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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

What bailout?!

Day 93/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Day 2, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The temperature before we went out today at 10am was 30C and with a 75% humidex, the temperature felt more like 35C. Wonderful weather if you like it hot! So hot it feels like walking on pavement is going to melt the rubber off our sandals!

Richard as a trip director is used to organizing transportation wherever he is working in the world. Lucky for us, he was working last night too! Richard organized a large, air conditioned van transfer for the 30 minute ride to the golf course today. The port of Colombo does not allow people to walk to the exit out of the Port area, and a Port shuttle is required before being able to even consider picking up a taxi, outside the gates. In this heat and with golf clubs, the last thing any of us wanted to do was deal with a shuttle to the gates and then figure out a taxi situation to the golf club. Thank goodness for Richard who got it organized and when we went out this morning, we were able to sit in our lovely air conditioned van, right next to where the Viking excursion buses were loading to take people out on their planned excursions.

Tour operator who we used for our travels in Sri Lanka. Richard negotiated with the tour operator, knowing how far the distances were that we were going.

Going golfing today were Steve, the Brit, Dave the Ozzie, and Richard and me. Sue, Steve’s wife was coming along to watch us play and enjoy the beautiful golf course.

Since it is Sunday today, the traffic was pretty light, since most people were not up and about at 10am so the 30 minute ride to the golf club only took about 20 minutes. Colombo is a beautiful city and we were able to see things on our drive today like Independence Square and Beira Lake, and the Colombo National Museum all on our way to the golf club. We also saw some guys playing cricket at the cricket grounds. The gardens and old, large tree canopies over the streets where the government offices are, were absolutely stunning! I did not know what to expect from visiting Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka is definitely exceeding my expectations with the beautiful, old Dutch and English colonial Architecture on the old buildings in the downtown Colombo area.

Old Dutch hospital building.

Royal Colombo Golf Club was established in 1879 by a handful of British expatriates who decided that it was time to introduce golf to a small British Colony called Ceylon. Sir Charles Henry de Sousa a Ceylonese philathropist set up a farm in pursuit of excellent in agriculture and animal husbandry. The farm never took off and he ended up gifting the land to the colonial government. Around the same time Sir West Ridgeway arrived in Colombo as the new British Governor of Ceylon. Being a golf enthusiast himself and since the golfers were tired of sharing the land that the cricket grounds also used, the ‘Alfred Model Farm’ as Henry de Sousa’s farm was known, was officially converted to the ‘Colombo Golf Club’. In 1928, King George V bestowed up the club the privilege of using the prefix Royal and ‘Colombo Golf Club’ came to be known as the ’Royal Colombo Golf Club’.

We arrived at Royal Colombo Golf Club and immediately found the pro shop to check in for our 11:10am tee time. The golf club had a weekend tournament which just ended before we teed off. The tournament was called “The Captain’s Cup“ and the current golf club captain runs the tournament and then hands over the reigns of the captaincy to the new captain after this tournament. The captain is only elected for one year.

The clubhouse was stunning inside with old dark mahogany wood everywhere. Sue and me found the Ladies locker room and I asked the locker room attendant for a locker key. She told me DO NOT leave any valuables in your golf bag. I had my small travel purse that I’ve been using but I did not want to leave that locked in the locker room, so I brought that with me thinking I could keep it in my golf bag.

The patio at Royal Colombo Golf Club.

I went looking for our golf clubs at the caddie stand/bag drop and was told our clubs were already on the first tee by the starter’s hut. I had to figure out how to get there as the verandah of the golf club was setting up for Sunday brunch and a band was also setting up and doing sound checks, while I was doing some putting on the practise putting green. It seemed surreal to be hearing Elvis and Frank Sinatra while practising my putting, with this beautiful wooden colonial golf club in the background.

Practise putting green at Royal Colombo Golf Club, with wide verandah settting for Sunday brunch.

It is not everyday when there is an Omega clock on the first tee of the golf club we are playing!

The guys finally showed up after taking care of the arrangements for a caddie for each of us and after figuring out that there were NO GOLF CARTS and we would be walking today! Great! Just what I needed. To walk 18 holes in brutal, feels like 40C weather!

