Information about nature, culture, people, trekking season, government, money, religions, history, festivals, language and a lot more information and travel tips...
Location / Geography:
Nepal covers an area of 147,181 square kilometers, and stretches 145-241 kilometers north to south and 850 kilometers west to east. The country is located between India in the south and China in the north. At latitudes 26 and 30 degrees north and longitudes 80 and 88 degrees east, Nepal is topographically divided into three regions: the Himalaya to the north, the hills consisting of the Mahabharat range and the Churia Hills, and the Terai to the south. Elevations are varied in the kingdom. The highest point is Mt. Everest (8848 m) in the north and the lowest point (70 meters above sea level) is located at Kechana Kalan of Jhapa District. Altitude increases as you travel south to north To the north temperatures are below - 40 degrees Celsius and in the Terai, temperatures rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. During June, July and August, Nepal is influenced by monsoon clouds.
Nepali is the national language of Nepal. Though many languages are used throughout the country, most people understand and speak Nepali. Educated people, and those involved in the tourist industry also understand and speak English and many other foreign languages.
Home distillation is an ancient practice in Nepal, still managing to hold its own against modern distilleries. The Nepali brand-name hard liquors are best avoided. Often adulterated with chemicals they can give a quick headache. Imported brands are expensive. The Nepali beer market is booming, with at least four local brands and two local licensees on the market.
The finest alcohol is homemade stuff. Raksi is potent, exhilarating and smooth as velvet. To test for good raksi, toss a small amount on a fire and see if it burns. Women of a household pride themselves on their liquor, and will put the most effort and time into making raksi for a big celebration like a wedding. Different grains produce different flavors: rice raksi is rich and smooth, kodo (millet) is stronger and more fiery.
Less potent is home-brewed beer, land (Nepali) or chang (Tibetan), a whitish, thin drink made from rice or millet with a refreshing sweet-sour taste. A variation served in mountain regions is tongba, fermented mash which is placed in a wooden container and mixed with hot water. You drink from a bamboo straw, sipping the liquid and avoiding the bits of millet; the hot water is refilled several times, and nursing a flask of tongba is a nice sport for a cold evening.
Books & Bookstores:
Kathmandu is an international center for books on Himalayan regions, especially Nepal and Tibet There are probably 200 titles on Nepal and just as many on Tibet and Vajrayana Buddhism. other regional specialties include mountaineering the Himalaya, Tantrism, Hinduism, India and Asian travel accounts by Westerners, plus dozens of lavish photographic books on the Himalaya, surely one of the most photographed regions on earth.
Few travelers realize that Kathmandu's bookstores offer bargains on new as well as used books. Some are sold at Asian edition prices, 35-50% less than in the West Locally published books are remarkably cheap, and Indian editions are reasonable. You can find specialty books long out of print or unavailable in the West. Best of all are the many discounted books sold on remainder, often of popular titles which are being pushed off the market by new arrivals. You can get especially good bargains on expensive photographic books.
Kathmandu's oldest booksellers, Ratna Pushtak Bhandar in Bhotahiti, operates Ratna Book Distributors in Bagh Bazaar near the French Cultural Center. They publish Kallash and the Biblloteca Himalayica series of inexpensive reprints of rare classics on the Himalaya. Another place to check is Himalayan Booksellers in Bagh Bazaar (also with a Thamel outlet). Mandala Bookpoint on Kanti Path has an excellent selection of regional books. Pilgrim's Bookhouse in Thamel has a vast selection with an emphasis on New Age topics and Eastern religions. A smaller branch up the street stocks rare books on all sorts of Asian subjects. Educational Booksellers on the Tundikhel has a good range of Penguins, modern fiction, and children's books, plus shelves of textbooks and business books, including Asian editions of computer software manuals retailing for half the Western price.
Kathmandu's used book shops are famous for their eclectic selection provided by Western travelers. In essence they're like a perennially rotating library; you can sell books back for 50% of the original price and buy more. Shelves are stocked with a genuine cross-section of travelers reading. Generally quantity predominates over quality; thick historical novels are popular buys for long treks.
Despite only 40-percent literacy, Nepal boasts an astonishing 460 newspapers - an outgrowth of two noble Brahmanic traditions, punditry and gossip. Of the handful printed in English, only the Rising Nepal is widely circulated, and outside Kathmandu it's always a day or more out of date. It's pretty much a government mouthpiece, but still manages in spite of itself to shed light on current events in Nepal. The weekly Independent (published Wednesdays, available only in the capital) covers issues with greater candour and depth, but it's aimed at political insiders. Foreign publications such as the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Asian Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek are sold in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but nowhere else. For British newspapers, try the British Council in Kathmandu.
