Tom Vater

Tom Vater

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Read the full review in The Daily Telegraph.

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