Anyway, it is what it is, so if we wanted to golf, we had to walk!

Luckily I brought with me 3 cooling cloths which we wet with cold water and then wrapped around our necks. I loaned one to Sue and me and Richard had the other two. They are a must in these hot conditions. I bought mine on Amazon before the World Cruise, knowing that there would be countries where the cooling cloths would come in handy and thank goodness I remembered them today for golf.

I had a separate Ladies Score Card today.

I had a female caddie and she was quite good. I’m not sure if she had a handicap or not, but the other male caddies were all single digit handicaps, with Richard’s caddie having caddied in Doha, Qatar before on a professional men’s tour.

Wearing my cooling towel around my neck and carrying my purse!

I was told not to put my purse in my golf bag so I had to carry my purse around the golf course and put it down every time I took a shot or putted. I’ve never had to carry my purse around a golf course. What a strange situation.

There was a lot of water on the golf course today and a lot of shots that involved teeing off and then laying up in front of the water.

Par 5, 1st hole. Driver, layup, and then go for the green. I made par.

Workplace health and safety would definitely not approve this bridge! My caddie with my clubs.

There were guys walking along with us called ‘Pond Boys’ who would go into the pea soup green water to find our golf balls and I would tip them $1USD every time they found Richard’s or my golf ball. I was in the water twice. Once they found my ball and the other time no ball! The caddies did not look for balls in the water, leaving it to their ‘lower class’ colleagues to look for wet balls.

Pond Boy looking for someone’s golf ball on the back nine.

Grey Heron.

There were quite a few different birds and critters on the golf club. I saw many different egrets, grey herons, Hoopoe, Common bird, and we also saw very large monitor lizards skulking along the sides of the fairway.

Monitor lizard.

This golf course had a feature that I had never experienced before. The 5th hole was a par 3 and after we finished playing the par 3, we then moved back to the tee boxes on the 6th hole, to be able to hit over the green on the 5th hole, to reach the fairway.

6th hole called Rail Crossing. And yes that flag in the middle of the fairway was the 5th green, a par 3, that we had just finished playing.

I have been playing golf now for 30 years, and I have never, ever played a golf course where I have to hit over the hole I have just finished playing. The golf course had another weird feature in that the fairway for the 1st and 18th hole were shared. So before we hit off the 18th tee box, (par 4) we had to wait for the people who were playing the 1st hole (par 5) to hit their second shots, and get off our fairway. Interesting. Both holes were a bit quirky, but it seemed to work and no one was worried about hitting anyone.

After 8 holes there was a snack bar, but the snack bar did not take cash. Even Sri Lankan ruppee were not accepted, so I had to order some drinks for me and Richard, and the woman behind the counter had to walk to the clubhouse, to run the visa slip. Two bottles of water, two bottles of juice, and two bananas was less than $10. I asked my caddie if I could buy her something to eat and she asked if she could have a veggie bun and a barley water. The caddies were not allowed to be in the dining area and had to wait on the outskirts of the snack bar. The Manager behind the snack bar would not speak to the caddies so finally after some discussion Steve was able to determine that if he wanted to buy his caddie some food to eat, he had to ask the caddie what he wanted and the relay it to the Manager behind the snack bar counter. We quickly determined there was a class system in Sri Lanka. The ‘Pond Boy’ ball finders are lower class than the caddies. The caddies are a lower class than the Snack Bar Manager. Etc. Richard bought his caddie lunch and the caddie gave it to his 4 year old son through the fence on one hole. He said, he has 2 children and he would rather make sure they are well fed, than eat the lunch that Richard had bought him. Had we known that he was feeding his children with the food we had bought for him at the half way house, we would have bought him 3 lunches.

The back nine was nicer than the front nine; the course was nice for a 144 year old golf course; it has really stood the test of time. We tipped the caddies the suggested 2,000 Sri Lankan rupee, but I also gave my caddies some extra rupee.

Me and my caddie.

We went and retrieved my sandals from my day locker and I gave the locker attendant a small gratuity for affording me the privilege of a locker for the day. She was most appreciative. We really get the sense that there is a huge class divide in this country and the impact of spiralling inflation, bankruptcy and IMF bailouts is impacting the poor a lot more than the rich in this country.

