Nepali Times
Life Times
Old, but new



Located in the heart of Patan just down the alley in Durbar Square, Traditional Homes Swotha is the right combination of simplicity and elegance. Doing more with less, and adding only what's needed, the owners have renovated this 80-year-old Newari home but kept its heart. Traditional wooden windows, closets, low ceilings and pillars are all intact.

While the house retains its Newari architecture, it displays a tasteful fusion of the old and new and is equipped with amenities to match a fancy hotel.

"Why tear down a charming old house with so much history, when we can easily integrate our contemporary lifestyle and needs into it," explains general manager, Camille Hanesse, "Homes like Swotha are not only beautiful, they are perfect for Kathmandu's climate and you can enjoy all the comforts of modern houses."

Swotha also gets brownie points for being an environmentally and socially conscious business and promoting sustainable practices. Solar power keeps all rooms brightly-lit during power cuts and provides guests with 24-hour hot water. Window frames from the old house have been turned into classy glass tables. The housekeeping staff and management come from the community, while the cotton curtains, sheets, carpets and soaps are all made by locals from Patan.

Once in the bedroom, its minimalistic and aesthetically-pleasing design impresses the visitor. However, you might find that the dim lightings and unstable Wi-Fi are not conducive to skyping. The lack of phone in the room also means you have to keep running up and down the hotel to ask for room service, which shouldn't mattter at a time when everyone has a mobile.

The old world charm and genuinely friendly and helpful staff more than make up for the shortcomings, which look like minor teething problems. Restaurant staff is willing to go the extra mile to prepare new soups to suit your taste buds, provide mosquito nets, and even help remove a spider in the middle of the night as happened to this visitor.

The café is a favourite, even among non-guests. Its clean interior and cosiness make it an oasis within the old town of Patan. The menu is revised regularly, and there are new Nepali and western dishes to try out every week.

Swotha was started by a consortium of investors that includes an architect, and the attention to detail is remarkable. Let's just hope that since imitation is the highest form of flattery, there will be more bed and breakfasts like this opening up in Patan so visitors are not required to stay in the tourist ghetto of Thamel.

Third World Guest House

Overlooking Patan Durbar Square, the old palace and the Krishna temple, Third World Guest House was the first of the pensiones in this old town. It offers a spectacular panorama of the palace of the Malla kings, and the hotel's biggest asset is its location. However, Third World Guest House lives up to its name in terms of service, and although it is meant to be a 'Newari' house, the cemented facade and interiors hint at an identity crisis of sorts.

The lodge has 10 bedrooms, one of them is a penthouse with a balcony, attached kitchenette and WiFi. The staff is friendly, although some of the information is lost in translation and any specific request may need prompting. Ear plugs are recommended because the bells and chanting at Krishna Mandir start quite early and the dogs in the square are noisy.

The penthouse is $35 per night, which is a bargain even if it is just for the location.

Candice Neo

Newa Chen

Renovated and refurbished from a Newari residential home believed to be at least 350 years old, guests at Newa Chen are looked after like family members. You can enjoy a simple English breakfast on the second floor next to the breezy window, which overlooks the quiet courtyard and home of the owner, Devendra Shrestha. Newa Chen was originally his family house, now preserved as a guest house under a UNESCO restoration project.

The traditional windows, low beds and low-ceilinged bedrooms all recreate the charm of a bygone era. Because of the low ceiling, visitors need to bend their heads when they enter the room. This could be uncomfortable until you are told that this is a way to show respect in local custom. The attic room on the top-most floor displays a collection of old jugs and oven used by the family and gives guests a better understanding of Newari culture. Newa Chen is the ideal place to get acquainted with Newari lifestyle and feel at home away from home. Rooms range from $15-45.

Candice Neo

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)