Anuradhapura 18th Oct - 20th Oct 2016
On the four hour bus journey from Kandy to this northern town Sarah and I created a new game to pass the time where we mashed the names of 2 film/tv programs together, gave a clue as to the two films and the other had to guess. For example. After Milton was told there would be cake, he has to help Bugs Bunny win a basketball game. The answer: Office Space Jam. A fairly silly game but it kept us preoccupied the entire journey and for several journeys since.
Anuradhapura is a town in the north of Sri Lanka which was somewhat off track for the circular path we were making around the island but from the admittedly little research we had done we'd heard that there were some cool things to be seen there so we went and had a look. We were half right.
Our hostel was brand new, so brand new in fact that it was still being built. Run by a lovely family with a tiny, curious toddler who wasn't afraid to run up to us and say hello, their new place was out in the middle of nowhere located on the very edge of a serene lake on the edge of town. Not only was the hostel new the entire road connecting it to the outside world was new too, it was so uneven and unpaved that a few times the tuktuk struggled to stay upright. The upshot of the bone rattling journey there was it meant the place was incredibly peaceful.
The big attraction in Anuradhapura is the site of the ancient city which covers a large area of a few square miles inside the modern city. The site contains lots of archaeology and a history that dates back to c.900BC, the most impressive monuments on display in the ancient city are the collection of huge pagodas - large, solid brick domes. There are also a couple of archaeology museums contained within the boundaries of the ancient city and all of these individual attractions are connected by public roads and highways. It's therefore entirely absurd that foreigners are expected to pay 20gbp to enter into the area. On the larger roads in and out of the ancient city (rather than at the sites themselves) there are check points set up where guards will sell tourists the tickets whilst letting the locals pass through, you know, because they are public roads which connects the city together. The tickets get you into the area and entrance to the museums, both of which were closed for renovation when we were there. We were cycling down the road before we got stopped by a few guards and told we couldn't go further without paying the entrance fee and whilst we discussed this at least 3 tuktuks drove past us unimpeded. Instead of carrying on and buying the tickets we turned around and cycled away to enjoy rest of the scenery which was free. Sri Lankan roads like the roads in many south east Asian countries can get pretty hair raising at times where the general all of the road seems to be 'the bigger you are the more rights you have' so it was nice to cycle around Anuradhapura where the streets were mostly empty and the well paved too.
We cycled around another lake and down some smaller residential streets to explore the area and both long (and not entirely by accident) we found ourselves within the boundary limits of the ancient city - the guards and check points were only set up on the larger roads. After having done this I went back to check what other people had done and it turns out it's quite a common thing, even wikitravels suggests this as an option, that or getting a tuktuk driver who will essentially smuggle you in. The moral question arises as to whether you help the economy and the preservation of the sites - of which there was zero evidence - by paying or whether you make the choice to pay the extortionate fee to use public roads and save the money to spend in local businesses. Clearly we chose the latter and once inside the area that is designated as the ancient city there was no sign of ticket checkers and as such we freely biked around for the day. The only time we thought we might get caught was by a couple of very angry dogs who chased our bikes for the best part of the kilometer, it was scary. We visited a few of the pagodas which can be best described and likened to a giant boob the size of a building or the Ion Cannon from Star Wars before realising that they were all more or less identical to the one we'd seen outside the ancient city and were then quite relieved that we didn't pay.
|The best photo I could get of the Langurs|
Our stint in Anuradhapura wasn't just about being tourists, in fact we spent both of our evenings there emailing and ringing people back home fighting to get the 725gbp deposit back from our Cardiff flat, the place we'd now left four months ago. This whole saga is a long winded aggravating tale of why letting agencies are horrendous companies that do not give a shit about anyone. To give an abridged version of the story: We left the flat in a pristine condition (with the help of Malcolm and Sharon, thank you again). The letting agency's initial report was positive and stated we should likely receive all or most of the deposit back in the following few weeks. After 1 month later and no further information we send them several emails. Finally they reply to let us know the landlady is requesting 719gbp out of 725gbp of our deposit for things such as track marks on the carpet and to rehang the curtains..... We quickly send an email back fighting our case to which they don't reply. Over the next few weeks we send more emails, messages to the agency on Facebook, try to ring them and even Sharon rings them. We cannot get through to anyone. Although when we leave them a bad review on Facebook they quickly respond asking us to get in contact with them to sort the issue out. Ummm what? We believe that the Landlady hadn't responded to the agency and as such they didn't have any new info to give us but the fact they didn't tell us this or anything at all is terrible. Finally we go to the Deposit Protection Scheme to fight our case there. We're told the landlady has a month to provide evidence. A month later we've still not heard anything from them and so the emails and calls start again. Turns out the landlady received an extension for two more weeks, but no explanation was given as to why. Thanks for telling us. Two weeks later we get an email stating how because we haven't provided any evidence for our case the deposit will go to the other party. Terrified and enraged we immediately call DPS to find out that that email was supposed to go to the landlady, not us, and that we were probably, 4 months and much anguish later going to get our full deposit back. We were relying on that money so to spend the first four months of traveling worrying that we weren't going to get it was not pleasant. Luckily it worked out in the end.
Victorious we headed back to Kandy, but this time we had a good reason to do so.