the guides who worked for me in those early years brought in this French couple. We had only two rooms then and both of them were full. These were the days when mobile phones were not that common as it is now. Anyway, I gave them a room in my neighbour's house (after due apologies), but they were furious. The neighbour called after some time saying the couple were creating a scene at her place. I went over to check it out and found the guy in the street walking about like a lunatic. I confronted him and told him to cool off- nicely. The couple was on dope or something and tried to throw a tantrum. I finally told him to bugger off, when the crazy nutter drew a knife on me! It was a small pen knife and I laughed in his face. When he found he couldn't scare me, he withdrew muttering. I asked them to vacate the premises. Finally, they left.

Bearded James- Much more recently, think it was last season, this English gentleman calls to book a double room. Right from the time he entered the house, the guy started complaining. I wasn't there, but over the phone told him if he did not want to stay I would be happy to find a tuk tuk for him to move somewhere else. The man and his girlfriend stayed. Next day they took my houseboat, with few others. He came back, stayed in the same room again and then came to have a talk with me about how poor the facilities were. This man was complaining all the time and went on about how he got freebies every other place he had stayed in.I said it was not on in my place. The guy was obviously trying to get me to give him freebies or discounts and did not like it that I wouldn't budge. He left bitchin' and then left a long and nasty review on Tripadvisor which had a lot of half truths and outright lies. The French couple was eccentric, but even with the knife out, I did not feel any real threat. James was quite the most disgusting person who stayed with us.

Single female traveller syndrome-

Single female travellers, especially the older ones are sometimes a bother. A significant number travel alone maybe 'cause they do not have a boyfriend or have come off a bad relationship and is travelling to India for the 'spiritual fix'. Let me be clear, this is not a generalization. But I find that quite a few of them are troublesome. They are not happy and try to make others less happy. And these days it is not just the single females, even the ones coming 2 or 3 together are beginning to be unpleasant tourists. I think they get away with bad behaviour at other places and try to capitalize on their femininity in unfair ways. Not in my place. Thank you. Once again, this is not every female traveller or every group of female travellers that I am complaining about. We have had some wonderful ladies staying with us. Coup;e of them are listed in the 'Best ever' category.

6- Best guests ever

Johnson- Rob Johnson. Rob (English) came first in the fall of 2003 or 4. He came because of my homestead's name (a nice name, right?). He's been coming in every fall since except this season. I look forward to his visits. He's now a good friend. It's great to have someone come back. Different from the here today, houseboat tomorrow guests I usually have.

Peetu and Letty-

The monsoon usually brings in budget travellers who are not too happy with the weather. But, this unforgettable Spanish couple walks in one rainy night with this huge smile on their faces. They were young, cheerful, happy and made us happy. They left even happier too as it was World Cup Soccer time and they left with their smiles even broader as Spain won the semifinals the day before they left. Michael and his girlfriend- Aussies- who visited us in our first year. And then came back again in our tenth- had my original card with them. I wasn't sure I recognized them at first but over their visit it started coming back to me. Nice, very nice, that they came back after all these years. Olivia & Sammy - Cool gals- Single female travellers, I am including Olivia here in this 'best of' list especially now after a couple of nasty tripadvisor reviews which mentioned this blog. Well, Olivia also read this blog, came in to have a pow wow with me and my friends, had a good laugh with me about what she thought of the blog- the single white traveller part, of course. She stayed with us one weekend, came back the next weekend, had a rollicking night with a few beers thrown in, and then took my ecohouseboat with another single lady traveller. Olivia also left a tripadvisor review. Check it out. Sammy came in with a group of volunteers, came back without them after a week, and stayed 3 or 4 nights, very friendly girl. Recommended lots of guests to me. e

The majority of our guests are fortunately nice people and 99% are happy to stay here. I wish I could name all of my special guests but space will not allow it. However, some who do come to mind are John Roberts, Maya, Tristan, Derek Taylor, Gregory Walker, Armelle and not to forget, the Irish, my fave nationality......................

7- Music

Gregory Walker - Famous American violinist contacted me about a musical journey /documentary - (Song of the Untouchables) he was planning to do in Kerala. I arranged almost his entire 2 week stay in Kerala including 3 days on the Eco houseboat. One night was at a flutist friend's place in Kochi where he jammed with Ashka and his band mates playing Indo jazz rock. Then this unforgettable session with a Dj that I arranged where Gregory played along with the Dj. That was the most amazing violin playing I have heard in my life. It was an excellent violin itself, an electric one and didn't Greg know how to play it. Amazing. Brilliant violinist, wonderful persona.

