[Aboard the Djemnah] -- 18 May


We weighed anchor at seven o'clock and half an hour later we were sailing away from Point Galle towards the north. At the very beginning the waves were rebellious so much so that they went over the ship's deck. Frequent and strong squalls, added to the light movement of the ship, often placed us in amusing postures and taught us a new kind of gymnastics. The children cried; the women remained seated; and the men balanced themselves.

At last, at 1:00 we sighted Colombo with its port and beautiful view. The breakwater, a meter above the water level, was well inside and elegant and tall buildings in the distance were inviting to the curious and tired traveler. Several crafts, steamers, and ships were waiting in the bay.

Some launches, loaded with coffee, anchored beside our ship and their crew began snatching a certain cable. Their numerous crew engaged in a grand dispute -- grand at least, judging by the many words and numerous gestures with which they threatened one another. Many of us went to watch them. At last, after urging this one, threatening the other, one further away intervening, taking away the pole from the other -- after these preliminaries, two grappled, as everybody expected, and afterwards they separated upon getting tired. Needless to say, there was no bloodshed or anything of the kind. I didn't know how the dispute ended or who was the winner. The fact was that one of the little crafts got hold of the disputed cable and everything ended there.

Among those who went to see them was a young man named Jorab -- Dutch by birth -- who was going to Europe to finish or to study law. It was very amusing how, on the sly, he went after a girl who had been the object of his attentions since yesterday. Now and then I looked at them and I noted that the girl had already understood him, but my conjectures went no further.

The weather became a little calm which permitted the passengers to go down and visit Colombo, for many had not yet seen it. I, perhaps one of the most curious, went ashore also in one of the narrowest canoes. I was alone because the roguish boatman would not admit more. Four Spaniards, companions and fellow passengers, had gone ahead of me.

On the way I observed the port's breakwater, which was the name of a kind of curved dike above the water to break the waves and prevent them from disturbing the tranquil bay. This made me think of Manila.

I was greatly distressed, fearing that my companions had left me behind, as it seemed to me in fact, when I was still in the canoe, seeing them climb in a coach and going away. How disappointed I was knowing as I did that the city I was going to visit was English and probably no one would understand me. But fortunately they left an Indian guide or cicerone dressed in white who, through signs and mimicry, made me understand that my companions had gone to the hotel (Grand Oriental Hotel).

After going through some muddy streets, very much like those of Manila and admiring several large buildings, perhaps made like those in Europe, my guide, boatman, and I reached the hotel where I found my companions.

Mr. Ortiz, who was in charge of the expenses, paid the boatman, and after ordering meals for six, we took coaches, I, alone in one, and went around the town.

Colombo is more beautiful, smart, and elegant than Singapore, Point Galle, and Manila, though with less bustle than the last two. As I have said the buildings are grand. We stopped first at the post office. Near there I saw a well-moulded life-size statue of Sir Edward Barnes. The posture is excellent but the folds of the cloak seemed to me too stiff.

In front of the telegraph building is the Savings Bank, and another beautiful building. As we went along, we were more and more satisfied and pleased. The guide who rode in my coach explained to me the various buildings as we passed them.

Some temples which we could not visit for lack of time; the barracks of the regiment where we saw soldiers in red jacket and black trousers; the hospital; the officers' barracks where we saw a tiger's skin and a lighthouse clock tower, which was next to the telegraph building; the Galle Face Hotel; beautiful private houses; the district where many of the houses belonged to Italians. We passed by the seashore where the waves broke its fury into abundant foam. Long streets bordered with trees among which I saw the camachile1 and the eternal coconut trees; the cemetery and the botanical garden, not as well taken care of as that of Singapore; and finally the museum.

This beautiful building stood in the center of the garden. It was white, in European style. Its walls and pillars were covered with lead and there was a statue in front of it. The entrance is through a beautiful and simple front. On the ground floor were numerous stuffed sharks, many..., very big sawfish, some more than six or seven varas long; a spearfish at the left; idols; weapons; different images of Buddha; curious objects of the country; and Indian masks for dances, vying in ugliness, several of which resembled the Roman masks for having one half different from the other. What is the explanation for the similarity between the Indian and Roman masks? Had there been some relations between them? A beautiful column of blue marble stood in the middle. It seemed that it was going to be used in the house of the Maharajah of Ceylon, according to the label in English. It was of one piece. Numerous monoliths, plaques, idols, stone elephants, a big cannon, etc.

On the second floor, four or five big turtles; big skeletons of carabaos and two of whole elephants, one of which still carried the bullet that hit it, and two even bigger skulls of these pachyderms, another of a wild boar, porcupine, monkey, etc.; and several stuffed deer. Porcupines, wild boars, many fishes, locusts, alligators, and crocodiles, etc., bronze and gold idols of Buddha, gems, numerous insects, reptiles, and birds.

Satisfied we went down to the garden and saw two live peacocks. I was sorry I could not see the statue because it was raining.

We proceeded to the hotel.

I have observed here in Singapore, as in Point Galle, that the birds, including the crows, go near men.

We reached the hotel, which was of four stories with the ground floor, where I saw a beautiful picture, copy of Gustave Doré's2 painting portraying a night on the circus arena. The painting is a masterpiece. In the midst of the darkness of the night various cherubs descend to the inanimate bodies of the martyrs, food for wild beasts. The whole is very beautiful, worthy of its author.

As it was not yet time for supper, we went around some shops of pipes and other manufactured articles. Ebony and ivory elephants, boxes of tortoise shell and porcupine, canes, and jewelry were the most notable things we saw.

As it was getting dark we returned to the hotel. We entered the dining hall, which was large and. beautiful. Two majestic punkahs and excellent service. Besides the exquisite and heavy dishes they served us, a new kind of dish placed on top of a container for hot water attracted the attention of everyone. Ten years ago I saw one like it in Barretto's house.

We changed some money and in the midst of the rain we proceeded to the ship, afraid that it might leave us behind. We found at last a boat, manned by three persons who were chanting. It was a worthwhile spectacle to see the sea at flight jumping over the breakwater and scattering an extensive layer of foam.

We reached the boat at last. When I saw Nievenhing, he told me an unpleasant thing. They were three -- the engineer, the judge, and the sailor -- all Dutch. They had a dispute, they fought, and they were going to have a duel. My friend asked me not to tell anybody and I promised. It seemed to me that they were all drunk.

1Also written "Kamanchile," Tagalog word for Pithecolobium dulce (Roxb.).

2Paul Gustave Doré; (1833 - 1883). French illustrator and painter.


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