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Shopping in Nepal

Usually, travelers flocked to Kathmandu for its ancient and artistic shrines, temples, monasteries and palaces in the foregrounds of the Himalaya. They came to appreciate Nepal's fine arts and architecture in its beautiful and natural backdrops. The Hippies actually began it all in the 60s.

Then there followed a period of nature and adventure tourism, bringing in yuppie trekkers, rafters and mountaineers, and the latter-day hang-gliders, hot-air ball-oonists and other dare-devils.

These two distinct groups of tourists to Nepal helped identify the country as a culture-nature-adventure triad of destination. This definition and identification still hold true in the 1990s, and will continue well into the 21st century.

Shopping-a new tourism product in Nepal. Now, this is an additional new school of tourism to Nepal- and with a vengeance ! The avid shopaholics-lndians, 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!

Of course, the capital city of Kathmandu leads the way in all kinds of shopping in Nepal. This new adventure fever has spread to Pokhara and other tourist landmarks. Now the Nepalese market is awash in what you want: Perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries, watches, cameras; luggages, blankets, garments. baby care products; chocolates and other sweet-tooth goodies; optical goods and sun-glasses; writing and other fine instruments; tobaccos and cigars; electronics, and a host of other luxuries and essentials.

To match the varieties, there is also a galore of international brand-names: Christian Dior, . Trusardi, Lancome, Paloma Picasso, Guy Laroche, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Cacharel, Nina Ricci, Guerlain, Salvador Dali, Pierre Cardin, Pierre Balmain, Givenchy, Playboy, Rado. Omega, Titoni, Tissot, Movado Swatch, Seiko, Citizen. West End, Raymond Weil, Yashica Vivitar, Panasonic, Sony, Kodak, Minolta, Samsonite, Echolac, Delsey, Benetton, Johnson & Johnson, Jovan, Nivea, Sara Lee products, and so on.

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 parcticed 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:

Hand-made garments. 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.

Khukuri. 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.

Paper Products. 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 are traditional paintings, depicting deities and religious icons and symblos 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.

Pottery. 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.

Statues. 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.

Wood carving. 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.

Woolen carpets. 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.

Tea. 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.

Spices. 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.

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 !!!

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