A Sublime Experience of Culture and Heritage at Heranya Yala
The ancient city of Patan is well known for its rich cultural heritage, and it is in this city where a small cozy hotel follows those very roots. Heranya Yala strives to act as a custodian to the traditions and values, all the while still recognizing the significance of modern facilities; a best of both worlds.
Heranya Yala, to the casual eye, might feel like a mix of a boutique hotel and a home stay. The eight roomed hotel is built over a historic and narrow passage which is still used by the local people. At the mouth of it, you find yourself between two wooden and glass doors. One leading to the waiting room whiles the other to the lobby and reception of the hotel. Past the reception is the cozy dining room. A wooden stairway takes you to the rooms upstairs. The wood and copper décor mold the ambience to insist upon the ancient Newari vibes they’re grounded in.
The hotel offers the guests two varieties of room; deluxe and suite. The rooms are cozy and comfy. The windows overlooking the city fill the room with natural light and an appreciation of the bustling world outside. The traditional motif is sustained by a thanka that hangs over each queen size bed. Wood beans that cast overhead envelope the room in a sense of sanctuary. The floor is that of clay tiles to make one feel that even if the amenities are modern, there’s still a traditional touch that brings it all together.
Born to a business family, Mr. Mahendra Shakya had a vision to harmonize the tradition, the culture, and the heritage of the 16th century Newar Vajrayans with the comfort of a boutique hotel. The teacher turned hotelier believes higher potential of tourism in Patan because of the heritage and culture that’s been passed down through generations. When we talked with Mr. Shakya, he said “Heranya Yala is a small hotel. We do not have a large area with gardens and swimming pool like the 5-star hotels. People obviously do not stay at our hotel to enjoy the hotel, rather they stay to experience the rich culture around. That is what we strive to provide our guests, an authentic chance to experience the history around us.”
After our conversation with Mr. Shakya, he insisted to take us on a tour of the historic city by himself so that we understand why the whole establishment exists.
The tour began from the narrow alleyway going through the hotel. The effect of globalization could be seen in the Chowks of the city as newer and modern houses now stand where the old and traditional were. This was one of the reasons why Mr. Shakya envisioned opening a hotel with high cultural and traditional influences. He believes this will spark an awareness amongst the people to preserve the handed down culture and heritage.
Making our way through the streets of Patan, we absorbed the information shared by Mr. Shakya all the while discovering its subtle beauty step by step.
With the tour concluding for the day we headed back to the hotel to fuel up. The chef’s specials, which the hotel prepared for us, with much care and effort, consisted of multiple courses of integrated Italian and Nepali cuisine.
The first on the menu us was the appetizer; Arancini with cheese and saffron. The Italian snack is a stuffed risotto rice balls, coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried, with cheese and saffron served with a meat and tomato sauce. The orange and conical dish’s warm and gooey insides make you warm up from the inside. The flavor of cheese and the sauce gives your taste buds a sense of what you are going to receive trough out the meal. The subtle hint of saffron adds an extra sensation in your mouth as it really complements the cheese and the rice.
The Lentil Soup with parsley oil, paprika, and roasted cumin seeds followed. This dish is something we know all too well and have a special and homely place in our heart. The feeling of home cooked meal cannot be compared to any else. This soup definitely recreates that nostalgic feel. The thick soup gives you warm sensation in your mouth as the flavors are even heightened by the addition of the parsley oil, paprika, and the cumin seeds. These spices up scale the regular daal we have in our homes.
Next, we were presented with a Caesar Salad. The hors d’oeuvre is light and an effective palate cleanser, just how it should be. The hearty servings of the salad with chicken, cheese, croutons, olives, lettuce, and a lemon dressing on the top.
Following the Italian theme, we were served with two dishes of pastas. One was the Seafood Linguine, followed by the Basil Pesto and Walnut Farfalle Pasta.
The Linguine is cooked perfectly and includes squid, octopus, calamari, shrimps, mussels, and crab meat. No doubt about it, this pasta dish will definitely leave anyone satisfied with the bursting flavors of the sea.
The Basil Pesto and Walnut Farfalle, or as we call it, the bowtie pasta, is another flavorsome delectable dish on the course. The walnuts and the parmesan shavings in the pasta gave the dish an earthy flavor which elevates the taste even further. The basil pesto, fresh and light, refreshes the taste buds, and brought a cessation to our main course.
For the dessert, the hotel served us Juju Dhau with assorted fruits. Although the yogurt was not something new to us, it served as a perfect marriage of Italian cuisine and ours. The strawberries, kiwis and the mint gave the sweet dessert a fresh appeal to it. With this our dinner concluded leaving our tummy full and taste buds happy.
We woke up to the bustling noise of the city. But despite it, we felt a sense of serenity from all those sounds of the market place and bells ringing inside the temples. After freshening up, we joined Mr. Shakya for an exploration of round the city once again.
Walking through the lively marketroad crowded with pedestrians and shops, Mr. Shakya explained the same street used to be the main traded route to Tibet. Making our way through the early morning crowd, we found ourselves before Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, also referred as Kwa Bahal. The historic temple gets its name as the Golden Temple as Hiranya Varna Mahavir means ‘goldcolored great monastery’. Mr. Shakya explained that the name for the hotel comes from this temple.
The architecture and sculptures are not the only beauty of the place. The cultural and religious diversity and how the people here have built their lives around it is beauty in itself. Concluding our tour we headed back to the hotel for breakfast where the chef had prepared three dishes.
Granola with yogurt and fresh fruits
First up was granola with yogurt and fresh fruits. The creaminess of the yogurt and goes really well with the freshness of the fruits elevating the entire dish. Then we moved on to the porridge with strawberries and banana served alongside a cup of herbal tea. It may sound simple but it is satisfying none the less. Last on the menu was a traditional Newari set. Quati and chatamari served with chaku, ghee, fresh fruits, and yogurt on the side. The soft and chewy chatamari with the quati bursting with savory nourishment go hand in hand leaving you salivating for more. The yogurt and the fruits add a hint of freshness to the dish. This dish signifies how the hotel strives to have the guests to have an authentic experience.
Quati and chatamari served with chaku, ghee, fresh fruits, and yogurt on the side
Heranya Yala provides the guests with a unique experience along with a great comfort – a homely feel. In Newari, ‘yala’ means love it; suitable names as you fall in love with the experience of staying at Heranya Yala.