Radio & Television:
The government-run Radio Nepal is by far the most influential of the nation's media, catering to the illiterate majority of Nepalese and reaching villages well beyond the reach of any newspaper. With a daily format of traditional and pop music, news bulletins, English language lessons, dramas and development messages, it has been a powerful force for cultural and linguistic unity, though demands by various ethnic groups for programming in their native tongues has recently become a hot political topic. The station carries English-language news bulletins daily at 8 am and 8 pm, and relays the BBC World Service in Kathmandu from 11pm to 12.15am. If you're traveling with a short-wave radio, you can pick up the World Service at 15.31, 11.75 and 9.74MHz.
Nepal-Tv, with transmitters in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Biratnagar, broadcasts Nepali and Indian shows mainly in the early morning and evening, with the news in English at 9.40pm -check the daily schedule in the Rising Nepal.
STAR satellite TV, out of Hong Kong, beams MTV, BBC World Service TV and various American reruns.
Customs & Airports: Green Channel :
Passengers arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) without any dutiable goods can proceed through the Green Channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable articles, you have to pass through the Red Channel for detailed customs clearance.
It is illegal to export objects over 100 years old (sacred images, paintings, manuscripts) that are valued for culture and religious reasons. Visitors are advised not to purchase such items as they are Nepal's cultural heritage and belong here. The Department of Archaeology at Ramshah Path near Singha Durbar has to certify all metal statues, sacred paintings and similar objects before they are allowed to be sent or carried out of the country. Handicraft dealers and travel agents are able to assist you in this process. For more information on customs matters, contact the Chief Customs Administrator, TIA Customs Office
Nepal Time is 5 hours 45 minutes ahead of GMT and 15 minutes ahead of Indian standard time.
Nearly all money in Nepal is in the form of notes. The Nepalese rupee is linked to the Indian rupee, but its value fluctuates against all other major currencies. For the date of 10 June 2009 exchange rates are: 75.00 rupees to the dollar, 120.00 rupees to the pound sterling and 105.00 Rupees to Euro. Travelers' cheques are accepted at all exchange counters. Credit cards (Visa and Master Card) are accepted in major organizations, shops and restaurants. Withdrawing money with a credit card possible through banks or cash mashines (ATM) in major cities of Nepal.
Climate & when to go:
It's hard to generalize about the climate of a country ranging in elevation from near sea level to Mount Everest. About the only thing that can be said is that all but a few parts of Nepal are governed by the same monsoon pattern, with temperatures varying according to elevation (see chart). Five seasons prevail in Nepal, but these are not mere meteorological divisions: when-ever you choose to go, you'll have to weigh weather against other factors, both positive (mountain visibility, festivals, wildlife) and negative (crowds, disease).
Probably half of all tourists visit Nepal in the autumn (October to November), and for good reasons. The weather is clear and dry, and temperatures will not too cold in the high country nor too hot in the Tarai. with the air washed clean by the monsoon rains, the mountains are at their most visible, making this the most popular time for trekking. Two major festivals also fall during this season. The downside, however, is that the tourist quarters are heaving and hustly, it's hard to find a decent room, you'll waltages for food and for trekking permits, and people are short on ready smiles and chat.
In winter (December and January), the snow line descends to 2.000 - 3000m and though it never snows in Kathmandu, the "mists of India" make the capital feel cold and clammy (especially in unheated budget lodgings). Most travelers head down into India, leaving the trekking routes and guest houses fairly quiet too quiet, sometimes, as many restaurants pare down their menus for the season.
Spring (February to mid-April) brings warmer temperatures, longer days, weddings and more festivals. The rhododendrons are in bloom in the hills towards the end of this period, and in the Tarai the thatch has been cut, making this the best time for viewing wildlife. All of which creates another tourist crush, albeit not quite as bad as in the autumn. The one factor that keeps people away is a disappointing haze that obscures the mountains from lower elevations, though it's usually possible to trek above it.
The pre-monsoon (mid-April to early June) is stifling at lower elevations, and dusty wind squalls are common. People get a little edgy with the heat; this is the time for popular unrest, but also for the Kathmandu Valley's great rain-making festival. Trek high, where the temperatures are more tolerable.
Nepal welcomes the monsoon (June to September), which breaks the enervating monotony of the previous months, and makes the fields come alive with rushing water and green shoots. The rains rinse and renew the land. This can be a fascinating time to visit, when Nepal is at its most Nepali, but there are many drawbacks: mountain views are rare, leeches come out in force along the mid-elevation trekking routes, roads wash out, flights get canceled, and disease runs rampant as the rising water table brings the entire contents of Kathmandu's sewers to the surface.
Nepal has a bicameral legislature. The lower house, the House of Representatives, consists of 205 members. Members to the lower house are elected every five years. The upper house, the National Assembly, is made up of 60 members who have a six-year tenure in office. One-third of the members retire every two years. Fifteen members are elected by the local government, 35 members by proportional representation.
