Sri Lanka days 1-2: Beginnings in bustling beach town of Negombo

It feels surreal to be in Sri Lanka as I’ve had my eye on Sri Lanka for last few years. I’ve always preferred smaller countries where you can see “everything” in a few weeks, and I love that Sri Lanka has the mountains, the beaches, and everything in between. So many backpackers I talked to said Sri Lanka was their favorite country, so naturally it became my #1 on my bucket list.

I actually booked plane tickets to come here in 2019, but after the tragic Easter bombings, I got cold feet and canceled my trip 2 weeks before my flight. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of going back, and so it feels like a dream come true to finally be here 3 years later!

My first two days were spent in Negombo, a bustling beach town close to the Colombo airport. When I heard Negombo is actually closer to the airport than Colombo, it felt like a no-brainer to spend my first days in a beach town versus the busy capital city. 🙂

My first two days have been an adjustment period as there are always new culture/customs to absorb in a new country. This is also my first time in South Asia, and while I feel I have a good sense of East Asian and Southeast Asian culture, I’m a sponge absorbing the subtle differences in this region. Luckily, the tropical vibes as well as the friendly, expressive people here have made me feel comfortable and welcome.

Day 1: Sightseeing around Negombo + adjusting to a new country

I arrived late yesterday after a long travel day from Cambodia. I transferred through Singapore which, coming from Cambodia, felt like first-world paradise. 😛

My first day was spent exploring Negombo and getting used to Sri Lanka as a whole. My first impression was that Sri Lanka had similar steamy, tropical vibes of SE Asia, with palm trees lining the streets and life moving at a slower pace. However, Negombo still had a bustling feel as there was a decent amount of activity on the main road, poor air quality, etc.

I stayed at Alexandra Family Villa, a 4-room guesthouse a few blocks away from the main road and near the beach. The family who ran it was SO welcoming and helpful with giving me tips, and they even helped me organize my next destination. This was my first time staying at a guesthouse, and I really loved it. Recently, I’ve been thinking that I’m starting to grow out of hostels as they can be too centered around partying for me. I love that guesthouses provide a more local feel and also the opportunity to meet other travelers in the other rooms. The only downside is the common areas are usually smaller as it’s usually just someone’s house. I will definitely seek out guesthouses more on this trip!

I had a slow start to my morning. I got breakfast in town and hung out in the guesthouse doing some research for Sri Lanka.

Then I headed back to town for lunch. I got a chicken curry and it was AMAZING. My only experience with South Asian food has been Indian restaurants in the U.S., so it was very pleasant to try authentic Sri Lankan food for the first time. It was a lot lighter and healthier-tasting than Indian food I had in the U.S. All the ingredients were so fresh and the curry was full of flavor but not heavy. I could eat this everyday. 🙂

In the afternoon, I did some sightseeing in Negombo. First I visited the Dutch canal. It was built by the British in the 19th century, hence why it resembles canals in Europe. 🙂

Then I headed further into Negombo city, which was ~20 minute walk from the beach area where I was staying. The vibe definitely got more hectic and intense! One site was St. Mary’s Church. I was surprised to learn that ~70% of citizens in Negombo are Christian, so there were lots of churches and Catholic influences all over the city.

I also stopped by the Dutch Fort. This is an old fort that was captured by the Dutch in the 1600’s, but today is used as a prison.

After my lovely stroll, I headed back towards the beach for sunset. It was gorgeous and full of color – the first of many sunsets in Sri Lanka. 🙂

Kids playing cricket on the beach.

Day 2: Beach day at Negombo Beach

The next day started off with breakfast at my guesthouse. My host cooked an authentic Sri Lankan breakfast – it was SO delicious! It consisted of a few pancake-like items made with rice flour and coconut milk. One had an egg in the middle (called a hopper), another had coconut and honey, and the third had banana. I might eat this every day on this trip. 😛

After a few hours chilling at my guesthouse, I decided to head out for a relaxing beach day. After exploring town yesterday, I wanted nothing more than to relax especially before another travel day tomorrow.

I found a restaurant on the beach and had some lunch there – chicken curry once again!

After lunch, I read my book – currently reading Shantaram which is the book many backpackers read for India.

My beach day was exactly what I needed to recharge before heading to my next city. I am so grateful for making it to Sri Lanka and for these last two days in Negombo. Many travelers are in-and-out of Colombo/Negombo in a day, but I’m glad I took my time with 2 days as the extra day really helped me adjust. I now feel energized to see more of this beautiful country!

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