There’s a long weekend coming up (yay!) and if you’re itching to get out of Colombo for the weekend but dread a long drive or train ride I think Negombo would be the perfect weekend getaway. Most expats head South for the weekends and why not? But no one seems to rave about Negombo (at least not to me) so I didn’t set high expectations for a weekend away I recently had.
There are three routes to Negombo from Colombo: the highway (1 hr), the beach road (2 hr) and the old road (1.5 hr). If you can stand to sit in the car a bit longer, I recommend the beach road, it has the least traffic and the best views. If you’ve got a bike or scooter, that’s even better – it’ll take you no time at all since you can zip through traffic. Once you get there, the best thing to do is to find a car park and go exploring by foot. Negombo feels much more a tourist town than Colombo does, life just seems to be slower here.
There are plenty of guest houses here, and since tourist season is over we got a room for about AU$60 a night on Airbnb. Although there are some much nicer chain hotels (Jetwing and Heritance both have amazing options) we weren’t spending much time in the room so we decided to find somewhere cheaper. There is plenty to do around the town with the beach taking most of our afternoon. We had a relatively cheap seafood lunch at the Tastee’s Banana where we had the typical beach hawkers approach us selling wares and tours. I’ve never bought anything from people like this even if I like the offerings purely because I think being harassing people over a meal is inappropriate. However, we had an afternoon to kill so we decided we would haggle a boat trip on one of the catamarans that are parked on the beach.
It was the best decision we made all weekend! For about Rs. 2000 we got a full hour trip, with a stop halfway so we could take a dip – probably the best thing I’ve done so far in Sri Lanka. The guides were the lovely smiling locals I have come to expect in Sri Lanka, and they spoke enough English to explain how they were manouvering the catamaran. The two guys were really helpful and happy to accommodate our desire to take a plunge. They even moved the catamaran a few kilometres when we got caught in a stream of rubbish (so terrible!) and took photos of us perched on the deck. The boat itself seemed precarious, it was hand built and weathered but they provided life jackets and were diligent in making sure we weren’t leaning over too far.
There are plenty of cheap places to eat, although truth be told I was too drunk to remember where and what we ate. We did the touristy thing that night and visited Rodeo for a dance and a drink. It really is a backpacker bar: small, crowded, hot and humid – exactly what we needed to let loose after weeks in Colombo. We got a cheeky few scoops each from the Il Gelato just down the road from Rodeo in case you’re hungry for a treat halfway through your night.
Nursing hangovers we decided to find somewhere nice for breakfast before heading back on Sunday afternoon. The nicer hotels have breakfast options with lovely views, although the buffet breakfasts are a bit steep (guess it’s alright if you plan your day right you could fill up for brekkie and lunch?).