Love it or hate it, there’s no feeling ambivalent about Helga’s Folly in Sri Lanka. The mountainside restaurant and inn has lorded over congested Kandy since the 1980s, its 40 wackily decorated rooms the stuff of local legend.
The prices for the “anti-hotel” hotel rooms are a bit steep—not to mention dusty and decaying—so we recommend booking for dinner only. A prix fixe menu of delicious Sri Lankan specialties is served nightly; your options are chicken, fish, or vegetarian. Most of the ingredients are organic and Helga’s grows its own coffee, pepper, and other spices. Smoking and baking are handled in-house and the chutney, mustard, and booze-infused marmalades are all DIY.
Before your meal, you can doodle in the jumbo guestbooks over a cocktail or three. Afterward, ask the staff if you can tour the property. Photos are fine and they’ll even let you poke your head inside the unoccupied guest rooms. The interiors are creepy, kooky, and all together ooky, decorated with HMV gramophones, plastic skeletons, and candelabras dripping with wax. Curtains are fashioned from heavy silk. Ceilings are painted with wild, fantastical murals. There are ancient clawfoot bathtubs and glassy-eyed stag heads hung on the walls. As the site says, the house “would serve Baz Luhrmann, should he ever opt to film Moulin Rouge jungle style.”
Most importantly, don’t leave without introducing yourself to the grande dame herself, Ms. Helga de Silva Blow Perera (pictured below in portrait form). She is a true eccentric, and hails from a long line of movers, shakers, and headline makers. Her guests have included Gregory Peck, Vivian Leigh, and Mahatma Gandhi—so you know you’re in good hands.
70, Rajapihilla Mawatha, Kanday, Sri Lanka; +94-81-2-234571.