SRI LANKA COAST TO COAST: TRINCOMALEE TO NEGOMBO

SRI LANKA COAST TO COAST: TRINCOMALEE TO NEGOMBO

After visiting the central regions of Sri Lanka, now it’s time for us to relax on the east coast beaches around Trincomalee, and later move to the west coast up to Negombo, crossing the whole country in its width.

We leave Habarana in the morning and we hardly find a seat on the overcrowded bus to Trincomalee, city on the east coast of Sri Lanka. A couple of hours are enough to drive through the 88 km, accompanied by loud local music, trying not to get stuck to the plastic seats (which glue to our sweaty skins).

TRINCOMALEE

Trincomalee looks like any other Sri Lankan big city we’ve seen so far: chaotic, messy, polluted, hot. In the very moment we get off the bus we are surrounded by tuk tuk drivers who want us to go with them. By now we know that even a short hesitation would make them follow us everywhere, so we ignore them and go straight to catch another bus headed to Nilaveli. The guesthouse we booked for the first night is situated a few km north of Trincomalee, right before Nilaveli, tourist destination popular for its beach.

Uppuveli Beach, Trincomalee Sri Lanka

Uppuveli Beach

We ask of Deva Nagar area and we step off in a busy road where a tuk-tuk driver immediately approaches us asking if we have a booking for Alex Guesthouse, which claims to be his own. As far as we understand, the guy was at the bus station in Trincomalee where he saw us and we don’t know how managed to recognize us. Sometimes we really think somebody has the precognition gift here!

The room is not very nice, there are many ants and the fan is very noisy. The position is amazing though: there’s a sandy path that leads straight to Uppuveli Beach, 100m far. The emerald sea calls us and we jump into the water…how much we missed the sea!

how to reach trincomalee

Ambra enjoying the Indian Ocean

NILAVELI BEACH

We decide not to stop for a long time because we want to explore Nilaveli area, recommended by many, in order to look for a guesthouse suitable for a few days stay.
Nilaveli is 10 km north of Uppuveli Beach, where we are. We take a local bus and when we get there the panorama is very different from the one we imagined. The string between the main road and the beach is much wider than the one we are staying at. We walk for 1 km before getting to the beach: very nice and wide, but extremely crowded too, mostly by local people. We are disappointed and we realize the guesthouses are spread quite far and there’s no sign of restaurants nor bars.

We go back towards Trincomalee (or Trinco as they shorten it) and we take a look at some guesthouses until we find the right one. We book a room for 6 nights, very unusual for us, we get a sensation as we were moving to a new home. When we were planning some weeks ago, we expected to spend more days in places like Nuwara Eliya (which we skipped) and Kandy. Eventually we decided to leave more days to the final part of our travels in Sri Lanka, still dreaming of the beautiful beach of Mirissa down in the south, where we would have spent much more time, in retrospect, and hoping to find the same atmosphere here on the east coast. Don’t get us wrong, Uppuveli Beach is amazing too; but if we had to give votes it would be 4/5, whereas Mirissa would get 5/5.

what to do in trincomalee

Uppuveli Beach, Trincomalee

 
We finally unpack and relax.

Days go by chilling and carefree. Our main concerns are what time to go to the beach and where to have dinner. It’s very hot but there’s always a pleasant breeze. There are a few sun beds covered by a stranded-leaves roof where we like enjoying the sound of the waves, lying in the shade. The water is cool, emerald, sometimes a bit wavy. We read, write articles, edit photos, plan our next destinations.

from kandy to trincomalee train bus

Chilling in the shade

One day we get up early in the morning to watch the sun rising on the sea and we walk on the beach up to Trincomalee town centre, where we reach the train station to check the timetable; our next destination is Negombo, on the west coast, some 25km north to Colombo.

trincomalee to negombo train

Local fishermen

 

trincomalee where to stay

On our way to Trinco, we encounter many fishermen working with their boats and nets, we see Christian churches and Tamil temples.

Trincomalee beach, Sri Lanka

Church on the beach

 

Tamil temple, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Tamil temple, Trincomalee

TASTY SRI LANKAN FOOD 

At night there are many options for dinner: rice&curry, fresh fish cooked on-the-go, kottu and rotti, fresh fruit juices. This neighbourhood is also known as Alles Garden, a misreading for Alice Garden, a big mansion that used to dominate the area. It’s a very tourist hub, as the many guesthouses, hotels and restaurants gather all in few small roads. Nevertheless the number of people is reduced now, because it’s the end of the high season.

