Backpacking Sri Lanka Day 1: Arriving in Negombo

Our lovely AirBnB homestay in Negombo

"Excuse me ma'am," The air hostess repeated in soft tone. "Would you like some breakfast?"

I lifted by head sleepily from my tray-table, blinking sleep out of my bleary eyes. I could just about make out her frame as she held the meal tray out. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Lewis' hopeful face.

"No, thanks." I managed to murmur.

"Are you sure?" Lewis asked, his eyes pleading now. He'd told me earlier that I should just accept the food, even if I had no intention of eating it, just so he could have it too.

The air hostess edged forward, the food coming ever closer.

"NO!" I screamed.

Taken aback by my curt tone, the air hostess retreated and I was left with Lewis staring at me in shock. I hadn't intended for it to come out so loud but I'd already said 'no' once.

The last thing I wanted to do was discuss my anger with Lewis so I crossly dropped my head into my folded arms on my tray-table once more.

Palm trees in the garden of our AirBnB

We had been travelling for hours now and were on our second and final flight. The journey had started at 8pm last night. Our first flight had landed in Doha, Qatar at a ridiculous time in the middle of the night. However, we'd been positive as when we booked our flight through Qatar Airways, we had been promised free First Class Lounge entry by the website. We excitedly made our way to the lounge and displayed our tickets.

"Sorry that was a website glitch. You don't have lounge access." The woman on the desk explained.

Tempers were flaring. "Your website promised us access. Surely you should honour what was promised?" Lewis argued.

"I can't do that."

This went back and forth for what felt like a lifetime. After arguing and speaking to management, the best they could do was give us a free glass of water each. Pretty poor service considering we spent over £1k on flights today.

Despite the dispute with the lounge, I found Doha airport to be a very pleasant place. The airport itself was grand, much like that of Dubai except it had a tram which raced across a track near the ceiling. Sounds magical and unreal right? But my favourite thing of all was the giant teddy in the middle of the shopping area. Man, it was huge!

I would have loved to have spent more time exploring Doha and Qatar but I never have been good at booking lengthy layovers. Research shows that Qatar is a great place with many enticing places to explore and things to see. You can find out more about the most beautiful places in Qatar. I guess exploring Qatar will be an adventure for another day for me!

Anyway, as you can imagine, we were not in the best of moods after the lounge ordeal. Now they were trying to serve me breakfast on the plane at like 4am? How dare they? Who the heck eats breakfast at 4am? Plus I was appalled at the idea of eating anything after having not brushed my teeth this morning. I just wanted to sleep. After tossing and turning, grunting and moaning I could not go back to sleep.

Myself relaxing on the balcony at our AirBnB

After a lengthy journey, we touched down in the tropical island of Sri Lanka. I could feel excitement bubbling away in my stomach as I spied tall palm trees out of the plane window. My first time in Asia! And what an adventure we had in store. Our trip toNamibia a few months ago was such a successful trip and we were determined to do something similar.

This time we would be backpacking - my first time ever, I must admit! Using a variety of public transport, taxis and tuk-tuks, we would travel round the south of Sri Lanka.

Learning my lesson from Namibia, I tried not to jam too much into one trip. Therefore we were only doing a circuit of the south of Sri Lanka, cutting out various spots that I would have liked to see. We had a couple of stops where we would stay for 2 nights, as opposed to our Namibia trip where there was only 1 campsite that we stayed at for more than a day.

As we were backpacking, we decided to travel light. Myself and Lewis were only travelling with 1 piece of hand-luggage each. Sure, they were already killing our backs, but this was bound to be much easier than travelling round with suitcases, right?

The tropical gardens surrounding the house, equipped with a hammock

Being ever organised as I am (sense the sarcasm), I had arranged a lift with our AirBnB host from the airport to our AirBnB in the local town of Negombo. Yeah, I"m really not that organised so this was pretty good for me! The only issue was that once we left the airport, we couldn't seem to locate him.

"In a white Toyota outside the Post Office." I read from my already scraggly note paper.

I scanned the surroundings. Post Office... What Post Office? We began walking up and down the pavement outside the terminal.

"Taxi? Taxi?" We were being bombarded with offers.

"We already have one, thanks."

I'm glad we did have a taxi booked already as research has told me that the taxis outside the airport are often the worst deals you can get. I really didn't feel like haggling after travelling through the night.

A pile of fresh coconuts collected from the nearby trees

We eventually located our AirBnB host outside the Post Office and began our journey to our AirBnB. I quickly learnt why it was recommended that you don't hire a car in Sri Lanka. The roads are crazy! Kris, our host, was weaving his vehicle in and out of traffic, overtaking tuk-tuks, motorcycles and people.

People would randomly start crossing the road in front of cars without warning and cars would be forced to slam their brakes on.

The humid Sri Lankan air was alive with the chorus of honks. Drivers honk to overtake, drivers honk to show annoyance, drivers honk for what seems to be no apparent reason.

Kris seemed at home amongst the chaos, even contributing to it himself. Was that a red light we just drove through? A car charged towards us as we plowed through a crossroad on red, honking in anger. Did Kris care? Nope. I guess this was just the Sri Lanka way!

Despite all the commotion on the roads, I didn't feel unsafe. I was just in awe of our surroundings. Above us the sky was black and threatening rain. The towns we drove through were quaint and alive with people going about their day to day business. Weaving amongst the natives were stray dogs, padding down the road with their scrawny tails erect. Sri Lanka was already looking different to anywhere we had ever been before.

