After visiting India in November of 2017, I flew 1.5 hours to the small island country of Sri Lanka. It was a daring solo adventure spanning a little over one week in all different regions, cities and lodging options. Towards the end of the trip, I got tipped off by an acquaintance to stay at a specific hotel on top of the hill in Kandy, home to tea plantations and biodiverse rainforest. Sounds blissful, right? Mmmhmmm. What could possibly go wrong…
This blog post isn’t about the sights or epic itineraries of Kandy. Instead it focuses on one of the most insane hotel experiences I’ve come to know…and wish I didn’t hahaha (nervous laughter). I’m actually impressed with myself that a lot of my time at said hotel is on camera, of what you can catch in the video below. These words simply provide a bit more context during that fateful night.
It all started at the Kandy train station when I loaded myself and oversized suitcase in a tuk tuk. A guy caught wind of where I was headed and cautioned me against it – as you can clearly see in the video. Eager to get up the hill and out of the rain after a 6.5 hour train ride, I brushed it off.
Yeeeahhh, no. Big mistake.
I made it to the lobby and checked-in. I didn’t notice any other guests in the 40-room hotel at the time, but I thought maybe they were caught in the rain while exploring the town. As I looked around the room, I’m sure I let out an audible gasp. Maybe even a shudder. Definitely a jaw-drop. I was standing in the middle of a hoarder’s paradise from the 1930’s…best described as an acid trip meets art exhibit, all owned by Helga De Silva Blow Perera, a Sri Lankan socialite and former Dior model. Guests over the years have included Vivian Leigh, Peter Finch, Sir Laurence Olivier, William Holden, Gregory Peck, Sir Alec Guinness, and Zandra Rhodes. An impressive roster indeed.
You see…I’m the kind of traveler who doesn’t do a ton of research. When the acquaintance told me I *must* stay here, I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t google. I didn’t think twice. I enjoy the element of surprise…or so I thought. I whipped out my camera and started filming as if this attraction would spontaneously combust in a matter of seconds. It had all the necessary essentials for the most haunted place on earth and deserved to be documented immediately. T’was only fitting that a monsoon was going on outside as I paced nervously through each corridor decked with colorful, eccentric murals adorning every square inch of the walls.
Dinner came, dinner went. I remember it being very tasty and even meeting a table of women who graduated from the University of Georgia, like myself. It’s a small world, after all. Unlike me, they were only at the hotel for dinner to “see it in person.” Alarm bells went off in my head. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I at least google image this place to know that perhaps this wasn’t an overnight sensation, but rather an hour-long jaunt into a Tim Burton fantasy land where I could eat and gawk all at the same time. Like dinner and a show. Damn it. I always had to overdo it.
I went back to my Lily Pulitzer-themed room and opened my computer. I remember doing the necessities of life on the road – paying bills, responding to emails and letting my mother know I was alive and well. I remember we were on the phone, and she asked where I was staying. I so badly wanted someone else to experience this attraction alongside with me, so I told her to google the name.
“Uhhh….you’re staying in a haunted hotel?” she replied.
My body froze. “What do you mean?” I asked. She then went on the describe the article she was reading about the hotel, one of which I obviously hadn’t researched. She asked me if I really wanted to stay the night there, and since it was almost midnight, I said I’d just take a shower, pop a sleeping pill and be fine. I was only staying the one night anyway.
We hung up the phone, and I closed my computer. I stood up from the couch and began to move towards my suitcase when my dresser doors started slowly opening on their own. Time stood still…so did my breathe…and finally, my heart. Fear rang through my body as I recanted my mother’s words, “You’re staying in a haunted hotel?” I swung open the door and stood there, completely paralyzed. To my right was the paranormal, and to my left was a dark corridor complete with two dilapidated baby cribs outside my door. I was officially living inside a nightmare. I mustered up the courage to grab my phone and run through what seemed like an endless maze of black corridors until I descended to the ground level. A glass door stood between me and the lobby. I hurriedly turned the knob, desperate to get inside a safe space or even outside in the rain…
As if the previous few moments weren’t haunting enough, I was locked inside of this haunted hotel on the hill.
In this moment, I officially began to lose my sanity. I started screaming, not having the slightest clue what my high pitched shrieks would do to help me. I hadn’t seen another guest staying on the premises after all. Then, I thought about doing the only other thing I could think of: calling the haunted hotel in which I was currently losing my mind. Someone had to answer the phone…right? RIGHT?!
I called once…heavy breathing on my end, a dial tone on the other.
Desperate and without any other ideas, I called back.
Wishing, hoping, thinking, praying…
Someone answered. It was a man in a very sleepy voice. I’d obviously just woken him up, and I started screaming…not entirely sure what came out of my mouth other than pleading the man on the other end to pleaseee please please come open the lobby door. I was leaving. In a monsoon. At midnight. Without any other plans or reservation…
The sleepy man (let’s call him the “Ground’s Keeper” – think Argus Filch from Harry Potter) wasn’t sure I could get a cab at midnight. I wasn’t taking no for an answer, and a cab was called. In the meantime, I quickly scrolled Booking.com and got another hotel in the city for the night. We then both walked up the stairs, through the creepy corridors and passed the baby cribs towards my room. Not entirely sure that was a good idea either, but I was honestly fresh out with my mental sanity waning. He helped me with my bags, and off we both went towards the lobby. I asked if this was a common occurrence amongst guests – to leave in the middle of the night. He couldn’t give me a direct answer, but he certainly didn’t seem too fazed by my abrupt midnight departure. And one thing’s for sure…Trip Advisor doesn’t lie.
With the weather matching my mood, me, myself and my overweight luggage wedged ourselves inside the small cab and headed towards the next check-in…definitely ghost-free.