We all made out way to the patio and thankfully Richard had ordered me a lime cordial and lemonade to mix together. The drink was so refreshing and while he was enjoying a Tiger beer from Sri Lanka with Dave, we waited for drinks for Steve and Sue.

Dave enjoying a Lion Lager from Sri Lanka.

We had a lovely fan blowing on us and we were as far away from the band as possible that was playing on the patio.

My refreshing drink on the patio at Royal Colombo. It is hot and everything I am wearing is soaking wet. Not a nice feeling!

We were then asked by the manager to move to another section of the patio, closer to the band, since the section we were in was going to be for a private function. We all picked up our drinks and moved closer to the band and luckily for us the band was close to finishing their last set.

The golf club members were boogying and having a fine time smoking, dancing and drinking while they enjoyed some music. The crowd were decidedly younger Sri Lankan’s and on a Sunday afternoon the booze was flowing like Jay Gatsby’s house in the 1920’s during prohibition. Thats the vibe I got from watching the scene in front of me. What IMF bailout? What bankruptcy? We have fine food on our Sunday lunch buffet, good music and all is right with the world.

We headed out to the parking of the golf club to catch our taxi van which was arriving at 4pm and the parking lot was full of full size Range Rovers, Range Rover Sports, Range Roger Velars, Mercedes, Jaguars, Audis, BMW SUVs and Tesla Model X. Its interesting that on the drive to Galle the day before our guide had told us that the country had stopped the importation of new vehicles last year because of the foreign exchange deficit the country was in. Somebody did not tell the golf club members! Every one of the cars in the parking lot was a late model vehicle.

We drove back in the van to the ship and the roads were a lot busier at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. The busiest place of all though was the Borella Central Cemetery also known as Kanatte Cemetery downtown Colombo. Established in 1866 it is the main cemetery for Hindus, Buddhists, Shintos, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Non denominational Christian’s. The cemetery was packed with a burial in progress and as we drove by another funeral was marching behind the Mercedes hearse and headed to the funeral. Our driver and guide (we had both) told us that when someone dies in Sri Lanka, they rest at home for family and friends to come and mourn and then they are transported in the car to the Borella Central Cemetery and if the family lives close enough to the cemetery, everyone must walk behind the hearse. Interesting.

We were never so thankful to have showers in our lives after we got back from golf. Everything I was wearing was absolutely wet and stuck to me. Golf was a lesson in endurance today with having to walk the golf course in the hot and humid conditions.

Richard took a brief nap, while I started this blog and it was nice to relax in the air conditioning and recharge, as we had dinner plans off the ship for the evening.

Dave and Julie (the Ozzie’s) had invited us to dinner with Steve and Sue (the Brit’s) at ’Ministry of Crab’.

Richard had organized the same taxi we had used earlier in the day, to meet us at the ship and take us to the old Dutch Hospital district of Sri Lanka, which had been converted into shops, restaurants and bars. The Ministry of Crab was rated one of the top 50 restaurants in Asia from 2015-2020 and it has a no freezer policy on all of its food, so it is served fresh and tasty. An interesting thing about the restaurant is that they are closed on Poya Days (Full Moon Holidays).

We sat outside with overhead fans blowing warm, hot air on us. The temperature outside was still 30C even in the shade of the evening. A band further up the alley in the same complex was playing ‘Hotel California’ and I commented about how here we were in Sri Lanka and still could not get away from the Eagles!

The food was very tasty and delicious and our hosts unknowing to us, treated us for dinner. Thank you. At 9:15pm we caught our waiting taxi van back to the ship. It had been a long day for everyone and I was not able to finish the blog last night, as my head hit the pillow as soon as I got to bed. One more day in Sri Lanka and heat, before we have a sea day.

I am struggling with the internet again this evening, so the blog for our last day in Sri Lanka will be written tomorrow on our sea day before we reach Cochin, India.

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Mar 27, 2023

Even tho I'm not a golfer, I enjoyed your photos of the golf course! And while I do like crab, it sounds like a rather warm evening to be eating it.

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