When we reached our AirBnB I could have kissed the ground. We survived our first trip on the crazy Sri Lankan roads! OK, I'm slightly exaggerating here. I'm a fairly relaxed individual, really.

We were staying at a 'homestay' AirBnB. What this means is that we were staying within the main homes of our hosts. So this was the house that Kris shared with his wife. They had converted 3 bedrooms to AirBnB suites which all had en suites. As well as the private bedrooms, there was a lot of shared space that we could utilise such as the dining room, balcony and gardens.

Upon entering the house, I made my first slip-up. There were no shoes allowed from the balcony and beyond. I awkwardly untied my laces, feeling embarrassed that the thought hadn't occurred to me. We were in a different culture now and we had to be mindful of everything we did. In my mind, I vowed not to make that mistake again. The last thing I wanted to do was offend the people who were kindly offering their homes to us.

Our hosts were extremely welcoming and immediately offered us some Sri Lankan tea and a little sweet on the side. Sadly I can't remember what this was called! It was about the consistency and texture of cookie dough, was beige in colour and to taste was a mix between sweet and bitter.

From the dining room where we ate we could hear the rain pouring down outside. It thundered around us, relentlessly hitting the roof of the house.

My stomach was twisting. After rejecting breakfast on the plane, I had been starving. It was now around noon and I hadn't eaten anything all day. If you didn't know already, I'm always hungry! So at this point, on no food, I was almost dying.

I drank my first sip of Sri Lankan tea. In Sri Lanka they drink their tea without any milk. I knew it would take some getting used to but I was happy to be drinking tea like a local. It had a very strong taste that didn't initially agree with my palette. I drank as much as I could. I probably wasn't helped by the fact that I was feeling nauseous with lack of food. In contrast, Lewis was loving the black tea!

After freshening ourselves up, we decided to head out and explore the area a bit. However, not before our hospitable host Kris provided us with a plate of fresh mango which had been picked out of his beautiful tropical garden. I must admit, I"m not much of a fruit eater, but exploring another country I am keen to try the local delicacies. I tentatively took a bite. I can confirm that fruit still isn't for me but this did taste a heck of a lot better than any other fruit I have tried. In contrast, Lewis (who is an avid fruit lover) was in heaven, proclaiming that it was the best mango he had ever had in his life. I still managed to finish my piece though which is good going for me!

The fresh mango from the garden, provided by our lovely host

Outside, the rain had finally subsided and the trees were alive with the chorus of crows. From the balcony I watched as they dived from tree to tree, a flurry of black feathers and ear-splitting screeches. It almost felt like a dance. The birds moved as one.

It was time to head out. We had a long day ahead of us tomorrow so it was essential that we stocked up on supplies to get us through. Our host had given us directions to the nearest store which was only a short walk away.

Walking along the road in Sri Lanka was a completely new experience to me. There were no sidewalks, just narrow strips of grass that we tried our best to stick to. Mud squelched under my feet and I kicked mud into my flip-flops. Not the best choice of footwear, I must admit.

Bends were common in the roads and the traffic would honk as it reached one, clearly as a warning to anyone who may be walking there. Even bikes would ding as they passed. A couple of times tuk-tuks slowed down beside us, offering us lifts but we politely refused.

Lewis walking down the road as a cyclist passes us

The air was warm and humid, making my hair fluff up in an unfortunately ugly fashion. Around us was the constant chirping of numerous birds, their songs relaxing as they perched in high, lazy palm trees.

We passed two fruit stands, set back from the road with fresh bananas hanging tantalisingly. Perhaps we would pay one of these stalls a visit on the way back from the shop.

A fresh fruit stall beside the road in Negombo

It wasn't long before we reached the shop. We were only going to get essentials: water, ice creams and Pringles. Yeah... essentials.

Suddenly, I heard the clattering of bells outside. What could that be? I peaked my head out of the store to see three cows strolling down the road, large bells around their necks. What a sight to see! Cows are considered sacred animals in Hinduism and so roam freely. It was so surreal to see these great animals just walking casually past the store. Not one of the locals batted an eyelid at them and they instead seemed amused at my excitable reaction.

Just seeing those cows had made my day. We returned back to the house with smiles on our faces and surprisingly tired legs.

If you'd like to learn more about what there is to do in Negombo, I recommend checking out this guide on Adventures in Negombo.

Cows casually strolling down the road

A stray dog resting outside the store

We arrived back at the home with some time to relax before dinner was served. Our hosts had kindly offered to cook us some dinner (for extra charge of course) and we couldn't have been more excited for it. I hadn't eaten anything all day besides an ice cream that wasn't actually an ice cream (I can't quite describe it but it just wasn't) and a handful of Pringles.

Food was served. Our hosts had made us a delicious chicken and rice curry. The chicken was served in strips and mixed in with rice and vegetables. On the side we had some fish curry which was 'spicy' because we told our hosts we liked spicy food. They seemed impressed and offered us some of the fish curry which is what they were eating that night. We also had a bowl of vegetables (I say we but it was just for Lewis really) and some freshly-squeezed mango juice (again using mangos from the garden).

Oh my gosh, I expected it to be good but it was all absolutely heavenly. I didn't even mind the vegetables mixed in with the rice. In fact, I lapped them up! I don't know how they did it but I had never had such a gorgeous curry in my life.

It's safe to say that I went to bed with a happy belly that night. I didn't even sequel that much when Lewis lifted up the body of a huge dead moth from the windowsill. Safe that the room was moth-proof, Lewis and I settled down into bed and let exhaustion overcome us as the rain pelted against our open bedroom window.

The fabulous chicken and rice curry prepared by our hosts