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Helga's Folly
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Reviews (598)
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Reviewed 15 December 2010

We had a lovely and absolutely fascinating time in Helga's Folly. The service was fantastic including a very personal touch by Helga herself who is very hands on and even called us to say goodbye when we checked out early. The decor is unlike anything i have ever seen. Utterly fascinating and choc full of curios and memorabilia. We spent a full evening studying walls and looking at photographs whilst music played from the grammophone. The food was outstanding and every cup and plate was designed to within an inch of it's life. We ate on the balcony watching Kandy twinkle below us. Our room followed the theme of the rest of the hotel, with handpainted murals and outlandish design. However, the bathroom was quite tired and a few things were broken. We only stayed one night so did not complain but filled out the feedback form. We received a personal email from Helga a couple of days later asking us for more details so she could resolve the issue. I was very impressed by this and respected this approach.

Overall, this is an utterly unique experience which i highly recommend (but take a superior room to get the full benefits).

  • Stayed: October 2010, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank SophieW5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 December 2010

I stayed with Helga in her home for 10days during the month of September, where to begin, from the moment i arrived I felt like I had been removed from society's 'reality' and taken into a magical, sureal wonderland, to a place where i was encouraged to let go of inhabitions and express myself through art.

The 'anti-hotel' as I quite agree it should be known as is unlike any other residence I have had the pleasure staying at. First of all the location is great, within walking distance to Kandy town, yet far enough so if i felt i wanted escapism from city life then i could look outside and feel i was in some other world, lost in the beautiful nature of Sri Lanka's hill country.

The decor at Helga's is very fitting, its more like a gallery of art and photographs, I was encouraged to spent my time reading the walls and it was doing this with the guidance of Helga herself that i learned about the facinating history of the house, I found it very easy to loose myself in the art and the stories that the rooms held. I believe if walls could talk, a milion wonderfully eccentric and facinating stories could be told.

I was very well taken care of by everyone invoved at Helga's Folly, Not only from Helga and her husband but also from the room attendants to the recetionist and of course the kitchen staff, who not only prepared me wonderful food from the menu, but also on request prepared me special dishes to suit my dietry needs.

I loved spending time at Helga's Folly, I felt more like a friend invited into a home than a guest at a hotel. Helga herself made a point of making sure i was comfortable and i was being looked after well.

At night the house is transformed into a magical world with everything sparkling by candle light, which suits the ambience, with old Jazz playing in the background I felt i had been transported into another realm. The house became so romantic. it was easy for me to loose myself in the house, forget where I was in the world, with the wonderfully secluded out door pool (which i was told is protected by fairies) to the private cinema, where i curled up on the rainy september evenings with tea and snacks.

I believe myself to be a widely travelled individual and i have came across many hotels and house stays on my previous trip, but I can honestly say my time at Helga's Folly was one of a kind, i believe this place is a truely special experience, not a place for travellers looking for the modern boutique hotel stay, but instead i would reccommend a stay at Helga's for the people who want something different, a unique experience, something magical, to stay at a place where anything is possible, and anything goes...a place you can really let yourself go and may possibly end up painting the walls ;)

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled solo
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6  Thank gypsythistle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 December 2010

Helga introduced me to so many things during my latest trip: I especially loved the ‘Vipassana’meditation centre, on top of a hill with stunning views a mere hour away, from the Folly. I stayed there and took the 10 day course. Highly recommended.

I LOVE the Folly, and hope that it will continue to be frozen in time! There are hotels cheaper, and some may say Helga's isn't 'value for money compared to others”.There are some things that you cannot value - and to me Helgas Folly is one.

I miss the drawing room at night, with the flickering Miss Haversham candlesticks, reflected in myriads of mirrors, bathing the room in a romantic amber glow, the zodiac ceiling, totally transport one to another world. The hotel is backed by virgin jungle and leopards roam at night.

The Folly is a home with a great, warm soul and nothing pretentious. It was a wonderful place to ‘listen’ to the stillness and find peace. Everything comes to seem positive and possible, and nothing too much trouble. Helga’s private telephone number is in all the rooms just in case and her company as well as that of the other guests is always a great joy.

