If you happen to be in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on their New Year which overlaps with the Hindu New Year, as I was on April 13 and 14, you are in for trouble. This bustling city turned into a ghost town, as 70 per cent of the migrants who run the city, left home for celebrations. I was advised to travel to Negambo, a predominantly Catholic area, lest I fail to get a taxi to the airport, which I confirmed was the case.
It is situated strategically close to the airport — about an hour’s drive from Colombo with luxury buses plying the expressway. Considered a catchment area to cater to the largely fish-eating Sri Lankan community, this place is a marvel in itself. Pristine beaches, though touristy, dot the coastal landscape. Apart from lazying on the beaches, water enthusiasts can make a trip to the coral reefs at Morawella with exotic marine life — sea anemones, sea cucumber, oysters, sea lily, and others — which are up for viewing while snorkelling.
Sail boats cruise the deep waters, even as the beachfront transforms itself into a fish market, displaying the rich catch in all sizes and colours, spread out to dry under the sweltering sun.
Magnificent churches, Hindu temples, and an ancient Buddhist prayer house with intricately carved statues and frescos, which have depictions from the Buddha’s life, attract the religious in throngs.
What is special to Negambo are the ancient waterways built by the Dutch nearly 215 years ago. Many of these are still in use to connect the city to the ocean.
Walking in the city, you can see ruins of numerous forts, transformed with their rusticity, into hospital spaces, and the main prison of Negambo, which strangely is quite a busy place!
If you are an adventurous foodie, try newer flavours and don’t miss out on the wonders of the Palmera plant — toddy, jaggery and the numerous delectable sweetmeats.
Negambo has a cosmopolitan ambience, akin to Goa’s. And definitely a saviour to travellers, like me, caught in local festivities. Yes, I reached the airport on time!