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Negombo: a city with the charm of yesteryear
(Sri Lanka)
 
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DISCOVERING THE NOSTALGIC NEGOMBO


Located close to the international airport, Negombo has a reputation for being either the first or last taste of the country for visitors. We recommend visiting this authentic Sri Lankan city as an epilog to a successful tour of the Island. We relaxed there a couple of days, before getting back to Europe. Less touristy compared with Gale and Kandy, cooler that Colombo, it gave us the opportunity to savor a last, spicy taste of Ceylon...and to avoid the heavy traffic jam on the infamous Colombo Airport highway the morning of our departure: Bandaranaike International Airport is located 7 kilometers away only  We actually chose Negombo for this transportation facility, and don't regret it: this destination is so seducing.





An authentic fishing village, it has kept its charm of yesteryear. Negombo, or Snake Country in Sinhalese, is located on the west coast of Sri Lanka, 37 kilometers from the city centre of Colombo. Surrounded by the sea and a magnificent lagoon, it hosts the most important fishing harbor on the coast, and lives mainly from this activity and tourism. Many species of its lagoon-like crabs, shrimps, lobsters or other fish make the happiness of the inhabitants. As a result, the market is unavoidable. Called the "llelama", it is the second most important of the island. We could see all kinds of fish and crustaceans or even tuna and stripes, placed on the ground. Every morning, there are sales at the auction, that is, sales made directly to the voice by the fishermen. This market is an ideal opportunity to meet the quite discreet local population, which we found less extrovertive compared with the rest of the island.





Two main things come from Negombo: the catamaran and the cinnamon. Concerning catamarans, in the past, it was essentially heaps of trunks tied by ropes. Its name comes from Tamil words "kattu" which means "links" and "maram", "trees". Catamarans have become the typical boats of Sri Lanka. Negombo remains an important producer of cinnamon. This industry began with the Portuguese, in the sixteenth century. It fell considerably during the British occupation. Locals still carry bundles of this fragrant wood on their back, giving the traveler the opportunity of capturing a nice picture. This is only one part of the traditions surviving in a city which didn't get rid of its past.




Negombo has traces of its successive colonizations. You will find in its streets nostalgic Portuguese houses, an old fort, a Dutch cemetery, and many churches much visited by the largest and oldest Catholic community in Sri Lanka. Its most impressive landmark, the neoclassical St. Mary's Church, erected in 1863, attracts both tourists and devotees alike. The statues of saints and altars were imported from Europe. The portrayal of Jesus' life, on the ceiling, is the work of a local Buddhist painter.  Patterned on the Reims Cathedral in France, the St. Sebastian’s Church, displays quite an unexpected  Gothic style. Most venerated by the fishermen, Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of the city of Negombo. We like the lovely Saint Jude's Church. “The Patron Saint of the Impossible”, visited all day long by believers coming from the most remote parts of the island.

A welcoming town, indeed, it has many typical restaurants to taste for a few ruppies the best curries and freshest fish in Sri Lanka. The multitude of bars along the beach assures romantic evening moments. Negombo has magnificent beaches: totalizing 8 km long, settled along coconut forests. Some of them are considered the most beautiful on the West Coast. They are ideal for a recharge, if not for family swimming due to the high waves and streams; but experienced scuba divers will be delighted to explore the seabed hiding many treasures: like the wreck of a British cargo plane, dating from the Second World War. Many fish use it as a reef. This is a dreamed destination for surfers.


 

Buses run even every 20 minutes from Colombo, thus we rather advise you to ask a tour operator to manage your transfer from the capital city to Negombo, one or two nights stay to fully enjoy the city, and a quick transfer to the airport for a soft farewell to Sri Lanka.

The city of Negombo is full of surprises and memories of its successive colonizations. You will find then the charm of yesteryear combined with the authenticity of Sri Lanka.  





LODGING IN NEGOMBO:





Our favorite spa hotel in Negombo is the awesome Jetwing Lagoon. Sri Lanka’s premier resort brand, Jetwing operates 31
fully eco-responsible properties spread around the country. The “Sustainability Strategy” by Jetwing features revolutionary systems: providing, for instance, more than 50% of its hotels' energy with steam-machines, powered by the combustion of cinnamon wood. And the other 50% using a developed solar-pannels system. Have a look at it during your stay at Jetwing Lagoon: this is unique, clean with an odorant steam emanating from the chimney. Reputed for its cuisine, Ayurvedic SPA, meditation, an anticipating service, Jetwing always occupies the best location. In Thalahena. Close to the city center of Negombo, flanked on either side by the water of the sea and lagoon, Jetwing Lagoon is an ideal place to indulge in water sports, relaxing far away from the crowd. Boating, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing to rowing around in a fishing boat... everything can be arranged by the distinguished and so charming reception staff. The dark sand beach is a curiosity, with a pool for those -we are part of them- not much attracted  by the rough sea of the Indian Ocean. There is a second, cyclopean pool, reputed the largest in Sri Lanka. The 50 rooms, and more particularly the 5 suites, are equipped with ultra comfortable beds, lovely tropical bathrooms with rain showers (and Jacuzzi in the suites), TV/DVD player, tea/coffee making facilities, etc..  We would recommend the ground-floor Bawa Rooms: designed by Sri Lanka's most influential architect Geoffrey Bawa, they provide distinct living spaces which make creative use of light, soft shades of white and brown: blending in harmoniously with their environment. Rooms with a lagoon view are so quiet, offering an impressive sunrise. The resort has four restaurants. Jetwing is reputed for its local gastronomy, finding a peak at "The Blue Lagoon", reputed for its chef's curries and BBQ.

Jetwing operates another couple of hotels in Negombo. The Jetwing Beach resort, ideal for families. And the chic Jetwing Thalahena Villas, near Jetwing Lagoon, with a beachfront to die for.




Those preferring to experience a smaller hotel should straightly book into the cozy Serendib Village Negombo. The location is fantastic: directly on the 14.5 kilometers long historic Hamilton Canal. Dug by the British in 1802, its hosts a concentration of wildlife. From the terrace of the al fresco restaurant, reputed for is generous and affordable local cuisine / BBQ, we could observe varans hunting birds and fishes. If fauna is your hobby, this is the place for you, indeed. The large and clean rooms, with a direct access to the pool, are all air-conditioned, and very comfy. Milinda, the friendly Christian owner, treats all his guests as friends. Nature lovers and savvy travelers will love this "first class on the cheap" human-sized hotel.







 






    
 
 


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