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Some of the Chamber of Commerce party were frank enough to admit that their most vivid recollections of hearing about Java were, in connection with Moca, together with eggs and toast and the usual accompaniments of the breakfast table, but we were all in for a revelation. The cultivation of the hillsides in Japan is child's play in comparison with the miles upon miles of hills, plateaus and even mountains, all in flourishing rice fields, coffee plantations and sugarcane.
One can now realize what the late Premier Hara of Japan meant, when he is said to have admitted to some intimates that there was no over-population in Japan if only fifteen percent of the vast tracts (61 percent of all Japan) were utilized (as it is in Java), enough space for Japan's growing population could easily be found. It is said that the Japanese Emperor and his advisers will never dispose of this land or allow it to be used.
Our party separated over the land of Java, like the forty tribes of Biblical history. Some went to the famous ruins of Bora Badur erected ages ago, some to Djorka to see the native dances and to see the strange old walled city, where the Sultan, his wives and the fifteen thousand natives, said to be related to him, live. While the Sultan and his harem are seated, cross-legged on the floor, with the Dutch Queen's pictures looking sternly down upon them, the ever waiting counselors of the Sultan squat outside the sacred precincts. These wise-looking old counselors of the Sultan also have their retinue of servants waiting on them - one with a pipe, another with a pillow, still another with a fan, etc., etc. Our delegation was especially honored in being permitted to go in the sacred place where the ancient bedroom is situated. We even spied some harem beauties in the distance.
Those of the party desiring a complete change from the sea, went to the picturesque resort of Garot, perched high up near a volcano. Many of the businessmen stayed right in Batavia to study business conditions. Still others went to the Botanical gardens of Boetenzorg and to see wonderful scenery near Bandoeng, but all attended the ball given for us the night we departed at Batavia.
In starting out in any vehicle in the tropics we were all taken miles out of our way. The drivers never attempted to find out where one wished to go, or listened to one if one tried to make them understand. They start off with a flourish, usually in the wrong direction, before they can be stopped. It makes no difference to them. They know they are hired and that is all they care about. Perhaps this is one reason why Charles Yates unfortunately missed the ship. Constant Meese found the streets apparently deserted one night when our party wished transportation back to the ships but by clapping his hands together, half a dozen rick-shaws came tumbling over each other to get there first. Sometimes the clapping of the hands is not enough to attract the native's attention, as he rarely listens to orders; some of the party say they have found the typical tourist's cane most effective and think they have discovered a real reason for a cane at last.
At Batavia the well-known Captain Edward Salisbury left his world-touring yacht "Wisdom," to join our party. He entertained us in the evenings with weird tales of his adventures in the South Seas, where pigs are exchanged for wives and the wives thus acquired are then put to work to raise more pigs to get new wives.
Good students of geography will doubtless recall that the approach to Saigon is through the crookedest river in the world. As I usually "just passed" in this subject, cannot speak with authority, but I will guarantee that it has many more curves than our Tamalpais railroad, advertised all over as being "The crookedest railway on the globe."
So the members of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce tour were busy speculating on just how many turns and twists the Empire State had made before she finally docked at Saigon, when some members of the Saigon Reception committee told us that we were the largest American steamship that ever had landed in port.
Two large busses were placed at the disposal of our delegation. The Cercle Sportivo gave a dance at their club in our honor and two tea dansants were held at the Continental Hotel. Some of the ladies got quite accustomed to the bags of mosquito netting that one slips one's feet in, to evade the pests while dining, but most of us forget to step out, and, for a moment, thought we were in a sack race.
The elephant at the beautiful botanical gardens, that would go and buy himself food when given the proper amount of money was interesting, but he was not the real attraction at Saigon. Our party had been entertained by the Geisha girls, sung almost to distraction (you know it is impolite for the sing-song girls of China to stop singing until requested to stop). We had watched the dancing of the Javanese and Philippine Ballerinas, but, we had to come here to see the real French girls. We now understand why many of our soldiers came home with French wives - "vamp" is the only word we could think of in describing every one of them. Never before had we seen so many picture hats.
What fun we all had airing our moth-eaten French. (Here I am not referring to the few of our party that speak French fluently.) And it was several days before some of us stopped calling the Chinese cabin-boys "Garcon."
Perhaps, to show that the San Francisco committee appreciated the distinction of being on board a ship fifteen feet longer than any other American steamer to make that port, we broke off part of the propeller as a souvenir in departing.