Shopping Guide

Shopping can be very rewarding and exciting in Kathmandu. There are numerous tourist shops on the main streets and in the hotel arcades brimming with tempting jewelry, statues, and other typical Nepalese handicraft. Thangka is one of the best buys in Nepal. Each place has its specialty product which is unique. Bhaktapur, for instance, is the place to buy pottery. The Traditional Craftsman's Colony in Patan is a famous center for Nepalese handicraft. You may get carved-wooden items while at Patan. As for jewelry, buyers can opt for loose gems or custom-made items.

Besides handicraft, Nepal is also a good place for genuine luxury goods. With a host of departmental stores and shopping plazas offering international brand-name products,Kathmandu has become a haven for the serious shopper. Browsers will enjoy the city's numerous traditional markets that overflow with vegetables, fruits and other.



Woodcraft is the speciality of the Newar artisans of the Kathmandu Valley. Among the items that you may wish to purchase while in Kathmandu are wooden picture frames and windows. These range widely in prices according to the type of wood used, the care that has gone into its making, and the details that have been worked into it. Some artisans are able to produce three windows a day while some take over a month to produce one. However, windows and frames are not the only items on sale. Statues of gods, erotic carvings, traditional figures, and carvings with modern motifs are also available. The artisans are able to come up with specially designed works of art according to specifications and quality required. The wooden images are made by using tools that were used a thousand years ago.



The metal work is also exceptional. Statues of high quality are available for prices ranging from a few thousand rupees to hundred thousands including gold inlaid life-sized works. The lost wax method is used to create these works of art. The wax figure is covered with clay and put in the sun to dry. Once ready, the wax is melted out and molten metal poured into the clay hollow. When the metal cools down and sets, the clay covering is destroyed and careful work with hammer, chisel and sanding material follows. The metal statue is then painted as per the specifications of religion or as per the request of the client.

Gurkha Khukuri are one-of-a-kind knives found only in Nepal. Price ranges according to the hardness of the blade and the origin of its make. Khukuris made in locations like Chainpur, Bhojpur, and Dhankuta in east Nepal are excellent and ornate knives for decor are also available.



Tibetan carpets are popular floor coverings in Europe and much of Nepal's foreign exchange earnings have come from the sale of carpets in the past two decades. The designs are traditional as well as modern. The modern designs have been created by some of the best artists working today in Europe and the products of the better manufacturers have graced many a Tibetan rug collection. Today, special effort is being made to break into the American and Japanese markets with special designs and quality rugs. Rugs usually come in three knot-counts: 100, 80, and 60. Thamel shops have many rugs on display, however, if you wish for something special, you may wish to contact the manufacturers directly.


Thangkas and Paubhas

For hundreds of years, scroll paintings have decorated the walls of monasteries, temples, and homes in East Asia. Especially, the Tibetan and Newar styles come from a time when these cultures were at their peak. Most of the older surviving scroll paintings are reminders of a period when the rulers and the public were concentrating upon the arts as offerings to the deities. They bring back memories of a people who thought that every incident displayed the mood of the lords in heaven: earthquakes, fire glowing in the kitchen, snowfall, floods, good harvests, and sunshine.

The value of a thangka or paubha depends upon the fineness with which each detail is executed and the perfect mixing of the colors. The life-force of deities is believed to be brought down by masterfully executed paintings. Since the secret road to their powers is like a mathematical formula, the geometry of the painting is very important. The prices of thangkas range widely. A pretty but roughly done tourist-product may be obtained for about two dollars while a gold layered masterpiece costs well over 200 dollars.


Gems and Jewellery

Nepal is the land of Kubera, the little pot-bellied god of wealth who guards his treasure trove of gems, gold and silver beneath the surface of the earth. Nepal has some of the best goldsmiths and silversmiths in the world, i.e. the Newar craftsmen, who have been delighting collectors and royal patrons with their exquisite creations for more than 600 years. So if you've ever wanted to own the finest jewellery, at a fraction of the cost you'd pay at home, Nepal is the place.

Nepal's most distinctive gems are the exquisite tourmalines from the eastern ranges, in pink, sunset rose, peach, golden, amber and green. There are very rare lime-green tourmalines that are found nowhere else, and some with more than one color in a single stone. The newly-discovered lemon-yellow tourmalines are especially fine.

Visitors should be careful when they buy precious stones because assessing their quality is difficult. Note that real topaz is not mined in the country and yellow citrine is locally called "golden topaz." Tourmaline, Afghanistan lapiz lazuli, aquamarine, sapphire, blue kyanite cabochons, amethysts, and turquoise are some of the gems that are sold in jewellery shops.

In Nepal, gold and silver jewellery are popular among the local women. The goldsmiths are skilled and can produce rings, necklaces, and bracelets in a short time. Most jewelers inform customers about the quality of their gold and silver.


Mithila Paintings

The Mithila paintings, known as Madhubani paintings in India and Janakpur paintings in Nepal, are a common practice among the women of southern Nepal. The wind, sun, and rain very easily discolor these wall paintings, but they were not designed to withstand climate and time. The paintings, in fact, are usually painted over with clay when the women house clean for the next festival.

Efforts have been made since the 1960s to create and sell Mithila paper paintings. On a small grant from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust in the US, the Janakpur Women's Art Project was started to test the possibilities for the women to market their art work. The Art Project provided funding for tools and a space for the women to work, thereby enhancing the women's lives and saving the unique tradition. Painting on paper, the Mithila women artists are now going beyond the traditional motifs and designs to include scenes of everyday life. Women generally do not leave their villages, and are kept fully occupied with traditional house chores. However, new support for their art and appreciation for their talents is altering the fabric of their life in the village by bringing in new income to enrich them all, husbands and wives alike.


Hand-woven Cloth

Many weavers in the Valley produce hand-woven cotton cloth of many colors and patterns. Visitors will find beautifully designed clothing and fabrics in Kathmandu's shops. The Magars of western Nepal also weave fabrics for readymade garments. Tussar which is the best Nepalese silk is not shiny but has a natural glow. It is made from an undomesticated forest worm found in the southern jungle regions. The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and the Rai people of eastern Nepal have passed on the tradition of making blockprinted paper and cloth to modern producers.


Paper Products

Traditional Nepalese paper, popularly known as "rice paper" is actually made of lokta bark found in remote areas of the country. Because of its strength, government offices use it for official documents. Many stores in Thamel and Patan sell writing pads and bound journals, as well as calendars and lamp shades of lokta paper.



In the Terai region, baskets used for household and decorative purposes are made from grass. The baskets come in different shapes and sizes according to their application. For example, the baji picha is a basket used for serving beaten rice and the dalcha, a covered basket, is used for storing goods.

Raw jute which is one of Nepal's largest exports is grown in the southern Terai region and made into baskets and other materials. In the past, many Nepalese women wore shoes made of jute after child-birth, believing that it would promote cleanliness.



There are government restrictions that visitors should be aware of before purchasing items to take home. Antiques are not permitted to he taken out of Nepal. An inspection by the Department of Archaeology is required for any exports of antiques. To be on the safe side, visitors should have antique Tibetan carpets, old thangkas, and metal statues examined by the Department of Archaeology. They should then obtain a certificate from the office before leaving Nepal. You can ask for help from travel agents and some of the shop owners. The Department of Archaeology is located in the National Archives Building on Ramshah Path, south of Singha Durbar.

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