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Made from oiled jackwood and canopies of plaited palm leaves, kettu vallam rice barges have for centuries been used to transport produce around the Kuttanad backwater region of southern Kerala. These days, however, paying passengers are more common cargoes for the houseboats, many of which have been luxuriously converted with air-con bedrooms, silk-cushioned observation decks and even the odd Jacuzzi. They are so numerous along some stretches of water that local people seem oblivious to them as they go about their daily chores of washing clothes, fishing, paddling canoes and looking after huge floating duck farms.