Kottu, Trincomalee what to eat sri lanka

Seafood kotthu (minced vegetables with crab)

The time comes to say goodbye to this beautiful place too, Trinco has been a home away from home for us in this journey. We pack and leave.

Trincomalee train station, Sri Lanka

Trincomalee train station

TRINCOMALEE TO NEGOMBO BY TRAIN

At 6.50am we get the train to Negombo. We have to change at Galoya Junction, a couple of hours after the departure. The ticket to cross the entire Sri Lanka in 2nd class is 380rupees, around 2.50$…crazy cheap!

Galoya Junction, Sri Lanka

Galoya Junction

The journey is long, we leave 20 minutes late and we get to Ragama at 3.30pm. During the whole trip some guys improvise a musical concert in our coach, with drums, a chorus of women and dances. The simplicity and spontaneity of this people is disarming and fascinating.

RAGAMA

At Ragama we wait one hour for the train to Negombo, where we will step off at Kattuwa station, close to our guesthouse where we are staying for the next 3 nights. While we’re waiting at the platform we meet a Sri Lankan guy talking to us in a perfect Italian language, who tells us he’s been living in Verona for 16 years and now he’s back home for a few months. We also see an example of how busy trains can get here in Sri Lanka (and notoriously more in India), with lots of people literally hanging and leaning everywhere on the outside of the coaches.

Ragama station negombo kandy train

Busy train at Ragama station

We spend the last days relaxing by the luxurious swimming pool of our cozy Embiente Guesthouse, which we booked for only 20$/day, 2-3 km north of Negombo city centre. We can tell the area has recently been built and improved to receive lots of tourists, as in Trincomalee there are some small roads where all the hotels and restaurants are condensed. The view of the beach is blocked by huge resorts. The beach is very big but not looked after at all, and we cannot figure out how it can be so shabby considering the presence of so many hotel facing it.

We really miss the southern coast, places like Galle and Mirissa were so wild, more natural and charming, not to mention cheaper and authentic, what one would expect of Sri Lanka.

NEGOMBO

One day we walk down to Negombo city centre, 3 km south, but we soon regret it. The sidewalk is barely existing and we have to walk along the busy and dusty road, trying to avoid tuk-tuks and obstacles. We get to the once famous Dutch canal, where we see fishermen getting back home at the end of the day, but bad smells and garbage everywhere steal the scenery. Beside the fishermen adjusting their nets, the panorama is not thrilling with loads of trash floating in the water.
We also walk by the fish market, marked as one of the main attractions of Negombo, but we find it already empty since it’s late afternoon. After a quick dinner we get back to our guesthouse.
We spend our last day in a bar on the beach and at the airport, unfortunately there was nothing else to see around. We wouldn’t recommend much Negombo, it’s becoming like any other place in the world where it’s all about money, resorts and package holidays, not caring about local culture and authenticity. The reason we came here is because it was the closest place to Colombo International Airport. Our flight will leave at 11 pm.
We leave Sri Lanka, an incredible country that has amazed and fascinated us. We mostly loved the first part of this journey: the beautiful palm beaches of the southern coast, the natural park in Tissa, the Highlands area, the brilliant green of the tea plantations and the smiles of the people. The kindness of a population that many times surprised us with its spontaneity and friendliness.
Despite the growing tourism, we hope the country manages to keep its unique trait which we’ll always bring in our hearts.

Bohoma stutiyi, thank you Sri Lanka, it’s been a pleasure!

Uppuveli Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

WHERE TO STAY:
  • Alex Rooms, Trinco: 1600rupees/night, fan, private bathroom. Not the cleanest place but right on the beach.
  • Sunrise Hotel, Trinco: 2000-2500rs/night, fan-AC, private bathroom. A very nice patio/communal area, just a 2 minute walk to the beach.
  • Embiente Guesthouse, Negombo: 3400rs/night, lovely room, amazing garden with swimming pool.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
  • Local bus, Habarana-Trincomalee: 100rs/person;
  • Short bus rides, Trinco-Uppuveli-Nilaveli: 12-20rs/person;
  • Tuk-tuk, Uppuveli-Trinco station: 300rs;
  • Train, 2nd class, Trincomalee-Negombo: 380rs/person;
  • Tuk-tuk, Negombo-Bandaranaike Airport: 800rs.
  • You can pre-book your tickets to travel in Sri Lanka on amt.12go.asia

 

TRAVEL INSURANCE:
  • Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.

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