Friday, April 13, 2012

Shopping Values in Thamel - No, I'm not Kidding.

I stated in my book, Nepal On a Budget, that the Thamel district in Kathmandu can be very ruthless to unsuspecting tourists. The merchants seem to be waiting for you to walk by with too much money and not enough brain cells. I have to admit that I wasn't prepared to purchase my first pashmina scarf and that scarf's price seemed to be determined by the country I came from. 

I learned a lot about pashmina since that day and I've found a few places to buy silk and wool scarves/shawls at excellent prices. One of those places is just outside of Thamel in the Arson Chowk area and one is in Bhaktapur. However, there are some bargains to be found in Thamel and if you have the energy for it, it can be a lot of fun to shop and haggle with the merchants. 

The best way I've found to shop in Kathmandu is to just walk down the street and see what you pass along the way. Have a mental list and see what you can check off. I have a habit to peak into any box or sales rack I see along the way. It isn't unusual to find out of season hats and gloves, scarves or paper products at the front of many stores in boxes from about 20-100 NRs. However, sales and clearances can be a bit of a let-down. "30-70% off entire stock," for example, will not necessarily yield the savings you'd expect. Also, there is no shame in the Nepali mind (at least as far as I can tell) about lying. They do not even apologize to you when you catch them in a bold faced lie. So, don't be shy to call them on what they say, put a match to a thread to check the fiber or just just challenge them with a bluff.

I came upon a Gorkha Knife shop on my last shopping trip and really enjoyed the day. The shop keeper was so enthusiastic, proud to be Gorkha. The Gorkha people have been known for their fighting abilities for centuries and the Gorkha knives are high quality and beautiful. I noticed a very impressive knife with an inscription and realized what a lovely gift one of these knives would be for a veteran or police officer. The knife shop is called Ex-Gurkha Khurkuri House, located in Thamel and Lazimpat. Tele: 977-01-4005079, Email:

This sign says, "If a man says he is not afraid of dying he is either lying or he is a Gurkha."

As I walked down the street I noticed a little shop that had some lovely rose quartz and other simi-precious stones in crystal-ball shapes. They were about 30% or so of the price I remember from the US. They also have some nice necklaces of varying quality. That is what interested me about this shop. Not only was the proprietor kind and not pushy, but he has enough of a selection to help you chose the price and quality you are looking for. He can help you to understand the differences in quality in stone, seed, bone and resin. The proprietor, Mr. Baniya, is from Lumbini and is quite eager to encourage tourists to see that part of Nepal. 

Lumbini Export House is a manufacturer and wholesaler of Bodi Mala, Rosary Beads in crystal coral, Lotus seed, Sandal, Rosewood, Guru beads, Bangles and bone, Horn, Wood beads, Neclesh and Handicraft items. 563/8 Thamel Marg, Kathmandu, Tel: 01-443 0395, 984 127 7516 or Email: 

The best kept secret in Thamel is probably the amazingly great prices on American movies and music. Although a lot of them, usually priced from 30-50 NRs. are pirated and of varying quality, you can get some legitimate  movies and American TV series' for a little more than $1 per disk. Each disk can have a few episodes on it. I believe these won't be a problem with customs when you return to the US or Europe, but the very cheap ones are obviously pirated. If you have any knowledge about getting them home please comment on the post to let others know. Some of the DVDs are excellent quality and some are not so good. I bought one and had to watch it with 'Demo' written across it until it finally quit altogether about half way through. During another movie I noticed a shadow get up, obviously pirated in an actual movie theater. I don't know if they will get confiscated or not. I suggest spending a little more at a store with good quality, importable DVDs or plan to watch the cheap ones on your laptop while you are here. They make for an inexpensive night's entertainment.

On this shopping trip I stopped at Saurab Music, Thamel, and saw some great collections, CSI, Las Vegas, Star Trek, etc. 01-442 4476 or 441 3447 Email: I was impressed with the quality of the collections-at least the packaging looked much better than many of the others I've seen elsewhere. When you see the CDs and DVD's sitting outside a store just ask for the American/English movies or music. One day I found my favorite 'one hit wonder' from the early 1950's, Skeeter Davis, in a music collection for 30 NRs.  

There is a plethora of shopping and money saving tips for just about anything you will need while you  are in Nepal in my book, Nepal On A Budget. You can get a peak of it and check out three lists to help you get your vacation off to a great start at:

Where Can You Find My other Blog Posts? You can find a lot of money saving things to do in  the Kathmandu Valley and get insights into the culture of Nepal at
Money saving tip from my book, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual This shopping areas is near a temple or chowk. These places are where the local people shop. Although the merchants seldom speak English, they are a bit easier to work with since they are unable to negotiate well enough to play games. The problem can be that they may have never done business with a tourist before and don't speak English well, so they will say a price they don't mean or maybe they believe the myths about us that we have so much money we just throw it around. Either way, it can be difficult, but enjoyable if you know what to expect. You can find great prices on peacock feathers 10-15 NRs. each, incense 1-2 NRs. each stick and some nice local sweet shops in these areas.

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