I had only been in Sri Lanka for an hour, but I was already experiencing sensory overload. Although the pungent smell of just-caught fish mixed with the taste of a salty-sea breeze had me resisting the urge to pinch my nose, my eyes widened, hungrily taking in the scene unfolding around me. Fishermen lined the side of the road, cleaning or filleting their catch and speaking in soft tones of Sinhalese. I noticed that the shore shone silver, as if someone had spilled a million little diamonds across the sand. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the glimmer was actually thousands of tiny fish — sardines, anchovies and more — salted and spread out on a net to dry.
In Sri Lanka, as well as many other island nations, fish markets are common. I’ve been to quite a few myself, but none as impressive as Negombo Fish Market. Though the market normally bustles with customers, we arrived after the morning rush hour. It was better this way, though, as the vendors were generous in allowing tourists to photograph them. After about five minutes of strolling the market, one local even offered to give an impromptu tour.
One of the country’s most famous, the vendor-lined market is open daily and located just 20 miles from the island nation’s capital of Colombo. As the first stop on my Sunday morning tour, it offered a truly authentic introduction to the South Asian country.