Updated on May 1, 2020
Day 1 of Sri Lanka Trip, Negombo on July 11, 2017
First day of our Sri Lanka trip.
We didn’t have much sightseeing planned for the day, apart from dealing with jet leg, which we addressed by sleeping all the way till noon. It was the natural thing to do as we arrived on a late-night flight and checked in at the hotel
late yesterday early this morning.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent this extra day in the airport town of Negombo in case anything wrong happened to our short connection at Kuala Lumpur. With our checked bags failing to make it onto the connecting flight, this extra day helped as otherwise our bags would chase us all over the nation.
Negombo was a small town without much to see, so my friends and I just decided to head out at noon, find a restaurant for lunch, go for a walk in the beaches, check out the fish market and the churches, that’s pretty much for the day.
Like most hotels
aimed at foreign visitors in Negombo, our hotel was located in North Negombo near the Jetwing beach, there’s also where most restaurants aimed at foreign visitors were located. By comparison downtown Negombo was like way too Sri Lankan, especially for foreigners fresh off airplane.
So we had no difficulties locating a restaurant for lunch near our hotel.
After that, we began to learn that restaurants in Sri Lanka take forever to prepare orders.
After lunch, we headed South along the Negombo Beach.
Then there’s Negombo Beach. Since July was not the best season for Sri Lanka’s South-West coast, and our swimming suits were in suitcases in Kuala Lumpur, there’s no way we would do any swimming. In fact, even coming close to sea carried some risk, as the high waves from time to time splashed water ashore.
But walking down the beach I felt this authentic and unpleasant smile of ocean. It’s the smile of fishing boats and their gears nearby, mixed with animal excrement and sewage that’s also part of the beach. Despite the luxury hotels that were rising up along Negombo’s shoreline, thanks to its proximity to the country’s gateway airport, this beach remained local and original, as I walked past youngsters playing soccer, couples kissing each other among foreigners sunbathing.
Like it or not, this is Negombo Beach. I guessed most visitors couldn’t stand this authenticity, that why hotels here got swimming pools.
And that’s why we got back to the main street after walking 500 meters on the beach.
Once we got back to main street things got more interesting, as this was a better peek hole into this country. We saw schoolboys performing double acrobatics with bicycles (Sights of two people riding one bicycle were frequent, but the second person would never sit on the back seat, instead he would, in various postures managed to stay on the pipe between the wheels. That’s quite a sight for us), we saw ice cream tricycles with music, we saw Saint Mary at every intersection blessing the traffic (She wasn’t afraid of being hit at all), it wasn’t boring at all walking the streets of Sri Lanka (probably because in the coming days we got a chauffeur driver and didn’t walk that much).
St. Sebastian’s Church
Catholic Church patterned on the Reims Cathedral in France constructed in 1936 and said to be the nicest looking church in Negombo.
It was prayer time when we arrived at St. Sebastian’s Church, so we just looked around the church itself.
It’s interesting to me that major churches in Negombo all seemed to have an affiliated school by its side. For Saint Sabastian Church, it was a primary school with a few classrooms and a narrow corridor. It was so small that when I was taking the previous photo, technically my feet were standing “outside” the school.
After that, we headed farther South. There’s a Western Union along the way, which provided pretty decent exchange rates for foreign currencies, especially United States Dollar.
Negombo Fish Market
Guess this is the most famous tourist attraction of Negombo. Every morning fishermen return from the sea (or the nearby Lagoon) with their catch of the day. They processed and sold their catch in this market.
But since we arrived in the afternoon, there were no sights of returning fishermen in triumph.
One thing I wasn’t so fond of Negombo Fish Market, that there seemed to have an abnormally large dog population, and I’m not a big fan of
And there’s the smell of dried fish at the beach. But since we had been to the beach earlier in the day and acquainted ourselves with something, it wasn’t that bad. (Anyway, I’d been worse at the Chouara Tannery in Fes, Morocco).
After that, we took a detour west to check out Negombo Prison, which used to the Negombo Fort on a peninsula. Judging by the name, we could only walk its perimeter as it’s still a functioning prison.
After that, we walked East down Main Street. One interesting fact about this street: from the East to the West, it’s lined with the railway station, jewelry shops, Saint Mary’s Church, lawyer’s offices, district court and Negombo Prison, which perfectly characterized the journey in one’s life of arriving at the town, buying jewelry, walking down the aisle, and then, married spouses cheating on each other, consulting attorneys for divorce, which is granted at the court and serious cheaters in marriage go to jail.
I’m glad we were walking the other direction.
Since this was Main Street of Negombo, there were quite some colonial buildings left. And they did look nice.
St. Mary’s Church
A Roman Catholic church in the heart of the Negombo town built in the 19th Century, one of the largest cathedrals in Sri Lanka.
There were beautiful fresco inside St. Mary’s Church, but photography was not permitted inside the church. We stayed in the church for quite a while enjoying the fresco, until a hearse arrived and our presence was no longer appropriate.
At this hour we thought it was enough walking in Negombo and we should head back to our hotel. Amazingly, I found Uber was available in Negombo, so I tried to arrange a ride. After several minutes of working on the App, here’s what I got:
- Uber in Sri Lanka only accepted cash payments as of July 2017. So I wasn’t able to use my credit card.
- Uber in Sri Lanka was only available in Colombo. But since Negombo was the airport town and Uber wanted its users to arrange rides to/from Negombo Airport, one can hail a Uber in downtown Negombo. But since our hotel was in North Negombo which was out of Airport proximity, I cannot select my hotel as destination. But I can choose “set destination later” in the Uber app to bypass this.
And Uber cars here were like two sizes smaller than US ones.
After that, we stayed in our hotel room until it was dinner time, and we headed out to the restaurant street once more for dinner.
But before that, there was a spectacular sunset to watch over the Indian Ocean.
We had our dinner at a barbecue restaurant, for which we ordered beef, chicken, pork and shrimp. It turned out that while the other three were decent, beef was done way too well that we could hardly chew. So from that night on we said goodbye to beef in every Sri Lanka restaurant.