|Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, is a good place to
do the shopping, particularly if it is your last destination before
leaving Nepal. There is just about every kind of handicrafts available in or around Kathmandu. Normally products will be cheaper than where
they are originally made, but competition makes the prices low in Kathmandu.
The majority of metal, wool, wood and "Tibetan" products
are made in the valley anyway.
The capital, Kathmandu boasts one of Asia's largest concentration of English-language
bookshops, and browsing them is one of the Kathmandu's main
forms of nightlife and many stay open untill 10.00 pm. The bigger
ones include: Mandala Book Point, Kantipath - here you can
find a good selection of reference, fiction and maps; Pilgrim's
Book House, Thamel, north of the Kathmandu Guest House
- has extensive reference sections on all things Nepali: religion,
mysticism, travel, health, language, development; also maps, postcards,
paper, cassettes, incense, supplies; Walden Books, in Chhetrapati
is good for fiction, both new and used.
film and film processing
Kathmandu offers fairly low prices on consumer products. Cameras
and accessories are around 50% less than what they are in Europe and in North America. Therefore, if you are thinking to purchase any gear for
your trip, you might wait till you get here. New Road is the place
to shop - there are at least a dozen small camera shops in and around
the Bishal Bazaar. The selection is patchy and
some models may be obsolete. If one shop doesn't have what you're
looking for, they'll send a guy down the street to get it from another
shop that does.
Film in Kathmandu is cheaper than in Europe,
or about the same price as in North America. As for film processing,
many of labs in Thamel and on New Road offer same-day service. They
usually do a good job on prints, but unreliable when it comes to
slides. Have important photos processed outside Nepal if possible.
Clothing and fashion
Thamel and Freak Street have a wide range of shops that sell jackets, wool
sweaters, mittens and socks, and are amongst Nepal's best shopping areas.
Just steer clear of the cheap garments, which fall apart at the
seams. Inescapable around here are kit bags, caps
and other items with Tibetan rainbow fringes. Hardly fashionable,
though many tourists lap them up, are T-shirts and ready-made
clothes; watch out when you wash them because the cheap fabrics
shrink and the colours run. Tailors, found inside the same clothing
shops, are skilled at machine embroidering designs.
Scarf's and Shawls made of pashmina, the Nepali equivalent
of cashmere, are cheapest at Indrachowk. Topi, the caps that
Nepali men wear the same way Westerners wear ties, are sold around
Asan Tol. Sari material can be found in New Road and around
Indrachowk. Other traditional textiles are sold in the nonprofit
Some boutiques in Durbar Marg and Lazimpath sell designer fashions
with a Nepali flavour, in silk or other natural materials. A few
include: Chrysalis, Thamel South; Kee, Chhetrapati;
Mandala, Tindhara (off Durbar Marg); Nepalese Handloom
Silk, J.P. School Road; Oriental Creations, Makhan Tol;
Rage, Durbar Marg; Yasmine, Durbar Marg.
Nepali craftsmen are producing an ever-expanding range of contemporary
traditional materials or motifs to foreign
tastes. These include the amazing forms of dhaka and other textiles,
beautiful handmade paper products, Maithili-style paintings and
papier-mâché items, toys, dolls in ethnic dress, ready-made
clothes, woolen, leather goods, batiks, scented candles, and ingenious
articles out of bamboo and pine needles. Most of these innovations
have come from a few income-generation projects supported by aid
organizations, although many products are now widely imitated.
Many shops in the tourist areas claim or imply that they are outlets
for women's skill-development programmes. There's no doubt that
they employ women but the question is, on what terms? The following
shops represent local nonprofit organizations that adhere to fair-trade
principles. For a better selection of outlets, visit Patan's "Fashion
Mahaguthi, Durbar Marg (just north of
Hotel de l'Annapurna) and Lazimpath. Aided by Oxfam, it funds
a home for destitute women; mainly textiles, jewellery and other
Nepal Woman Crafts, Naksal (near Mike's
Breakfast). Traditional handmade paper and paper products.
Sana Hastakala, Lazimpath. Woollens, dhaka and
other textiles, also toys, ceramics and paper.
Artists in the capital are beginning to create more individualistic
works, normally in watercolours. Shops in the tourist quarters
sell traditional street scenes and ethnic portraits. Kathmandu also
has a growing number of fine-art galleries. These include: Bamboo
Gallery, Panipokhari (opposite the American Embassy); Indigo
Gallery, at Mike's Breakfast, Naksal. Hosts temporary shows
and has a permanent display of interesting non-standard thangka
and paubha and other indigenous fine art; Nepal Association
of Fine Arts (NAFA) Gallery, Naksal (daily from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm except Saturday;
Rs75). Exhibits of contemporary works by Nepali painters and sculptors;
October Gallery, inside the Hotel Vajra, Bijeshwari;
Siddhartha Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited. Temporary shows
by Nepalis and expats.
souvenirs and curios
Visitors will not have to
go far to buy a khukuri knife as street vendors and shops sell them wherever there are travellers,
and there are several shops in Thamel
exclusively to them.
Brass sets of bagh chal, Nepal's own "tigers and goats"
game, are also as common. Shops and stalls between Indrachowk and
Asan sell all types of household brass ware. Small shops
in Thamel, Chhetrapati and Khichapokhri (located south of New Road) sell
traditional Nepalese musical instruments, while hack minstrels
peddle sarangi (traditional fiddles) are available around Thamel and cheap
bamboo flutes are sold in Durbar Square.
Sellers in Basantapur Square and Thamel flog an array of Tibetan-style
curios. It is all interesting stuff, but most of what is claimed
to be silver, turquoise, coral or ivory is fake, and none of it
is antique. If it is, have the vendor clear it with the Department
of Archeology. Gold and silversmiths in the old city produce fine
ethnic jewellery; tourist shops sell cheaper but more wearable
ornaments, normally made with white metal. Gem dealers are
chiefly at the east tip of New Road. The ideal place to buy traditional glass beads is the Pote Bazaar, located near
Embroidered bags and boxes of Nepalese tea, found in many
shops in the tourist areas, make good gifts. Incense is also
exotically packaged and quite cheap and dozens of varieties are
available at street stalls and in shops. You can also find many
types of essential oils, relatively inexpensive saffron and
Some handicrafts, though widely sold in Kathmandu, are better bought
elsewhere in the valley. Metal statuettes are a Patan speciality,
wood carvings are best in Bhaktapur, and papier-mâché
masks, puppets and pottery are all better represented
in Thimi and Bhaktapur. Kathmandu carpet sellers offer some
good deals. Before you buy, check out one of the many factories in
the Kathmandu Valley or around Pokhara.
Many boutiques sell identical ranges of Kashmiri style handicrafts,
predominantly expensive silk carpets, chain stitch tapestries, and
cheaper items made out of papier-mâché, leather, soapstone
and sandalwood. The owners of these shops are particularly good
at fleecing unwary tourists. Equally unrelated to Nepal are the
Afghan and Rajasthani tribal clothing and mirrored
textiles sold in some places.