I spent Christmas on the beach.
Negambo used to be a sleepy fishing village. Now, Beach Side is studded with tourist hotels, some good and many seedy. It is also the stronghold of Sri Lankan Drug Barons.
I drove to The Beach Christmas morning with Renu and Nick who fled the London cold and arrived in Sri Lanka 48 hours earlier. The Beach is one of the more exclusive seaside hotels in Negambo. I last stayed there over ten years ago. It was called Royal Oceanic then and I remember the seafood dinner on the beach with waves lapping at my feet and sipping New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This time, I asked the CEO of the JetWing group of hotels to suggest a venue for my Christmas Lunch and he suggested The Beach.
The manager of the hotel was expecting me. He led us to a small collection of beach beds in a coconut grove on the beach. A waiter in a green sarong and black tunic brought us tea and king coconut water. It was hot, but there was a cool breeze in which the palm leaves waved and beyond the golden sands, the sea was intensely blue. We frolicked in the cool Indian Ocean and swam in the long and narrow pool. In between, we drank ice cold Lion Lager.
There was roast turkey and lamb for lunch. But there was smoked and fried fish, prawns, squid and lobster too. Sri Lankan and Thai rice with vegetables, salads and fish curry followed. I could manage only fresh fruit and a little watalappam – a steamed Sri Lankan pudding made with coconut milk, eggs and palm sugar.
We snoozed, walked on the beach and drank black tea. At one end of the beach, a stage was set up and a band started playing. There was a lot of drinking, singing and laughter and hundreds of young men and women started wading in to the sea with all their cloths on, clapping and shouting. Some started dancing and as dusk fell, firs were lit and fairy lights started to twinkle all over the beach.
As we drove home that Christmas evening, the roads were jammed with cars and trucks full of partying youngsters, all heading to the beach.