Room Service: Villa Rosa, Kandy, Sri Lanka

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The Independent Travel

The portrait of Che Guevara was intriguing. He may be a pop icon, but it is still unusual to find pictures of Communist revolutionaries on the walls of a new boutique hotel.

The portrait of Che Guevara was intriguing. He may be a pop icon, but it is still unusual to find pictures of Communist revolutionaries on the walls of a new boutique hotel. And then there were the books in the guest library - The Collected Works of Lenin, selected writings by Mao Tse-Tung and Das Kapital in German, nestling among the Danielle Steels and Maeve Binchys.

Clearly, Villa Rosa is not your typical designer hotel. Sitting high up in the hills behind Kandy, the former royal capital of Sri Lanka, it was opened two years ago by Volker Bethke, an economist from Germany who moved to the island as an aid worker and is married to a Sri Lankan. The seven-bedroom hotel was carved out of his family home after his children left, and has retained an easy-going ambience.

The hotel refuses to accommodate big tour parties, so you can while away the hours in peace, sipping drinks on the balcony with eagles wheeling around overhead and forest-covered slopes plunging down to the River Mahaweli below. You can just make out the boats drifting along and men standing on rafts to dredge sand with huge ladles. It is worth hiring a boat and joining them.

The hotel is hidden away behind the giant white statue of Buddha that overlooks the town, and even the local tuk-tuk drivers had to ask directions a few times, but it is worth the struggle.

We were greeted with a wood-apple fruit cocktail, asked if we wanted a Sri Lankan dinner and then pretty much left to our own devices. My son played table-tennis with a patient member of the staff, while my wife and I endured oily ayurvedic massages before drinks on the balcony of our room. Dinner - also served on our balcony - was fantastic, a selection of very spicy chicken, fish and vegetable curries, followed by watalappan, a delicious cashew nut dessert. I'd also recommend the Sri Lankan breakfast - a pile of fresh fruit followed by another coconut-flavoured curry served on circles of Sri Lankan noodles used to scoop up the food.

LOCATION

Villa Rosa, 71/18 Dodanwala Passage, Asgiriya, Kandy, Sri Lanka (00 94 81 221 55 66; www.villarosa-kandy.com). The hotel is 10 minutes out of town, passing through paddy fields worked by ox-drawn ploughs. There is complementary transport, but that would take away some of the fun.

Time to international airport: it is two and a half hours by car from Colombo international airport, which can be arranged by the hotel and costs around $40 (£22). You can also travel from Colombo to Kandy by train or bus for about £1.

COMFORTABLE

The rooms are very clean, good-sized and simply furnished, with white linen and dark wooden furniture. We stayed in the family suite - a big double bedroom with a single room attached, each with their own bathroom. There are also double and single rooms. There are no timetables for serving food. You can eat in your room, on your balcony or on a viewing ledge that juts out of the gardens and over the hillside.

Keeping in touch: there are no televisions in the rooms, although there are telephones and internet connections.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms cost from £75, including breakfast. Ayurvedic treatment costs between £10 and £20.

I'm not paying that: the venerable Queen's Hotel (00 94 81 223 3290) has basic double rooms starting at around £25, including breakfast.

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