A small coastal town ideal for a brief visit on arriving or leaving Sri Lanka.
Negombo is a mere 6km from Bandaranaike International Airport making it a great place to stay for a night or two either side of a trip to Sri Lanka.
Our opportunity to visit was on arriving in Sri Lanka. The flight didn’t arrive until 11:30 pm after some 30 plus hours of travelling so we were all too happy to arrive at the Camelot Beach Hotel. Being a few days before Christmas is was nice to see the hotel had decorated – although it was somewhat strange to see snowmen when it was about 85F outside and we were dripping with sweat from the humidity! It was so good to finally get to our room and hit the sack.
The next day we, of course, were up early – got to love jetlag – and decided to head out to the beach. Unsurprisingly, we were one of the first people out there – but we were still accosted by some locals trying to sell us things! The beach was very pleasant and it was great to feel the warmth of the sun even at this early hour. The hotel grounds are very pleasant with a largish pool and areas to sit and enjoy the ambience. Unfortunately, we were heading out early so were not able to really enjoy what the Camelot Beach Hotel had to offer.
St. Mary’s Church
Our first stop after leaving the hotel was to visit the Neoclassical St. Mary’s Church, which was completed in the 1920s. Whilst the majority of the population of Sri Lanka are Buddhists, Negombo has a large bilingual population of Roman Catholics, known as Negombo Tamils who have their own Tamil dialect but mostly identify themselves as Sinhala.
There are was a considerable amount of security at the church – a result of the bombings that targeted churches and hotels in Colombo in April 2019 – but we got to go into the church and have a quick look around. After our recent visit to Mexico where the Catholic churches are lavishly decorated it was refreshing to see the simplicity of St. Mary’s – the only real flourish of grandeur was the lovely decorated ceiling.
Negombo has a large fishing community and a splendid fish market. The harbour is packed with many brightly coloured boats that head out in the Indian Ocean and bring back a wide array of fish to sell wholesale and to joe public.
The Fish Market
As vegans, we don’t often think about visiting a fish market, but the opportunity to see the bustling fish market in Negombo was too good to turn up. Our driver dropped us off to go and see the fresh market – but we made the mistake of wandering towards the large open area where thousands of fish are laid out to dry on jute sacks. It was not long before we were intercepted by a very friendly local who offered to take us on a tour of the drying area. There was something fishy about this guy (excuse the pun!) but we were tired and susceptible. Anyway, we took us on a meandering trail through the drying fish point out the myriad of different varieties which included barracuda and shark. It was incredibly smelly but incredibly interesting. Occasionally, he would stop and insist we hold a fish up and have our picture taken with him. He also took us to where the fish is prepared for drying, which included de-boning and lathering with salt.
Eventually, our driver caught up with us and redirected us towards the fresh fish stalls. Our friendly guide followed us obviously looking for a reward. I gave him a few hundred rupees and he pressed me for 5000 rupees. This really pissed me off so I brushed him off and quickly sought the sanctuary of our driver who sent the man away with a few choice words in Sinhalese.
Madampe Murugan Kovil – Hindu Temple
As we left Negombo to travel to the interior of Sri Lanka along the road to Chilaw our driver gave us the chance to stop and explore the Madampe Murugan Kovil a Hindu temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Muruga is also known as Lord Karthikeya, and is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
This is a large temple and as we pulled in there was a lot of activity going on inside with plenty of chanting and the rhythmic beating of drums. Not wanting to be invasive we did a quick tour of the outside of the temple took a couple of photos and headed out.