8- Building my houseboat

Not just a highlight of my 10 years in the tourism business, this was one the highlights of my life. I finally created something that I visualized, conceptualized, designed and had built. And the result, the most successful and popular houseboat in Kerala. I get most of my recommendations because of this eco houseboat .

9- The night we partied

I am a former DJ and still like my music. And there's quite a few occasions when travellers turn up with a guitar and a song. A few beers and it's party time. One such session had Paul - a Canadian guitarist singer, who led the group of guests into one long vibrant music session. Paul started singing and strumming, this French lady took it up, and she could sing well. There was this Italian bloke who was shy initially. Few beers and some cool vibes later, my man opened up and belted out some on the spot made up blues. What a voice. What a night it turned out to be. Real special. Chris and Emma, who took my boat the next day was there and immortalized that night in their blog which is still present on the net waves.

10-Eco houseboat- One of 3 in the Rough Guide

I was pretty thrilled when the guesthouse got listed in the Lonely Planet. The next best thing was when my houseboat was only one of 3 that's listed in the last Rough Guides edition. That was a special moment too as I work pretty hard on giving my guests the best possible houseboat experience. Yes, it was well deserved. The French guide book- Guide du Routard, the Footprint guide book also has my boat listed. But Lonely planet spoils it a bit by saying my boat is overpriced.

Yes, it's been a great 10 years. Was it worth it? Yes, financially, of course. I was down and out when I started this new business. So it's helped me make a fresh start in life. And most of all - and this is important - I enjoy it. It is sometimes stressful in peak season when there are guests walking in at midnight or even later. But, it's worse when I do not have any in the off season (June). Fortunately, the off season seems to be shortening every passing year. And my business seems to increasing every year. Only exception to that was the year the Tsunami struck. And then last season, although we did the numbers pretty well, the tourists budgets have lessened on account of the recession.

Thank you.

26/3/2012 28/11/2012 This article seems to be ruffling a few feathers. Some really nasty reviews on tripadvsior are coming in with this blog being mentioned. Some guests openly tell me that they feel uncomfortable with the 'worst tourists ever' part, and a few female travellers are not taking kindly to the 'single female traveller' part. Everything in here is the truth. It is not over dramatized, exaggerated or contains outright lies & half truths, unlike the tripadvisor comments that mentioned this blog and some of the other nastier revfiews about us.. One of the reasons I keep it in the guest rooms is to let our guests know that we've been there, and done that. If it's taken in the wrong context, well, I got to take it on the chin, if it's taken for what it is ( and I will leave it to the guest to decide what it is :-), hey, come on down and let's have a chat and a beer:-) Johnson Gilbert

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I wonder when the world will finally stop talking and start doing something about Climate change, surely the biggest threat to mankind's existence.
We have huge media coverage on it, so awareness or lack of it is not the problem. But collective effort and the sacrifices necessary to arrest detiorating abnormal weather patterns is a problem.
Instead of shifting our focus to the world financial meltdown, shouldn't our politicians, writers, thinkers, economists, and others who can make a difference pay more atteention to the Polar glacier meltdown. Better, still, they could solve both problems with an interactive solution, as, after all, climate change is the freak off-spring of unbridled capitalism.
Now that capitalism has failed, a newer path to a fairer world financial system not dependant on oil and coal but to instead encourage and develop alternate greener fuel /energy solutions can emerge if the right people have the necessary will. A new world order is overdue anyway, one which brings about change for the better to all people of all nations.
At Johnson's and on our houseboat, we have CFl bulbs now, and hygenic drinking water available in cans so that tourists can refill their plastic drinking bottles. So, I've done a little bit, wish I was knowledgable enough to do more.
Dec27th 2009 - Day after 5ht anniversary of Asian Tsunami.
Kyoto to Copenhagen- they're still talking and nothing's getting done. Seems to me, it's only the media who's highlighting climate change now. But, where are all the young people, who will be the most affected? They're the ones who should be leading the protests, forcing governments to take the drastic steps necessary for them to survive a few years from now on. FROM WHAT I'VE SEEN OF THE YOUNG TOURISTS WHO VISIT US, NONE OF THEM SEEM TO BE EVEN AWARE OF THE CRISIS. SIGN O' THE TIMES, I RECKON.

