Rose at 5am upon hearing the cry of “Land Oh!” Went on deck and saw the flashing light of Colombo light house in the distance whilst the sun rising behind the beautiful hills of Ceylon coupled with the picturesque fishing boats of the Singalese in the foreground made a great sight and one not to be forgotten in a hurry . Went inside the beautiful harbour about 7am and dropped anchor. Soon we were surrounded by a multitude of small native craft, full of jabbering niggers who soon began cadging “bucksheesh” and diving for any coin thrown to them. Some sneaked on-board and began to change their native coin for English money at about 4 times its value, the chaps taking their money for curios. One little skinny nigger about three feet high would sing “tararabom-de-ay” for one half penny and was immensely pleased when allowed to accompany himself on the bass drum which he did with great gusto.
Later on we were taken ashore in barges for a short route march and although it was terribly hot, we were glad to be able once more to stretch our legs and to see a little of Ceylon. Even natives carried umbrellas to keep the sun off and some who followed our course I noticed slipped off their singlets and held them over their heads to keep the sun off.
The palms and trees were very beautiful, their thick foliage being a dark green and many of the trees were flowering the street being lined with them. The native carts were very funny being clumsily built wagons with a thatched canopy over them drawn by the queerest looking bullocks imaginable and when moving travel at about two miles per hour.
The native policeman also struck me as being funny, wearing a navy blue uniform with a big broad rimmed hat (black) with a strap under their chin and carrying a solid looking baton in their hand. The natives were very varied in their dress, some being dressed in the height of the European fashion, in white suits, latest socks, shoes, everything up to date. Then there were others not so elaborately dressed having perhaps and English coat or perhaps trousers and the rest of their garb being native. Then there are those who were dressed in the true native costume, consisting of loose garments many coloured and lastly there were those dressed in a loin cloth and a few beads. It was hard to tell which were ladies and which the gents in great in many cases both being dressed a like and their hair left long but there were very few women about being I believe a way in the hills for the tea picking.
We did not see very much of the native portion of the city but those huts and native shops that we did see where of very primitive style.
The true Singalese are a very slightly built race being hardly more than skin and bone and possessing large splayed feet although they are very wiry. There are many races in Ceylon and all of them seem to have a fear of the British. The babies were very funny little things being carried straddle legs across the legs of their sisters, who in many cases were only slightly bigger than the babies themselves.
There were flocks of large black birds not unlike a crow which were very tame and would alight on the road just a few yards from where we were marching quite heedless of our presence.
The ocean front was beautifully laid out having an esplanade, lawns, palms and farther back lakes with water lilies of a most beautiful species. There were also many reserves which were planted with trees and palms of all descriptions and made very cool and shady resting places.
I was sorry that no leave was granted as I would have like to have roamed about at will but we were thankful for what we did see.
Rickshaws abounded and for a few pence you would be carried all over the city.
The government buildings and European business quarter were very fine buildings and an electric tram service ran through the city to the outer suburbs. After a small feed of bananas we were taken back to our boat tired hot and hungry.