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“Shop till you drop” should be your motto as Kathmandu is a shoppers’ paradise. The remarkable choices of handicrafts made in Nepal are immensely popular throughout the world. The brilliant workmanship and artistic creations are unique. Much of the handicrafts also carry religious significance and in fact many are meant for religious purposes. Nepal ranks high when it comes to making statues and statuettes of copper, bronze, silver or gold. Exquisite wood carvings are in great demand and entire beds made of carved wood are exported to the west fetching mind boggling prices. Extremely popular and exported regularly are the wood carved windows. Recently products made of rice paper have been quite popular and amazingly a large number of funny hats are exported. Other souvenir pieces are the famous Gurkha knife or Khukuri, prayer wheels, stone carvings, singing bowls, papier–maché masks, thangkas and pauvas, pashmina, carpets, jewelry, etc.
Now, this is an additional new school of tourism to Nepal- and with a vengeance ! The avid shopaholics - Indians, Nepalese and westerners as well-find the entire gamut of genuine international brands and domestic products in Nepal surprisingly competitively-priced, both in the bazaars and supermarkets of Kathmandu, Pokhara and other commercial hubs of Nepal.
Historical perspectives. A Sanskrit tome, dating back to some 6,000 years, cites Nepal as a veritable source of such quality products as the tender-wool pashmina shawls, some 22 varieties of excellent leather goods and products, and other items. These quality items drew many discernible connoisseurs to Nepal.
Now this very ancient market is resurrected in Nepal, with the advent of consumer tourism. And now there are two markets thriving in Nepal: genuine international brand-names, and original Nepalese products as well. Pick up your own choices, or choose your own picks-however it suits you!
Nepal: Traditional Goods
Nepal boasts of many genuine, original and unique products of its own. After all, the craftsmen of Nepal were well-respected at the royal courts of ancient China and in the Indian markets thousands of years ago. Well, the same expertise are practiced in Nepal to this day, now that the lucrative draws of international tourism encourage the domestic market products. Some of the most important products are listed below:
These include shawls, woolen sweaters, socks, mittens, jackets, trousers, and caps which are very functional and colorful souvenir items. Nepalese tailors are adept at creating garments out of hand-loomed cotton, silk, wool, and leather. Exceptional embroidery also goes into the works.
Jewelry Gold and silver necklaces, bracelets, rings and traditional beads are some of the special products of Patan. Tibetan jewelry abounds in Kathmandu. There is even a colorful international glass bead market in Ranki Bazaar off Indrachowk.
Gems Kathmandu has one of the widest selections of loose gems in South Asia. Ruby, aquamarine, black and green tourmaline, quartz, rare hamburgrite, panburite, felspar, epidate, and "healing stones" are mined in the high hills and mountains of Nepal, and therefore, are available in Kathmandu at competitive prices.
This curved metal knife is synonymous with the legendary Gurkha soldiers and their valor in many international wars. Its origin is humble, belonging to the hills of Nepal. Manufactured by iron smiths with surprisingly simple and rudimentary traditional implements, this is an ideal souvenir to take back home with.
Metalware In Nepal
Decorative as well as everyday household utensils are made of copper, brass, and bronze. These are elaborately engraved. Karuwas (water jars), antis (liquor jars), and hanging oil lamps are some of the very popular and useful souvenirs.
Traditional Nepalese kagaj paper, popularized by the Hippies as "rice paper", is actually made of lokta (daphne) bark found in the high hills of Nepal. Because of its cross-fibrous, and therefore, strong texture, it has been used for official documents. Commercially turned out as writing pads, calendars and lamp shades, lokta has also gained international fame as the material for the UNICEF greeting cards produced in Bhaktapur.
Paubhas or Thankas
Paubhas or thankas are traditional paintings, depicting deities and religious icons and symbols drawn from Buddhism. Painted on cotton scrolls or canvas, the best paubhas (thankas in Tibetan) use precious powdered stone pigments for vivid colors. Silver and gold dust are other important ingredients.
The Kathmandu Valley potters are famous for their delicate art of shaping and sizing both terra-cotta and glazed utility and decorative earthenware. The potters' square in Bhaktapur is the place to buy these souvenirs as well as to see the potters in action.
The casting of bronze, brass and copper statuary in Nepal dates back to the 13th century. Nepal is famous for the ancient and painstaking "lost wax method" in which ornate figures are modeled and molded in bees-wax.
The Newars are expert in their artistry in wood. Their intricately-carved doors, windows, pillars and lattices are seen in and around Kathmandu. Tourism has greatly encouraged the manufacture of these ornate works in wood, mainly in the workshops of Patan and Bhaktapur.
These are hand-knotted pieces of art, using the traditional techniques of Tibet. The best of Himalayan sheep wool and New Zealand long staples are used in weaving the best-quality carpets. Vegetable dyes are used in authentic carpets though usage of imported cost- effective and enduring chemical colors is also seen these days.
The eastern districts of Nepal, notably llam, are where excellent varieties of Himalayan tea are grown and produced. Though most of it is exported, shops in Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal of fer a wide selection of the fine tea, packaged attractively as suitable gifts, and guaranteed as a great brew.
Asia is an ancient spice stronghold. Therefore, Kathmandu, in the middle of Asia, is no exception. Kathmandu is, in fact, the entrepot of spices-those exotica to flavor curries and other dishes. Nutmeg, ginger, saffron, mace, green anise, fenugreek, peppers, and coriander seeds are just some of the spicy names.
Shopping Malls and Departmental Stores
Nepal is a shopping destination for many tourists and regular travelers. Shopping Malls and Departmental stores have mushroomed and today dominate the Kathmandu skyline. Shopping Malls and Departmental Stores are gaining popularity in other cities as well, like in Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nepalgunj. Anything from the latest cell phones, ipods and laptops to electronic appliances, cameras, music systems, kitchenware, branded garments, jewelry, perfumes, watches, toys, fitness equipment and a multitude of household items are all available. Popular shopping areas in Kathmandu are around New Road, Putali Sadak, Kumaripati, Bhatbhateni Lazimpat, Sundhara, Tripureshwor and Jawlakhel. The most popular malls are City Center, Kathmandu Mall, United World Trade Center, Bhatbhateni, Blue Bird, Khastamandap, Kathamandu, Namaste, Saleways and Gemini. In Pokhara, the major shopping areas are Lakeside and Mahendrapul bazaar areas among others. Look out for seasonal discounts especially clearance sales and festival discounts which can be as much as 50 %.
So there you are, dear tourists ! Happy splurging in Nepalese products and international brand-name goodies- all in the bustling and colorful markets of Kathmandu and Nepal !!!
All handicraft items above 100 years are termed ‘antique’ and taking them out of the country is illegal and a serious offense. But the rest of the handicraft items particularly made of stone, metal and wood or paintings or any handicraft resembling historical artifacts need a clearance certificate from the Department of Archaeology in Kathmandu (near the Supreme Court ) before being exported. Please take the purchase receipt for clearance of the same.