Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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The Daily Telegraph in Kandy, Sri Lanka


I’ve recently reviewed six hotels in Kandy, Sri Lanka for The Daily Telegraph.

Kandy House, the former home of the last king of Ceylon, now a stunning hotel property amidst jungle and paddy fields outside of town,  was a particular highlight.

Indian theater activists see rise in political risks – The Nikkei Asian Review


My latest story with Laure Siegel on government censorship and the arts in India, focusing on theater on Mumbai and Delhi.

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI — “First they come for the movies. Then for the books. Theater will be the last to be hit, but the clamp-down is coming,” said Anish Victor, a founder of Rafiki, a theater collective from Bangalore, in India’s Karnataka state.

“They constantly test how far they can push their agenda and how much resistance they encounter,” Victor said of the Hindu-based Bharatiya Janata Party government that took power in 2014. “It happens in the courts, on the censorship boards. They push their moralistic values to suppress all public means of expression.”

Victor’s comments reflect growing concerns among many intellectuals in India about the impact of resurgent Hindu nationalism, which is widely thought among artists to have had a chilling effect on artistic values and contemporary theater.

Read the full story in The Nikkei Asian Review.

Steven Seagal loves Sak Yant…and Sacred Skin


A copy of Sacred Skin has found its way into the hands of action actor and martial arts wizard Steven Seagal, via the incredible Sak Yant master Arjanneng Onnut Sakyant!

Delhi – City of Children


Delhi – City of Women


Delhi – City of Men


Helga’s Folly, Sri Lanka – A 20th Century Classic


Gandhi stayed here and Paula Yates loved it. A handsome mansion built in the 1930s, run by the eccentric Helga De Silva, the property is now a faded but incredible Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-Hammer-Horror bohemian ghost ride experience. If you are looking for conventional accommodation, don’t stay here.


Hotels don’t get any more unique than Helga’s Folly. Every inch of wall, floor and ceiling space is covered in paintings, frescoes, murals, photographs, mirrors, sculptures, giant candles and antiques and resonates with the spent souls of past bohemian visitors. Some guests will find the experience disturbing, others liberating. There’s an evident obsession with both death and whimsy visible in the décor, and the 20th century in all its terrible beauty, as perceived by the old moneyed classes, dominates the off-kilter ambience.


One could literally while away hours soaking up the infinite number of small details and mementos of an artistic life well lived. A definite highlight is an encounter with Helga, who makes an appearance, dressed to the nines like Count Dracula, every now and then.


Read the full review in The Daily Telegraph.

Tom Vater – Crime fiction writer, Journalist, Publisher – at

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Road Trip Sri Lanka


I have been traveling in Sri Lanka recently. it was a blast and my first time on the island. Mellow people, so long as you don’t dig into the war (and I was not there for that), luscious green hills, great food, wonderful festivals and no stress.

I did a bunch of hotel reviews for The Daily Telegraph and did some other great writing. Plenty in fact.

With French journalist Laure Siegel, I investigated the island’s burgeoning tattoo scene and met several great tattoo artists. I even got inked.


The best place I stayed was the former home of the last king of Sri Lanka, now called Kandy House, a wonderful country mansion. It’s right in the jungle above Kandy. I had a close encounter with a king cobra there while visiting a local temple, which to my mind was really a spirit meeting, since I am still here to tell the tale.

Thanks to all the wonderful people who helped along the way, especially Harshi Hewage at Manorhouse Concepts in Colombo, Ravi at Ravi Tattoo in Kandy, Helga DeSilva at Helga’s Folly in Kandy, and Dimmu Fernando  in Ja-Ela.


I Love My India