When I arrived in Negombo for the first leg of my Sri Lanka adventure, it was a stifling 28 degrees, and that was just before 2am. And surprisingly, the international airport offered a mix of duty-free stores and electronic shops selling washing machines. That’s right, washing machines…at the airport.
My digs for the first few days, the Golden Star Beach Hotel, backs onto Negombo Beach and seemed to have mostly older European guests which matched the largely Western buffet breakfast. One waiter told me of a retired couple who leave the UK each winter to spend a few sunny months at the hotel. How’s that for a chilled life?
I knew it would be hot but at over 90% humidity (yikes!), the heat took a few days to adjust to. Luckily with the beach so close and the hotel pool so inviting, multiple dips throughout the day certainly helped to cool things down.
The main street was a sea of primary coloured tuk-tuks and the drivers slow down and give tourists a high-pitched toot as they approach to see if they need a ride.
Local men are very inquisitive, wanting to know where you’re from, what you do for work, how long you’re staying and which places you’re visiting. When I told them I was from Sydney, I was often met with an enthusiastic chorus of Australian cricket player names. To their dismay, I don’t know jack about the game and couldn’t join in the conversation!
As Negombo is an area popular with tourists, there didn’t appear to be a lot of eateries offering traditional Sri Lankan cuisine (hello western fusion). It was a tad difficult to find restaurants that the locals eat at in such a touristy area.
I did manage to find a couple of places offering ‘rice and curry’ for lunch. This generally consists of a large portion of rice and lots of small vegetable curries and sides, with crispy papadums. Each place makes it a little different so it was always a good option when you’re up for some local chow.
On one glorious sunset I went down to the beach to sit by the water and watch the sun go down. At first it seemed a bit strange to me that the beach was SO BUSY but I later realised that it was a full moon and each one is a cause for celebration (and a public holiday) in Sri Lanka. What a great excuse for a party!
A couple of times I saw a man with a small monkey on a lead and it was wearing pants. PANTS! He asked me if I wanted to hold it and take a photo and I said “No, it makes me feel sad.” I’m not sure if my feelings translated but I found it pretty depressing to see someone exploiting an animal for entertainment and to make money.
Once the food tour kicked off, our first excursion was super early in the morning to the Negombo Fish Market, a daily wholesale and retail market with fish auctions on the beach and sales inside the market. It’s known for lobsters, crabs, prawns, tuna yellow fin, shark, kingfish and marlin.
It’s no surprise that I couldn’t and didn’t go into the market (all those dead sea creatures was too much for me to bear) so our guide took me to a simple cafe for a hot and sweet milky tea.
After the market we saw some of the many old canals and visited an archway and clock tower, the remains of a Dutch Fort that was built in 1678.
To see more of my Negombo highlights, click on the photo below to see the Flickr photo album.
Next up: Find out about my visit to a coconut plantation and what the heck toddy tapping is all about.
Want a dose of vegeTARAian in your inbox?
Click here to subscribe to the weekly newsletter