Chennai to Negombo: Sunshine amid rain

Fishing is woven into the history of Negombo, formerly Migamuwa

Supriya Sehgal
Updated2 Sep 2021
St Mary’s church. Photo: Alamy
St Mary’s church. Photo: Alamy

The frenzied endorsement of travel to “offbeat”, “cathartic”, “all-green” places in the monsoons doesn’t appeal to me at all. Several trips to Kerala, with my sturdy black umbrella being pounded ruthlessly by rain as I waded through tan-coloured watery trails, have kept me away from muggy tropical holidays. In search of something dry in July, then, I looked beyond.

Sri Lanka was ideal, barring a whimsical shower or two, and fit in perfectly with my ocean obsession. Two friends, from different cities, were in on the plan.

From the start, we decided not to be too ambitious. For though it takes up only a small part of the Indian Ocean, the island country offers an astounding number of experiences. Our plan, however, was to find a spot by the sea and restore the mind to acceptable levels of calmness after a busy few months.

So, we headed to the low-key town of Negombo, a resort town for weekend getaways for locals, with a seaside ambience to match the reputation. Plush hotels with infinity pools, spas, and restaurants line the main Lewis Street. Souvenir shops and pubs find space between the resorts. Colourful Sri Lankan masks, aromatic tea from the hills, and wooden and coir curios make for an interesting stroll.

After some mandatory pool and beach time, we hit the lone nightlife hub of Portutoda Road for dinner, and ended up in the Rodeo Pub for some locally-brewed Lion beer.

Getting up early to visit the main harbours of Negombo seemed to be at odds with the relaxed vibe of our holiday, but the thought of perfect sunrise shots of oruvas (outrigger canoes) bringing in fresh catch was irresistible. As expected, the “wet” harbour was throbbing with action as ocean treasures were sifted, sorted and sold. In comparison, the “dry” harbour close by was more sedate.

Fishing is woven into the history of Negombo, formerly Migamuwa. Renamed by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it was once the country’s most active trading port, and a commercial beacon for many importers. The decline of Portuguese power made way for the Dutch. The 17th century walls of a Dutch fort still encircle the town’s prison. The year “1678” is etched on a crumbling arch.

Over the two days, we visited the 200-year-old Angurukaramulla temple, with a 6m-tall Buddha statue and grand murals depicting his life covering every inch of the walls. Just 500m away was St Mary’s church and a Ganesha temple whose gopuram (tower) was carved with the figures of a thousand celestial beings. Later, we glided through a mangrove-fringed canal in the unique wetland ecosystem of the Muthurajawela marsh, catching glimpses of egrets and herons.

With nary a cloud in sight, we left for home—to cities that were in the midst of a heavy monsoon.

and The Buddha statue at the Angurukaramulla temple. Photo: Alamy

Chennai to Negombo

Distance: Negombo is less than 8km from Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo.

Top tip: The Negombo lagoon is famous for water sports like jet skiing, banana boat rides, sofa boat rides and kayaking. Book on

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.

Supriya Sehgal tweets @supsonthemove.

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