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The extraordinary story of Helga’s Folly, Sri Lanka’s world-famous artistic boutique hotel

The extraordinary story of Helga’s Folly, Sri Lanka’s world-famous artistic boutique hotel

 

Helga’s Folly is one of the most astounding hotels in the world, never mind Sri Lanka—and it is a story of uncompromising eccentricity, tragedy, tears, and an indomitable will to survive.

Helga de Silva Blow Perera, aged 72, daughter of His Excellency Edmond Frederick Lorenz De Silva, a celebrated Sri Lankan politician and the former Ceylon’s ambassador to France, is surely unique.

As the UK’s Guardian newspaper writer Ariel Sophia Bardi reports, “for almost 30 years, Helga de Silva Blow Perera, the flamboyantly attired owner of Helga’s Folly, a 30-room boutique hotel overlooking the Sri Lankan city of Kandy, has covered the walls of her estate with frenetic and dreamlike murals.

“In 1988, she began painting the hotel – at that time, run by her parents – after divorcing her second husband, and while still in recovery from the suicide of her first, British writer and historian Jonathan Blow.

workaway.info

“As the Folly’s artistic reputation grew, guests asked if they could contribute. In early 2016, Helga began recruiting aspiring muralists through the website workaway.info, which matches travellers with volunteer placements around the world. Last year, she hosted around a dozen painters. I was her fourth.”

The Guardian piece looks at ‘Six amazing places to stay for free around the world – if you volunteer’. Helga’s Folly gets top billing, and with good reason!

Says Bardi: “At Helga’s Folly, a boutique hotel in historic Kandy, central Sri Lanka, amateur artists add to the distinctive murals – and get free bed and board.”

Says Helga’s workway.info ad: “Here is an opportunity to stay in one of the most extraordinary hotels of the world. with much color and some island history…”

  • *Helping with our doodles, website and helping our in house family of staff and our lovely volunteer daughters doing what ever needs doing!!
  • *Help making our website more funky and fun.
  • *We are unable to take drama queens who do not wish to connect with our other volunteer daughters or other inhabitants of the house!!!The spirits get miffed!!
  • *Very exciting ‘goings on’ at the moment here, our lovely Turkish volunteer daughter of the house living up to her grand heritage by exciting mirror work, and our two lovely sculptors from England making magic by the swimming pool..
  • *Nearly always slots for artists and web designers here!!

Read more here.

The Daily Beast

A couple of years ago the US-based Daily Beast website reported on ‘The Amazing Life of Helga Blow, Sri Lanka’s Last Great Eccentric’.

Writes Tom Sykes: “Gandhi was a family friend, and Vivian Leigh and Gregory Peck stayed at her hotel. But Helga Blow has also known the darkest of times.

“It’s a world that is more than open to visitors as well, because she happens to own what could well be the most mind-blowing hotel in the world, Helga’s Folly, a brutalist concrete block with a to-die-for view, designed in 1930 by her mother Esme de Silva (even though her aunt was the architect Minette de Silva, rumoured to have been a lover of her mentor Le Corbusier) on the mountains which surround the hill town of Kandy, in Sri Lanka.”

The piece reports on an amazing up, down and sideways life that’s extraordinary even by today’s liberated standards, and which probably scandalized the rather more conservative mores of Helga’s early life.

It concludes with Helga’s heartfelt quote: “I’ve had a very blessed existence, I’ve been very lucky most of my life. I mean, everybody has ups and downs. My father used to always say, ‘Think positive,’ and that’s a great thing. ‘Tomorrow is another day.’

“And I force myself to do that, however dark today is. It’s difficult, very, but I have to—otherwise I go bonkers.”

Read more here.

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