Thamel – Shopping Paradise in Nepal

I had multiple encounters with Thamel throughout the Nepal tour on different days at different times and speaking from a photographer’s perspective in different lighting. Thamel is the shopping paradise in Nepal.

I first got introduced to her on my second day at Kathmandu. It was a gloomy day where the sky was overcast and it had been raining in Kathmandu for the last few days . Like many travelers I believe that you need to avail local transport in a new city to get to know it better. So I took a rickshaw which was more like the ones that are seen in Chandernagore my hometown though a little more spacious and definitely more colorful.


The rickshaw took me to Hanuman Marg Durbar Square and that’s when I smelt her by lanes and dark allies for the first time.  It was love at first sight which kept me coming back to her, time and again during the next few days and even pay her a secret visit on my day of leaving taking a detour at the risk of missing a flight – all this to pick up few CDs of Nepali music by Prem Kumar.

So what makes her this charming and beautiful ? It’s a little world in itself. It has food , music, hotels and night life and mind you this is a full Wi-Fi zone in Nepal . Starting from the food as always, this place is crowded with various restaurants offering different cuisines for all budgets. From continental to authentic Newari meal, you get everything here. One of the cafes that we visited was Helena’s . A 3 storied building with perhaps the tallest rooftop in Thamel, one can either sit open air on 3rd floor or inside the cosy interiors. This is one of the well known joints and the apple cake served there is a must try. As a photographer one must not miss the chance of going up on the roof top and capturing the  Thamel Skyline. If you are in a mood to tease your taste buds don’t miss out the various road side joints and cafes. The one I would recommend is Chick N Falafal.

If I may say this place is infested with shops and it is like a pilgrimage for shopaholics then I am not exaggerating. Don’t be surprised if you end up buying an additional luggage after you have visited Thamel. Thanka Pantings (paintings on any form of cloth depicting a Buddha Deity or Mandala )  Tibetan singing bowls , pashmeena garments , attractive junk  jewellery, various shapes and forms of prayer wheels , local artifacts , mountaineering gear are few of the must checkouts .

If you are a music lover with an inclination towards different genres of music then Thamel has something in store for you too. Almost every fourth shop is a music shop with an envying collection of music and Nepaleese folk music in particular.  We know and remember a place through our senses and Thamel will always etch a mark in your heart for all the music that keeps on playing from the music stores and the people selling musical instruments for kids. Long after you leave Thamel, the music continues to play in your mind occasionally causing you to hum the enchanting tunes.

I have experienced her in different shades and moods and if on your exit from Thamel after the first visit you already plan for the second – let me assure – you are absolutely normal.

swayambhunath temple

Visiting the Swayambhunath Temple

It was on our visit back from Pokhara that we headed towards Swayumbhunath Temple on a bright warm sunny afternoon. Situated on the hilltop at western side of Kathmandu it’s around half an hour journey from Kamalpokhri the central part of Kathmandu. Although one can take various approaches towards the shrine, the gradual rise or the young and energetic ones may contemplate trying out the steep stairway at the eastern end of the hill.

Player Wheels

Commonly known as the Monkey Temple, this place is an ideal coexistence of Hinduism and Buddhism. The entrance is free for Nepali residents; however Indians are charged a nominal entry fee.

The grand entrance of the Swayambhunath Temple leads to a large Vajra ( a mythological weapon used as a symbol for indestructibility and thunderstorm and used in Buddhism , Jainism and Hinduism too)  behind which is the white dome of the stupa and on top of it is  pair of calm Buddha eyes overlooking the area.

After climbing few stairs and few lucky encounters with monkeys all around (please be careful if carrying any food items in hand as chances are high that those will very quickly become the mid day meal of the natives of the place )one sees a giant size Buddha idol painted in Maroon and gold and little further sway from here is the main compound .

The main compound consists of the main stupa and various shrines and temples for both the Hindus and the Buddhists . One can find a museum, Gompas or Tibetan Monastery , Pagoda style temple to Hindu Goddess  and various relics of Hindu and Buddhist all next to each other.

The main Buddha stupa on the gleaming white dome has got  rectangular structure on top painted with Buddhas eyes on all four sides with the letter one in Devnagri script in middle which looks like a nose signifying unity whereas the third eye represents Buddha’s insight. The thirteen pinnacles on top signify the thirteen stages that human being has to go through to reach Nirvana.

Thanka Prayer Flags

The main attractions of this place is the ambience , the chance to encounter the ever smiling calm Buddhists monks , numerous prayer wheels and people swirling the prayer wheels and walking around them to offer prayers . While coming back one must check out the amazing cafes within the campus most of them offer an amazing view of Kathmandu Valley  and must browse all the stores once from prayer wheels to prayer bowls , from thanka painting to masks , from painting to incense sticks – its strongly recommended that you must keep aside some time for these shops

Shops near Swayambhunath Temple.

This is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal, however one feels that it’s contemporary and modern as this place only offers you peace and Nirvana while not restricting you with age old rituals.