My husband and I recently visited Trincomalee, on the east side of Sri Lanka and absolutely adored it.
We started off in Colombo and did a very brave thing by hiring a car and drove through the beautiful countryside to Trincomalee. This was a challenge with all the hooting, traffic and at a speed of 50 km per hour, sometimes it was funny and sometimes, well, not so funny. The roads are in excellent condition but the traffic on the road, ‘oh my word…’
In Trincomalee, you will find one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. Trinco is the fifth largest natural harbor in the world.
The name, Trincomalee comes from Trikono/likoona (triangle) and malai (hill or rock in Tamil).
In earlier times, Trincomalee was called Gonaka. The Greek cartographer, Psolemny, marked the harbor as Bokana on his map. There is a fair amount of romance connected to this harbor. Badda Kachachana, the Sakyan princess who was sent to Lanka to be the bride of King Panduvasdeva, also landed at Trincomalee, quite probably under much pomp and ceremony.
Then there are the colorful temples. It seems that each street corner competes with its neighbor to host the most spectacular temple.
This particular temple is called, Pathirakali Amman– Pathirakali Ambal Kovil – or the Kali Kovil, Trincomalee is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Bhadrakali.
There are always food in the temples, available to whoever in need. The food is presented in beautiful pots and the banana leaves will be used as a plate to serve the food on.
There are also the most adorable spotted deer roaming around the city. They were brought as pets in the early years of British rule and have survived and became part of everyday life. The deer roam around Trincomalee and can also be seen at Fort Federick. They are undeniable part of this world.
Well, this is a little history that I shared with you. Getting back to the harbor which I think is what this place is all about. I fell in love with the fishing villages and the ongoing fishing of the people to feed the people.
Out on the beach you will find the most colorful boats as well as young and old gathering twice a day for the ritual of fishing. Running fishing nets out to sea in huge C shaped figures has been developed to a fine art.
Using throwing nets in the shallow lagoons or close to the beach is very popular and the skill with which these nets are thrown to create a perfect circle dropping down onto the unsuspecting schools of fish, is a joy to watch.
Manually hauling the long nets back to shore with almost hypnotic rhythm for a sometimes merger haul of only a few tiny fish seems like a lost cause, however, these committed fishermen are on the posts singing and pulling and singing and pulling, once the nets are in, the task of repairing any holes before the next catch keeps the men busy.
Once the nets come in and the fish are taken out, fish is sorted into baskets and then washed in the sea.
Now the bidding and selling of fish can start and is heard all over the beach. The baskets are full of fish and the scales busily weigh the merchandise before the price is fixed and the sale concluded. All the signs of fish being caught, sorted, washed and sold to feed the people.
The buyers will walk off with their fish talking and laughing happily being in a position to bring food home. A lot of the daily catch will go to the fish market where, another world of hustle and bustle happens.
Any left-over fish is cared for and dried so that nothing goes to waste. The dried fish is sold in stores in town, the tea plantations, in Candy and all surroundings. The dried fish is normally deep fried to a crispy delicacy which becomes part of the famous Sri Lankan curries.
After a hard day’s work some of the fisherman can be seen playing soccer, or volley ball on the beach while others come and take a rest right there on the beach.
‘After a hard day of fishing!’
What is there more to say about this beautiful fishing village and its people?
I was so inspired by Trincomalee and their fishing that I plan to share my take on a Sri Lankan fish curry recipe with you in my next article. This is really a place to visit and get the feel of the local life and traditions in Sri Lanka.
For recipes click here.