Newa Chen, preserving cultural heritage
Located in Kobahal Tol, north of Patan Durbar Square, Newa Chen also known as the Shrestha House is a cultural heritage built originally during the Malla reign in Nepal. The three-storied Shrestha House was constructed with bricks and timber and today, it stands as a fine example of cultural and architectural wealth of Newari art.
The place provides relief and break from the fast growing concrete high-rise which is neither artistically carved nor beautiful. It was the desire of the Shrestha family to preserve it which led in the restoration of the building, else it might have ended up the same way most of the old and ancient building does, in a pile of bricks. The house was transformed into an elegant and quality tourist accommodation rather than demolishing it by the owner Debendra B. Shrestha and family. The restoration work was done keeping in mind the original structure and maintaining its original integrity. Like a traditional Newari house, it has low ceilings, mortar and brick walls, warm subdued lighting and tranquil courtyards, however, it is modern in terms of the facilities like attached bathrooms and bathtubs on some of the rooms.
Many national and international agencies contributed in restoration and innovation of the building and the project was initially loaded with funding limitation until 1997 when GTZ, the German Aid Agency, launched a program to promote urban development through local initiatives. Shrestha House was included on the list of buildings that would be restored to their former glory and after that, the Department of Archeology (DOA) secured support for restoration from UNESCO. The present day Bed and Breakfast inn was restored as the joint initiatives by UNESCO and Patan Tourism Development Organization. The National Federation of UNESCO Associations of Japan raised funds for the restoration and the restoration process took five years. Finally, the efforts paid off and on 21 June 2006, the Shrestha House was restored as Newa Chen and declared so during a gala function attended by Koto Kano UNESCO’s Nepal representative and other distinguished guests.
The inn had eight rooms including one deluxe room, five rooms with attached baths and three rooms that have a shared bath and the prices ranges from US $17 to US $30 for room. The rooms are furnished in traditional Newar style with sukuls (straw mats) spread on the floor instead of glossy carpets and are named after the auspicious symbols of the Astha Matrika (eight auspicious symbols). It offers the visitors a unique opportunity to experience the details of traditional Newar lifestyle and is an ideal place for both short-term and long-term guests. An excellent example of how traditional buildings can be preserved through restoration and rehabilitation, Newa Chen is rich in terms of preservation of traditional architecture and cultural landscapes. It is an example of how old and ancient building and structures could be restored to promote cultural tourism and the income from these initiatives can be used to promote a series of such establishments.
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