Like hundreds of other residents of Patan’s historic heart, Debendra Shrestha could have torn down his ancestral home and replaced it with a concrete highrise and earned lots of money renting out apartments. But the Shrestha family decided that their 18th century Malla-era home was too precious, so they collectively decided to restore it. They were looking for money when in 1997 the German aid agency GTZ came along to promote urban development through local initiatives. It was making an inventory of buildings that deserved to be preserved and the Shrestha household was included.
The Department of Archaeology then secured support for restoration from UNESCO, which had in 1979 declared Patan Darbar Square one of the seven monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. UNESCO had been getting increasingly worried about urban sprawl eating away at the old buildings and of the Valley losing its architectural and cultural heritage.
UNESCO worked with the Patan Tourism Development Organisation and found a unique formula to turn the restored private houses into bed and breakfast pensions. It took five years but the Shrestha’s house was reborn on Wednesday as Newa Chen.