“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.
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.
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 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 %.
Woodcraft is the speciality of the Newar artisans of the Kathmandu Valley. Among the items that you may wish to purchase while in Kathmano its making, and the details that have been worked into it. However, windows and frames are not the only items on sale. Statues of gods, erotic carvings, traditional fig ures, and carvings with modern motifs are also available. 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 gold inlaid life-sized works. The lost was 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 reli gion or as per the request of the client.
Gurkha Khukuri is one of its kind of knives found only in Nepal. Price ranges according to the hardness of the blade and the origin of its make. Nepal are excellent and ornate knives for decor are also available.
Tibetan carpets are popular floor coverings in Europe and much af 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.
Gems & Jewelry
Nepal has some of the best goldsmiths and silver smiths in the worid, i.e. the Newar craftsmen, who have been delighting collectors and patrons with their exquisite creations for more than 600 years. So if you’ve ever wanted to own the finest jewellry, at a fractian 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 novdhere else, and some with more than one color in a single stone. The newly-discovered lemon-yellow tourmalines are especially fine.
Thangkas & 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.
The Mithila paintings, known as Madhubani paint ings 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.
Many weavers in the Valley produce handwoven cot ton 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 gar ments. Tussar which is the best Nepalese silk is not shiny but has a nat ural glow. It is made from an undomes ticated forest worm found in the south ern 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.
Traditional Nepalese paper, popularly known as “rice paper” is actually made of lokta bark found in remote areas of the coun try. Because of its strength, govern ment offices use it for official docu ments. Many stores in Thamel and Patan sell writing pads and bound jour nals, as well as calendars and lamp shades of lokta paper.
In the Terai region, bas kets used for household and decorative purposes are made from grass. The baskets come in different shapes and sizes according to their application. Raw jute which is one of Nepal’s largest exports is grown in the southern Terai region and made into baskets and other materials.
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 elsewere 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.