Sea. Check. Beach. Check.
Boutique bliss at two of Negombo’s finest hotels.
There’s never really been an easy way to get to Asia from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Skyscanner lured me in with a very good price to Sri Lanka (£270) but it was quite the hellride: a two-hour bus journey to Dublin; a three-hour wait; an hour-long flight to Heathrow (+ pick up my bag and re-checkin); another four-hour wait; then a turbulence-belting eleven-hour flight to Colombo. It was the cheapest way, and would you believe it also the most direct. But by the end of the journey my head was fried and I was wondering why Asia couldn’t be just that little bit closer to Europe on the map.
Fortunately when I arrived I didn’t have too much further to travel. I had arranged to spend the first two nights of my three-week Sri Lankan trip in Negombo, a small city (read: town) just 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. My hosts would be Jetwing Sea and Jetwing Beach – two boutique beachside hotels which actually share the same stretch of sand. However, despite their joint ownership and close proximity, both hotels have subtle differences. So hopefully this post can help you decide where to stay if you are thinking of coming to Negombo.
As soon as I landed I was glad I had chosen Negombo over Colombo. As a base, Negombo is way more chilled, and Jetwing Sea embraces the vibe. One easy checkin and welcome drink later I’m shown to my room: big, spacious and with a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. Palm trees sway and traditional sailing ships dot the horizon. At this point I have to say that if you Google Negombo beach you’ll get all sorts of people on Trip Advisor etc telling you that it isn’t very good. I have to say though that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s akin to Sanur beach on the SE coast of Bali, and perfectly fine for a few days. The Jetwing Sea staff have obviously kept their surroundings in good shape. I go down to the beach to see the sunset (main picture), and when I return to my room a big bowl of tropical fruit and chocolates is waiting for me. Wow.
The setting for breakfast is spectacular with the boats bobbing up and down in the distance. The food is equally as inviting, with lots of Sri Lankan staples on offer. I’m sure the western choices were top-notch but I did not come all the way to Sri Lanka to eat cereal and toast. My first Sri Lankan meal was egg hoppers with fish curry and chili sambal, with coconut milk rice on the side. Hoppers are famous all over Sri Lanka and I was excited about trying them. The chef prepared them in front of me, expertly pouring the thin rice mixture into a skillet then cracking an egg. After breakfast I checked out the rooftop gym overlooking the sea. It has an amazing view, aircon and modern equipment. Those of you who read my blog know I usually prefer going to funny/crappy local gyms when I am away, but I wasn’t about to complain.
One random thing I loved about my room at Jetwing Sea was that when the sun goes down you can turn off all the lights apart from a blue one over the bath. After nearly 24 hours of travel I lay there like I was in some sort of alien spaceship and watched Big Bang Theory. Bazinga.
Just two minutes up the road in a tuktuk (or 800m walk if you feel like braving the heat) is Jetwing Beach. I arrived just as an ornate wedding was taking place and I could understand why they had chosen this hotel, with the lobby overlooking the golden sand. As with Jetwing Sea, check-in was hassle-free. “May I take your passport, sir? Please have a seat.” Just as I am sitting down one of the staff wheels out a little wooden cart decorated with flowers and three different types of welcome drink. I tell the girl which one I want only for her to say, “they are all for you, sir.” Chilled ceylon tea, papaya juice and my favourite, king coconut water. Again, wow.
I’m shown to my room which overlooks the pool. The room is a similar size and shape to Jetwing Sea with many of the same furnishings. The pool area is bigger, however, and I’d say this hotel is more family orientated than its neighbour. At a push I’d say Jetwing Sea is where you go on your honeymoon and Jetwing Beach is where you come a few years later when you have popped out a couple of kids. Both hotels are of an extremely high calibre – with the breakfast and gym facilities at Jetwing Beach equally as good. I definitely recommend you check these places out if you want somewhere to chill for a few days at the start or end of your Sri Lankan adventure. I’m now ready for mine: with a 7am train to Kandy tomorrow morning. Ikimasho!