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  • Cecilia Clark

Kandy, Sri Lanka: March 30, 2024

Updated: May 7

Once in the city of Kandy, we met up with Donald, an insider local guide, at the Queen's Hotel originally designed by a Sri Lankan architect as a private residence. The British defeated the Kingdom of Kandy in 1815 and the residence went through several permutations before becoming the Queen's Hotel in 1869. The lounge where we had tea looked very colonial British. Our walking tour took us along the streets of Kandy to St. Paul's Church (1846, Anglican) and to Balaji Dosai, an Indian restaurant, where Donald ordered a Masala Dosa to share. It was vegetarian and filled with potatoes and spices. It was delicious.

We walked past the Red Mosque, a colorful Hindu Temple, stopped for refreshments at the Royal Bar & Hotel Restaurant (another vestige of British colonialism, and finally saw the vegetable called drumstick. Drumstick grows on a Drumstick Tree (Moringa Oleifera Tree). It is used in various curries. The guy in the mugshot photo is a licensed bookie with racing sheets spread out in front of him. On our way up to Helga's Folly, we had a view of Kandy Lake.

The highlight of the afternoon was our visit to Helga's Folly (, the Anti-Hotel, owned by Helga de Silva Blow Perera. A couple of those surnames came from her two husbands. The Helga's Folly website includes the history of the family and of Helga's amazing house. It also has photos and names of the celebrities who were guests.

Donald, who is Helga's friend, gave us a tour of the huge house with many rooms each with their own history. There have been many famous visitors. Peter Finch and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in the house while making the 1954 film "Elephant Walk." We saw the room where Mahatma Ghandi stayed. Songs have been written about Helga. Donald said that Helga was born in the room with the blue plates on the walls. We had a glass of wine from the hotel's bar which was the first licensed liquor establishment in Kandy.

Helga is now 79. I had a brief conversation with Helga on the house phone. She apologized for her absence and gravelly voice explaining she has been a little sick with the flu. She called me darling, and I felt like I was talking to the Queen.

Helga's Folly is an active hotel but as it says on their website, "if expecting a regular hotel experience, best look elsewhere." It was a delight to visit. "To survive, life must have whimsy" - something to remember.

After a very busy afternoon, we were driven up one of the hills of Kandy to our hotel, W15 Hanthana Estate, where we will be for the next two days. The hotel is a restored tea plantation "bunglalow" in the Hanthana Hills above Kandy. Everything about the hotel and our room was lovely and comfortable. Eating was outside either on the veranda or on lawn so there was always a view of the surrounding hills. Our first day we took a bird watching walk on a road through tea and tall trees. Later in the afternoon the naturalist took us for a jeep ride through the property. We saw quite a few birds as well as leopard scat.


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