I was lucky to find Craig in a spiritual frame of mind and persuadable to spend some weeks in Nepal over several visits in 2007 – we both needed a change of pace and this project was an ideal opportunity, as well as a mutual passion. Being a climber and environmentalist, Craig had longstanding connections with the country – we trekked the same year to Mustang with his teenage son, who he claimed was conceived in Chitwan. Craig had startled me into our first book back in 1995, Offerings from Nepal, a largely forgotten collection of edgy images of real life in Nepal that was a refreshing change from the usual chocolate box coffee table tomes of the day.
Such is the wealth and variety of styles in the intoxicating intensity of the Kathmandu Valley, we decided to focus our mission and leave the wider Nepal and Himalaya to others. My list shows we covered nearly 50 houses, hotels, restaurants and gardens, in addition to historic palaces and world heritage sites – not all made the cut.
Gautam’s punishing schedule had us covering several locations a day in all corners of the Valley. Royalty, Ranas, Newars, Tibetans, Ambassadors and Western expatriates were prevailed upon to open their doors to us and our speedy camerawork. More than one host remarked: “Are you finished already?” as we piled into the car and sped on to the next appointment, thanking them profusely.
Goetz Hagemuller’s matchless Kuthu Math in Bhaktapur was always a first choice for the cover, that arbiter of style whose sure taste has powerfully pervaded so many Valley restorations, and Dwarika’s, which still defines the high bar of heritage hotels and master craftsmanship.