Whilst we were staying in Kandy during our travels around Sri Lanka, we found out about Helga’s Folly, a famous hotel known for quite literally being the anti-hotel to meet Helga herself. I somehow managed to arrange an interview with Helga de Silva Blow Perera to find out more about her fascinating family history.
To give you a very quick run down, Helga’s mother designed the hotel back in the 1930’s and was a painter. Her father was a politician and ambassador to Paris. Her aunt was one of the first female architects of the east, and her brother Demond was the United Nations chief prosecutor for the war crimes in Sierra Leone. The list honestly goes on and Helga herself became a model for Dior at just 17.The living room at Helga’s Folly
After her first marriage ended with the tragic death of her husband, her children Detmar Blow married Isabella Blow who was famed for creating the careers of model Sophie Dahl and Alexander Mcqueen to name but a few as well as being the muse for hat designer, Philip Treacy.Isabella Blow. Image source: www.vogue.com
Selina Blow. Image source: www.westlondonliving.co.uk
Helga moved back to her family home after the end of her second marriage and dealt with the situation by painting the hotel which originally had white walls and clean lines, and a hotel for package tourists. Her creativity and most likely her biggest reward to date was turning the Folly into a wonderland of creativity.The grotto at Helga’s Folly
With the help of some art students who came to help her, she has managed to create what must be one of the world’s most interesting hotels. But, it’s an ever ongoing piece of art work, a space that will keep on evolving throughout time.The dining room at Helga’s Folly
That day, as I went to meet Helga, unfortunately she wasn’t well but I was lucky enough to be shown around by her daughter Selina who was just visiting her mother from England.
As I walked into the hotel, an alice in wonderland mix of incredibly beautiful furniture, murals painted by Helga herself and pieces of kitsch items collected over the years, you could see every single item had a story. The music played throughout was absolutely perfect with songs like Blue Velvet and other classics that just suited this hotel and brought out more of the atmospheric vibe. The upstairs area at Helga’s Folly
What I loved most about this hotel were the many photos of family and friends hung up on the walls. It really made you feel connected to them and their mind blowing history.Some of the many family photographs stand on display at Helga’s Folly
Previous guests have been of many one could only ever dream up including family friend, Ghandi (yes, that’s right, he was a family friend), David Lean, Vivien Leigh, Peter Finch, Sir Laurence Olivier, Paula Yates and even the Stereophonics wrote their song Madam Helga after their stay. I could only ever imagine the stories that must have been made in this hotel.Pictures of family friend Ghandi are displayed in the hotel
It’s an experience you won’t forget because for Helga and her family, the hotel has been created to put a smile on people’s faces, to not take things too seriously and it certainly does that. They like to break away from the norm, to be different from the boring, lifeless hotels out there and they couldn’t have done it any better if they tried.As a creative person, there is so much going on in this hotel that it’s no wonder the Stereophonics walked away writing a number 1 hit. I asked Selina what her mother thought of the song and they had no idea they had even written it until they were told by her daughter in-law Isabella when it had reached the charts. It’s funny to think they thought it was a joke but by no means it was true.
Stereophonics wrote the song Madam Helga after their stay at Helga’s Folly
Selina had a wealth of knowledge, she pointed out so many pieces of furniture to paintings that all told a story, but not like any story, the kind of stories that would make you literally wonder how a family had such a big history.Some of the many family photos hang proud on the walls at Helga’s Folly
From the ceiling designs that inspired Philip Treacy to how Selina herself lived with him and Alexander Mcqueen and the stories about what it was like when Vivien Leigh and Peter Finch stayed with them at Helga’s Folly, I could have spent hours listening to her. Outside the cinema room at Helga’s Folly
I spent a couple of hours there at Helga’s Folly, completely blown away by Selina’s tour and utterly overwhelmed by every single item in the hotel because every single room of the 40 room hotel was completely different and inspiring. It was an incredible experience.One of the bedrooms at Helga’s Folly
For me, this was without a doubt a highlight of my entire Sri Lankan trip and a must visit if you’re in Kandy.
To stay here, it’s approx AU$120 a night, and worth a night’s stay purely for the experience. If you prefer, you can just visit the grounds and have a nosy around, or come for dinner. Best of all, when I went there, it was literally like an oasis from the chaos in Kandy as there were hardly any tourists around and it was wonderful.
To get to Helga’s Folly, it’s just a 10 minute tuk tuk ride up the hill out of Kandy.
Have you been to Helga’s Folly? Let me know in the comments below.
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