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Negombo: My Sri Lankan detour


After 7 months of seeing Asia, it was finally time to start what I’d intended to do when I left New Zealand.

A year earlier, slightly drunk in a Hanoi bar, I’d decided to quit my job and live in Vietnam. The country had enchanted me and I couldn’t wait to return. I decided to visit some countries in Asia first, then stay in Vietnam for a longer period. 

I was therefore extremely surprised to instead find myself deplaning into a balmy Sri Lankan evening. Waiting at Colombo airport was Jason, one of my best friends. We crammed into the back of an illegal taxi and sped to Negombo.

Yacht at Negombo

Negombo’s slightly north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. It’s touristy and has a resort-vibe — we only stayed here because it’s close to the airport and we’d arrived late at night. And besides, our mission in Sri Lanka was to surf, but Negombo has none.

Despite this, we were still happy to visit. Golden sand melted into water indistinguishable from the azure sky. A chorus of flapping sails came from the fisherman tacking on the mellow sea. It was gorgeous, and Negombo’s not even a great beach by Sri Lankan standards.

Yacht at Negombo beach

This was all good, I said to myself. I’d spend two months travelling around Sri Lanka, then I’d finally go to Vietnam. After all, there was a lot to discover, starting in Negombo. Sri Lanka’s predominantly a Buddhist country, so it was unusual that the first religious ritual I saw was Christian.

Christian Sri Lankans praying

The sun was setting as the bells tolled. The church was on the beach, and many believers simply knelt outside on the sand. The congregation sang, familiar melodies but all in Sinhalese. It was surreal to watch.

Christian Sri Lankans praying

As the sky turned bronze I heard yells from those who weren’t at church. I walked down the beach and silhouetted against the sky was the one thing possibly more important in Sri Lanka than religion — a cricket match.

Cricket at Negombo

The bowler steamed in and unleashed a ball that was met with equal ferocity by the batsman. The crack resounded down the beach and we all watched as the ball seemed to fry in the sun before plummeting into the ocean. Everybody cheered.

It was an auspicious beginning to my unexpected Sri Lankan detour.

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