Colombo – Ceylon

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Ceylon did not become Sri Lanka until 1972.

The country has had a chequered  history, from the Portuguese arriving in 1505, followed by the Dutch, when the king of Sri Lanka signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company, in the hope that the Dutch would get rid of the Portuguese.

It was during the Napoleonic wars that France occupied the Netherlands, and made that country part of France, which caused concern to the British.

The British didn’t want France to have any influence in or around India, so they occupied the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. At the end of the Napoleonic war the British occupied the whole country, and it was they who called the country Ceylon.

Ceylon gained their independence from the British in 1948, but it wasn’t until 1972 that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, the first female Prime Minister in the world.
She was PM three times and it was during her second period in office (1970 – 1977) that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

ColomboOn arrival we were moored to buoys in the harbour of Colombo (see above) and the labour came out to us in barges to load / unload cargo.

The small problem with Ceylon is that they have 26 public holidays a year, which consist of a mix of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim faith days.
One of the holidays is Poya Day which happens when there is a full moon they are entitled to a holiday, so little is done on the 12 full moon days in a year, plus it is not unknown for some to take the day off before Poya Day, so working cargo can be slowwww.

The slow speed of work gave us time to experience Colombo and enjoy the beautiful island.

One Sunday four of us hired a taxi to take us from the dock area to Mount Lavinia Hotel, which used to be the Governor’s house. The hotel was about ten miles out of the city and the drive would have been about thirty to forty minutes, due to traffic.

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An old picture of the Governor’s House taken around 1900 – it had fallen in to disrepair as it was no longer the Governor’s House.

The British Government sold the house in 1842 and it was bought by Rev. Dr. John MacVicar, the Colonial Chaplain and turned in to an asylum.

In 1877 the railway line was built along the coast from Colombo and it passed very close to the old building.
A developer saw the potential and restored the old building and added two wings and the building became The Mount Lavinia Grand Hotel. The hotel changed hands a few times until it was bought by Mr. U. K. Edmund in 1975 and is still in the family.

In 1957 it was used for a few scenes in the film Bridge on the River Kwai, the film was made in Sri Lanka (not Thailand) and the hotel ‘played’ a military hospital – oddly enough it was a military hospital during WW2.

Most of the British prisoners in the film were local Sinhalese made up to play British POWs.

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Above picture from the internet.

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The Mount Lavina Hotel is now one of my favourite hotels, and it took me thirty-eight year before I was able to return, this time with Maureen.

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The taxi dropped us at the hotel, and the uniforms may be a little more modern, but the ambiance of our arrival was the same.

 We booked a curry lunch; – at that time they didn’t have a swimming pool, why would you need one considering the location.

They owned the beach.

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At that time the hotel had facilities for day visitors, and we were able to get changed and be confident that our clothes & valuables etc would be safe. I kept some money in my pocket – just in case I wanted a drink.

Swimming in the waves can make one tried so I decided to take a walked along the beach away from the hotel and the distant city of Colombo. I came across a lady selling fresh pineapples, so I bought one, and found that the taste was out of this world,
I’d only ever had tinned pineapples in the UK, funny how some memories stay with you.
We had the use of showers and it was time for a pre-lunch beer, before entering the dining room for our lunch.
We ate under giant ceiling fans that moved slowly enough to cool, but not to make the food cold – all very ‘pukka sahib’.

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I took the above picture in 2014 and I don’t think it was all that much different than in 1968, I think that now they have air conditioning.

After lunch we sat on the lawn and chatted or just doze – the lawn has gone and it is now the swimming pool.

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Now guests have a choice . . .

I took the photograph at the beginning of this post from the end of the pool at Mount Lavinia Hotel.

1960's

At the end of the day it was back to Colombo and the ship,

Loading tea onto a freighter. Colombo Harbour, 1960’s

loading chests of tea.

I can remember that the exchange rate between the UK pound and the Sri Lankan rupee was 14 to the pound and the black-market rate 25 to 27 to the pound. Today it is about 236 rupees to the UK pound.

Next stop Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh)

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chalna

 

 

 

 

 

Author: 1944april

Traveled a great deal - about 80 countries - first foreign country I suppose was Wales, which was only 80 miles away from where I was born. Visited each Continent, except Antarctica, and I doubt that it is on my bucket list - too cold. I love Asian food, Australian wine & British beer & trying to entertain by writing.

6 thoughts on “Colombo – Ceylon”

  1. The island and the hotel look splendid. – Trincomalee was where my Father was, just in time for the Japanese Easter Sunday raid. – Turns out that our Captain Hewitt was in the area, and just missed it !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Visited Trinco a few times but never om holiday, it is one of those places that perhaps one day . . the availability of the ‘right’ accommodation is limited. As one grows older there are certain levels of accommodation that one wants :- o)

    Like

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