  • Stayed: November 2010, travelled solo
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5  Thank Julia1605
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 November 2010

.… is the unique result of a unique temperament," wrote Oscar Wilde. Helga's Folly fits Wilde's definition to a T, being as much a work of art as it’s a hotel, undeniably a one-off, and the creation of a unique woman — the eponymous Helga herself.
My boyfriend and I visited Helga's Folly in August, just after the Kandy perehera — Sri Lanka's foremost Buddhist festival, 10 nights of beautiful festivities, drumming, dancing, fire-juggling, stilt-walking, magic. We had booked elsewhere, so could only stay at HF for lunch: but we enjoyed being there so much we went back for dinner that evening.
We relaxed in the yellow drawing room on silky antique sofas, soaking up the surreal atmosphere of the decor (the painter Max Ernst sprang to mind). We admired the "zodiac ceiling", with its star-sign tiles, the gigantic red baubles dangling and mounted stuffed deer heads while we chose our mains from the set-lunch menu ($22). I had chicken abigail, a tasty stew, he had lamprais, curries wrapped in banana leaf: the pumpkin-soup starter and chocolate brownie pudding were pre-destined. The food was great but was almost upstaged by the interiors. There's so much to look at: antique china and quirky plates on the table and the walls. The interiors fizz with rioting colour, art, statues, paintings, photos and mementoes. HF's very jumbliness — all is thrown randomly into the mix — is at the core of its English-eccentric-in-the-tropical-jungle soul.
After lunch we had coffee on the balcony, overlooking the misty Kandyan mountains. This gave us the chance to admire the vermillion-red exterior, very striking. One of the friendly staff gave us a tour of the hotel and bedrooms: each suite is decorated in a different theme and is distinctive.
As such HF is a place of mystery and illusion, and big on personality — much of it coming from Helga, who art-directed the house. She was utterly charming and made us feel so welcome. Music plays constantly: Cole Porter, Sinatra, Piaf. My boyfriend, who’s a musician, took his saxophone along that evening and was encouraged to play. It felt like joining a special private party in a very special place.
HF may not be for everyone: those who prefer hotel-chain uniformity and blandness might run screaming (someone did draw a parallel to the Adams family in the visitors’ book). But if you like individuality, distressed glamour, glitz, spontaneous fun, drama and surprise, you'll probably love Helga's Folly. We did, and hope to go back soon.

  • Stayed: August 2010, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank Bevwriting
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 November 2010

The building is magnificent and quite unlike anything else that I have ever seen. It cannot be said that the decor is dull (would I be forgiven for calling it faux naif?). If curios and faded grandeur was all that it took to make a place worth staying in, we would probably have stuck it out.

Instead, rather than the planned three nights at Helga's Folly, we checked out after a single night. Where to start? Once we'd picked ourselves off the floor at the appearance of the communal areas, it was hard not to notice how revoltingly dirty they were. The place had a dank smell. In the dusty, joyless bedrooms, the linen appeared not so much soiled as tired. The corners were covered in cobwebs (some of which were inhabited).A cot was wheeled in for our baby, but it appeared to pre-date independence and was too much of a death trap for us to use. The baby slept with us. On each of the walls was noticeboard with straight-faced admonitions about how we are in the tropics and it really can't be expected for the owners to keep the place ship shape. Really? You could at least have had a stab at it.

And then there's the bathrooms. All of them, including those in the bedrooms, are elaborately decorated with tattered and urine-stained pages of society and fashion magazine which, from their appearance, had been glued to the wall ten or fifteen years ago. How to keep those clean? It was not at all clear that anyone had ever tried. Consequently, we wouldn't let our two young children anywhere near them.

I'm afraid that the food was also poor, and took a lifetime to arrive. All in all, it would have been a stretch at $50 a night if I had been half of my age and wearing a backpack. But I was lined up to pay an eye-moistening US$250 per night. It was enough to make me want to cry into my $10 whiskey, purchased from something that looked not unlike the Hogwarts tuck-shop.

I don't want to appear uncharitable to the owner, who I am sure has put her back into trying to make this hotel something (but what, madam?). So I will offer some advice: ditch all of this embarrassing stuff about 'anti-hotels'. There's room enough for a bit of louche, hippy charm, but it's got to be homely; it's got to come with some irreducible minimum standards of cleanliness and modernity. We aren't all fooled by dim lighting. You should also put your hand in your pocket and invest in some new bathrooms, with real plumbing and proper showers. Then new linen all round and a sturdy washing machine.

Once you've done that, it should be the gem that it seems that it once was, and that we were so looking forward to sharing with you.

  • Stayed: November 2010, travelled with family
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9  Thank paul_stothard
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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