Helga’s Folly: The Crimson Mansion
By Mahika Panditha
The historical mansion nestled in the hills of Kandy is one of the country’s most eccentric and quirky lodging options known as Helga’s Folly.
Turned from a family home into the unique anti-hotel it is today, it tells the history of one of Sri Lanka’s most eminent families. Take a trip to the hills and walk the same halls as some of the world’s most famous people such as Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (who supposedly had a very public feud whilst filming), Mahatma Gandhi, Gregory Peck, Peter Finch, William Holden, and many more. Indulge in the history you read about in books and online.
Helga’s Folly will have Tim Burton squealing in excitement at its peculiarity and flamboyance in art, colour, and furnishing. It was so memorable, there’s even a song about the proprietor – Madame Helga by the Stereophonics!
Helga de Silva Blow Perera was born in Sri Lanka and is from a very fascinating and notable family. Her father was the esteemed Edmond Frederick Lorenz de Silva – a popular politician. Her mother Esme de Silva was a painter and the original designer of the house in the 30s.
Her aunt was the first Sri Lankan female architect, Minette de Silva. Her brother, Desmond de Silva, was the UN Chief Prosecutor for the war crimes in Sierra Leone. She herself was a model for Dior at only 17!
Helga married Jonathan Blow at 17 and they had three children together. However, their marriage of 15-anda-half years tragically ended with Jonathan’s death. Helga remarried, but went through a traumatic divorce.
Now, although she was going through a heavily draining divorce with her second husband, Helga moved back to her hill country home, and thus began Helga’s Folly.
She used painting as therapy, on Suggestion by her father, and that’s how we have what is now a beautiful surreal locale covered from floor to ceiling in Helga’s art. Since the entirety of the property is cluttered in a madness of colour, this would be the ideal place for a creative mind that will not get too uncomfortable with a lot happening all at once.
The chalet has a myriad of visual delights from murals to antiques, all deserving the same attention as they each have a story of their own.
The entrance lobby is covered in decadent plant paintings going up the walls. Head into the main living area wherein you’ll see candelabras covered in decades’ worth of wax (Addams Family vibes?), all maintaining the bohemian jungle theme.
Walk upstairs through the long, narrow corridors covered in paintings of mythology from different art periods and portraits, offering you shelves and shelves of books from every genre you could possibly think of and maybe almost any author even!
And then, of course, you’ll reach your room. Helga’s Folly offers four types of rooms; the deluxe room, the deluxe room – triple, the superior room, and the superior room – triple. The hotel staff advises you keep your windows and doors shut when you are out as they have frequent visitors from the monkey kingdom and will not be held responsible for their antics!
Each room is airconditioned and adorned with unique murals and paintings; they will also have a variety of colourful drapes and some even have four-poster beds.
The home has a pool and garden on the third floor that you can visit, surrounded by the glorious green jungle that encapsulates the Folly. You can also visit the bar and restaurant for a drink and a light snack.
Another amenity that stands out at the Folly is the cinema on the ground floor, with a plethora of films from the 1930s onwards that you can choose from.
If you’re interested in history, you can catch the infamous Helga herself roaming through the halls of her enchanted home, and are guaranteed to hear some of the most interesting stories about her life and the anti-hotel.
The hotel has been featured in several magazines and newspapers all over the world as a must-visit within the island.
Helga’s Folly is a place you have to be in to really experience it to the fullest.
It is one of the last things you would expect to find in Kandy or in Sri Lanka even, but that is what makes it more interesting and unique in its own right. It is guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind experience.