In Alleppey we stayed near the beach. It was a long white-sand beach, but steep and wind-blown and not too nice for swimming (not to mention, there aren't any toilets, so the area just above the tide line seemed to be the makeshift answer for the people living along the coast). But it was beautiful and we all enjoyed being close to salt water again.
From Alleppey we took the "government boat" to Kollam -- 8 hours down the canals. It was a beautiful ride but we had seats in the lower deck which was near the engines and LOUD. Cool to see so many little villages, water birds, and even jellyfish swimming up the rivers:
We spent two nights in Kollam. The first night we stayed at a simple hotel but splurged on a fancy meal at a mid-range hotel and decided to spend the second night in relative luxury (TV, even!). We signed up for a canoe tour of the backwaters and had quite a memorable time when one of the other four tourists (thankfully, not on our canoe) spent most of the ride drinking hard alcohol he'd snuck in a Coke bottle. He kept jumping out of the canoe to go swimming (I guess he didn't realize where the waste from all those houses was going!), then at some point got too drunk to get back in the canoe. There was a lot of flopping around on muddy riverbanks and one very angry canoe paddler. When we were on our way back to the mainland and waiting on the ferry, he first got in an argument with Tim, then disappeared off towards the villages on foot. After some discussion the guide decided he couldn't leave him there and conscripted Tim to help. The boys and I piled into a cab with the other 3 tourists (2 women from England, one from Quebec) while the men captured the runaway and used their bodies to "lock" him into the backseat for the drive back to Kollam. The boys were quite amazed and amused by the turn of events, the guide and drivers not so amused.
We ended up hiring a cab to take us to our next destination: Varkala beach. We stayed in a small hotel just a bit inland from the cliffs. Varkala was surprisingly (for those who don't do their homework) filled with international tourists. Everyone was white, it was very strange. Well, 99% of the tourists were white, 1% were British Indians, and the remainder Indian tourists. The people selling stuff seemed to be mostly from Kashmir and North Karnataka while the guys working the restaurants were from Assam and Tibet. Very strange. But the beach was lovely and we got great food and had a great time.
Our last leg before heading home was from Varkala, Kerala to Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. We took the train for this part, but due to the fact that it's a single track most of the way, it was very, very late getting in. Kanakumari is a pretty neat place to visit. Where else can you see three oceans at once and know that there is no other land between you and Antarctica. It's an over-grown temple town (I'd place a temple here too) dedicated to Kanya Kumari, Virgin Goddess of the Sea. She's actually an incarnation of Devi/Durga who came to earth to battle a demon. Dunno why, but with Hindu religion, it's almost always the goddesses who have to clean up the bad guys.
Our hotel here was fine except that it was a stone's throw away from the Catholic Church which for some ungodly (and I mean that in all senses) reason decided that it needed to blast out sunrise service (5:30-8am every morning) on loudspeakers. I mean, really? What's the point? But, I guess it got us up in plenty of time to see the gorgeous sunrises....
Then, finally, it was time for the 24-hour train ride home. The first 3 hours or more we were the only ones on our coach and the kids got to practice running with the train (how fast does that make you?), then it filled up. Aside from the bloodthirsty bedbugs, riding an overnight Indian train was a lot of fun.