Negombo – Beach City of the Western Coastline

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By 2017-10-01

By Jithendra Antonio

Located just 32 kilometres from the Financial Capital – Colombo's North towards the Western beach strip is a romantic coastal town. For over a million tourists coming to see Sri Lanka every year this coastal town is mostly a transit place where they spend one to three days. Some call it the 'Little Rome' not because this town is only home for some of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka, but also because the city has a large Roman Catholic population.

The city's name history alone touches the 200 BC era of Sri Lanka's 2,500 year old history in which, the army of King Kavantissa found bee honey in a canoe near the seashore, for Viharamaha Devi who was pregnant for prince Dutugemunu. That story says that because of the bee honey in a canoe the place was named "Mee-Gomuwa", meaning "Group of Bees".

However, after 1700 years later as soon as the Portuguese started to rule the coastal belt of Sri Lanka the city was christened to be "Negombo" and the fifth largest city in Sri Lanka after Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna and Galle. Negombo is also the second largest city in the Western Province. Negombo with its spectacular Lagoon, is one of the major commercial hubs in Sri Lanka and an average fifteen minutes drive on the Colombo - Katunayake Expressway. Negombo fell into colonial rule under the Portguese. The Dutch then captured the town from the Portuguese in 1640, lost it, and then captured it again in 1644. The British then took it in 1796 without a struggle. Negombo was one of the most important sources of cinnamon during the Dutch era, and there are still reminders of the Colonial days. The Negombo Fort was a small but important fort in the town of Negombo built by the Portuguese to defend Colombo. Later it was captured by the Dutch and was re-branded and refurbished as the Dutch Fort in Negombo in 1672. The Fort is famous for colonial architecture and is now a part of the local prison. Another historic place to visit is Angurukaramulla Temple dedicated to the Buddha which is known for its 300-year-old ruin of a library. The Dutch Canal is another historic construction and a water-way that was used for transport. The city is also home to many leading Catholic schools in Sri Lanka.

The city is well known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets and sandy beaches. Negombo is home to the country's second-largest fish market, locally known as the Lellama at the north end of the lagoon. The Lagoon is a popular attraction in Negombo but the water has a weird stink sometimes and it's not clear and famous for water sports. Crabs, lobsters, and fried clams, fish tacos: the Negombo beach strip is filled with best waterfront seafood restaurants. Negombo is the perfect location for a beach holiday just before any traveller sets off to explore the rest of Sri Lanka or just before the end of their holiday in Sri Lanka. A ten-minute drive from the Bandaranaike International Airport - the main Airport serving Sri Lanka - with a range of beach activities, such as kite surfing, and an active nightlife, there is always something to do in Negombo.

Over the decades, under colonial rule and post-independence, Negombo has emerged as a city that never sleeps for eating and partying. In post-war Sri Lanka every year the city is home to one of the biggest motor rallies in the country that concludes with a grand beach party and a home for biggest events that attracts over 1,000 people to ball-rooms each calendar month of the year. The Rodeo Pub is famous for night life and the city has given birth to established globally known hotel chains such as Jetwing. The city alone has a grandeur hotel called Grandeeza one of the biggest ball-rooms or event halls in Sri Lanka that could accommodate over 1,200 people at once for any occasion.

The modern Negombo's beach strip is not a place to try real Sri Lankan food, which is hard to come by because many of the restaurants serve an array of western dishes and some local specialties. However, you find as many local eateries as you would around the other streets across the city. There's one whole section by the Chilaw – Colombo Main Road, where both sides by the road has 24/7 serving restaurants and eateries. The modern Millennial 'Negombo-ians' called it the 'Periya – Mall' not because it is a mall filled with tech gadgets and clothing shops but because it is sub-town Periyamulle in Negombo filled with the best cheese kottus, enchiladas, 'Rotty Frieds' - a unique food famous in the area - , tummy filling chicken cordon bleus, fried rice dishes that is big enough as a meal for a small family of four members. 'The Periya – Mall' is where all 'Negombo-ians' end up eating after the party times. Negombo is well known as a eating and drinking community. Due to this culture even during the Full Moon holidays the evening city streets close to main eateries will be usually heavy with the traffic.

But one of the first things people search when visiting Negombo is "what to do next" so the city has to do more to unleash its tourism potential in time to come. Negombo is the perfect introduction to Sri Lanka and a definite insight into how amazingly friendly the Sri Lankan people are. Smiles from ear to ear, helpful people everywhere, not the annoying in your face type of helpful, just downright genuine people.

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