If I or anyone in Kerala needed proof of global warming, it came to us in the form of the hottest summer this year. I never usually sweat in the guesthouse - our house has a lot of greenery and thick walls plus high ceilings which keeps everything quite cool in the worst sumer days, but not this season. I sweated plenty. Glad it's over. Along with the highest temperatures ever, Kerala also recorded the highest ever beer sales this season. So I guess, we've found a way to beat global warming. Drink more beer! 3/11/2012 When a natural disaster hits USA or Europe it's declared Climate change. When bigger climate change disorders hits elsewhere like Asia, nobody bothers. Guess it will take a rally big one like the Tsunami that hit Asia, to happen in the western world before someone will finally do something. Till then', whatever happens in the developing world, it ain't Climate change, stupid.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

About my new Houseboat


The Pride is doing wonderfully well now, the general opinion of the guests who are taking it is that it is the best in Kerala, and the options that I've introduced for the boat makes it easier for all tourist of all budgets to take the boat as per their budget and requirement. My only problem is that guests do not know how lucky they are to take our boat - the 3 options, the service and the friendliness of the staff are unlike what many tourists experience on other boats and in that I guess I'm pretty lucky with getting the right crew. Yes, my men on the boat are just perfect. Nice people for the Best Houseboat In Kerala.



It's finsished, done, whew. Did a couple of daytrips and one overnight trip already.


I started building my new houseboat Johnson's 'The Pride', last August 2007, to be exact, and it's due to be finished sometime in December 2008 this year.

What an experience, building a new houseboat is. I started building the new one right from scratch, right from sourcing the wood off the trees of an estate of this fine Kottayam gentleman. So, I struck a price for 7 trees, huge 'Anjili' or jackwood trees, some as wide as 100 inches wide. Then we got down to the business of cutting down these trees and unlike in the west, here everything's done by human power (getting a crane into the estates was impossible , 'cause of the terrain). Once the cutting and felling of these trees were over, I had to get elephants, yes, elephants to move the fallen logs to the edge of the estate, where the elephants placed them onto a lorry and took them to the mill, where it was cut into planks. This whole proces itself took about 5 months, and then we transported the planks to the houseboat building dock in Alleppey, or Alappuzha as I am supposed to call my town now. Here, they put the hull of the boat together, another 4 or 5 months, and on May 4th 2008, we finally rolled it into the water, and yippee, it floated. I took a break for the next few months on account of the monsoon and we've just started work again, on the top portion of the boat. This was one hell of an experience, dealing with different types of people, labour problems, at one time the mill where I was cutting the planks in Kottayam, caught fire and I thought, there goes my wood and investment. Luckily, they brought the fire under control and I could continue . Almost every tourist who stays with us does the houseboat trip and one FAQ from them is how much it costs to build a boat. So let me tell u , it costs anything between 1.8 million (which is what I expect my final expense to be) to 5 or 6 million that some people put into boats these days in Alleppey. It's now become almost like a status symbol, the houseboat, and everyone wants to make their boat more expensive, if not better, than the next guy's. I am not joining the rat race though, I know exactly what my customers want, and it is designed by myself for that purpose, I'm making it as eco-friendly as possible and as puting in as much of nature produce in it as I can. On my new boat, the luxury is in it's nature eco-friendliness. International tourists would have seen enough luxury, state of the art gadgets and gizmos, and the latest of them in yachts or boats that already plies in Europe, America, or elsewhere in the western world. Oh, and another FAQ is how long it takes to build one - well, you can make a houseboat in Alleppey in as little as 4 or 5 months, there are a lot of contractors out there who just makes the hull, or the whole thing in maybe even less time. But, that's just business, they do it for money and God knows how long the boat's going to last. I've already spent more than a year on mine, and I'm still not in a hurry to finish it even though the season is fast getting to peak. I want mine exactly the way I visualize it, and I want to do it in my own time. So there. But back to the actual making, the one thing that I've done is to take the entire thing , right from cutting the trees, to the elephant moving the logs part, the making of the hull, getting the engine off a dilapidated old bus and converting it into the engine for the boat, everything else of the making of the boat , I've captured it on video. And at the end, I'll be releasing a making of the houseboat video. I'm the only person who's taken the whole thing, captured the entire process of making a houseboat on video.

I'll keep u guys posted on how it goes with the boat.


It's Feb 2009 and I still haven't finisihed theboat. Thought it would be done by Dec 2008. But, no worries, I think I'm closing the deal very soon. We just had the first trial and I felt real proud( and relieved) when the babe moved into the backwaters. Doing the interiors now, and I'm driving the head carpenter and his workers nuts. They just can't understand why someone should want the whole room on the upper deck and just 2 bathrooms and loads of space below. But, when it's finsihed, I think the design is going to surprise a lot of people and some may want to copy the design. I might very well start a new trend in houseboat design.

Keep every one posted on how it goes.