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Negombo

 

There is no more colourful view in Negombo than the row of fishing boats which have just arrived on the beach, men and women emptying their nets; the scene is situated near the fish market. There are two main fishing markets in Negombo, which are close to each other. One is for big fish, such as tuna and sharks, which operates in the very early hours, starting at around four o’clock and the other one for smaller fish, close to the court complex, starting at around seven o’clock.Negombo is the main and most important fishing town in Sri Lanka. Trawlers sail out from Negombo to circle Sri Lanka in 30 days. Famous for Negombo are the catamaran fishing boats with sails. Overlooking the ocean in the early morning and evening hours, the horizon is filled with sailing catamarans. Tourists can join a fishing safari, which can be organized by the major hotels, as well as by local touroperators. Life vests will be issued.

As a beach resort, Negombo was the first place in Sri Lanka to be developed, since it is the nearest beach to the international airport, just a 20 minutes’ drive. Although it is not the most beautiful of the Sri Lankan tropical beaches, it is certainly a very nice beach due to the upgrading done by the government. There are hotels, guesthouses and rooms at private houses in abundance and of all classes. Mind that during the monsoon period (between May and November) it is too dangerous to swim in the sea because of the under current. Negombo as a beach resort is very suitable at the end of a round tour and as a place to relax after a long flight before starting a round tour. Negombo is the resort with one of the best night lives in Sri Lanka, especially during the weekends.

Negombo is the third largest city in Sri Lanka, situated on the West Coast about 35 kilometers north of Colombo. It used to be a stronghold of the Portuguese during the 16th and the first decades of the 17th Century. The Portuguese also introduced the Roman Catholic religion, which stretches all the way up to Puttalam and Mannar on the West Coast. Seventy five percent of the Negombo population is Roman Catholic. Hence it is also called small Rome.

After the Dutch had taken over the rule, they constructed a wide network of canals leading to the plantations, of which the Dutch Canal is the most famous one. It even connects Negombo with Colombo; this canal was later improved by the British and called Hamilton Canal.  The Sri Lankan government has recently restored the Hamilton canal and a boat trip or a walk along the canal has now been a main tourist attraction. There are chartered boat tours from Negombo to the end of the canal at Keleniya near Colombo. (2014: Rs. 15,000 per chartered boat). Shorter boat rides on the Dutch canal can be made northwards. South of Negombo there is a large lagoon, which is a part of one of the most important wetlands of Sri Lanka. Chartered boat rides are available, which are especially interesting for bird watchers.

Negombo is a busy city with many wider and smaller roads, as well as numerous small lanes in the residential area. It is a bit complicated to find your way without a map and 3-wheel drivers tend to overcharge you to your destination. Ask advice from the hotel staff regarding an indication of prices. The best way to get to know the real Negombo character of the town is either to hire a bicycle and explore the town or go partly on foot. The hotel zone is definitely the less characteristic area.Following the ways and lanes from the ‘small fish’ market north bound, staying as close to the sea side as possible, you will pass a wonderful Negombo style neighbourhood. Here you will get a good chance to discover the authenticity of the town. Finally you will end up at one of the biggest Roman Catholic churches of Negombo, the San Sebastian. Walk around the seaside of the church and pay a visit to it. The church is open all day. Apart from this huge church there are some other very important religious sites worth seeing in Negombo, being the St, Mary’s Cathedral, the Buddhist Angurukaramulla Temple and the Hindu temple, one of the most important Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.

 

Negombo is very suitable for shopping; otherwise you can take the Highway bus to Colombo, with brings you to the heart of Pettah for all your bargains.