Nepal is divided into five development regions, 14 zones, and 75 districts. Each zone consists of four to eight districts. Sixteen districts lie in the Himalayan region, 39 in the hills and 20 in the Terai. The lowest local level administrative unit is the Village Development Committee (VDC). There are 3,996 VDC's in the country.
For centuries the Kingdom of Nepal was divided into many principalities. Kirats ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars occupied the mid-west. The Kirats ruled from 300 BC and during their reign, emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirats were followed by the Lichhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. During this period, art thrived in Nepal and many of the beautiful woodcarvings and sculptures that are found in the country belong to this era. With the end of the Lichhavi dynasty, Malla kings came to power in 1200 AD and they also con tributed tremendously to Nepal's art and culture. However, after almost 600 years of rule, the kings were not united among themselves and during the late 11th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered Kathmandu and united Nepal into one kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation. During the mid-I 9th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah Kings remained figureheads. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s. Since April 2008 Nepal is not a Kingdom anymore. Democratical elections were hold through the country and majority of votes from Nepaleze citizens went to Maoists. New government was formed in order to create new constitution for the country.
People, Culture and Religion:
Nepalese people are mainly divided into two distinct groups, the Indo-Aryans and the Mongoloids. Kathmandu Valley is the spiritual and cultural meeting point of all these groups.
Religious practices are an important part of the lives of the Nepalese people. Mythologies of various Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are based on the philosophies of holy books like the Swasthani Gita, Ramayana etc.
Women and children visit neighborhood shrines at dawn to offer worship to the gods. Holding plates of rice, flowers, and vermilion powder, they perform puja by lighting incense, ringing the temple bell, and applying tika, a red paste, on their foreheads. Passers by stop at temples and show their reverence to the gods by spending a few minutes praying. Occasionally, groups of men sit near temples playing music and singing hyms until late night.
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshipers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Though Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
As a result, visitors to this country may often find the religious practices in Nepal difficult to follow and understand. But this does not prevent one from enjoying the idifferent traditional ceremonies and rituals of Nepalese culture. It is indeed a totally new experience of religious fervor.
Thousands of gods and goddesses make up the Hindu pantheon. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are he three major Hindu gods who have heir own characteristics and incarnations. Each god has his own steed which is often seen kneeling faithfully outside that god's temple. Symbolic objects are carried by the multiple ands of each deity which empowers them to perform great feats.
Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism who lived and taught in this part of the world during the sixth century BC. The great stupas of Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath are among the oldest and most beautiful worship sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
The spinning of prayer wheels, prostrating pilgrims, collective chants and burning butter lamps are some Buddhist practices often encouithtered by tourists. A slip of paper bearing a mantra is kept inside the wheels so that prayers are sent to the gods when the wheel is spun. Scenes from the Buddha's life and Buddhist realms are depicted on thangka scroll paintings which are used during meditation and prayer ceremonies. Many Buddhist followers are seen performing these practices in Swayambhunath, Boudanath, and at other Buddhist sites around the Valley.
Medical Treatment: Hospitals
Kathmandu has the country's best medical facilities, but for anything serious you'll want to fly to Bangkok or back home. Nepali hospitals are crowded and very basic. For most illnesses consult a Nepali doctor or visit a private clinic. CIWEC Clinic (Tel. 4424111 and 4412590) in Lazimpat (infront of British Embassy) is staffed by Western physicians and nurses and provides competent care, but a visit is expensive by Nepali standards. This clinic have a doctor on-call after hours for emergencies. For emergency treatment, hospitalization, and surgery the best facility is Patan Hospital in Lagankhel. Also known as Shanta Bhawan, it was founded and is still partially supported by the United Mission to Nepal. There's also an inexpensive dental clinic here. Next choice is the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Maharajganj. Avoid the government-run Bir Hospital near the Tundhikhel; it has expensive high-tech equipment like a Catscan but a chronic shortage of drugs and basic supplies.
In Pokhara, ill travelers should visit the Western Regional Hospital, which does stool tests and provides treatment Larger Terai towns and district centers may have a government hospital, but out trekking, medical care is basically up to you - a good reason to carry medical essentials and be familiar with them.
Plenty of pharmacies are scattered about town, the biggest on New Road and near hospitals.
Ayurvedic medicines based on the ancient Indian system of herbal remedies are frequently used. An Ayurvedic practitioner popular with Westerners is Dr. Mana Bajracharya, whose office is behind the Mahaboudha stupa in a warren of buildings behind Bir Hospital. Tibetan medicine with its thousands of herbal-based remedies is also popular; the largest concentration of Tibetan doctors is in Boudhanath.
Nepal is a developing country with an agricultural economy. In recent years, the country's efforts to expand into manufacturing industries and other technological sectors have achieved much progress. Farming is the main ecomic activity followed by manufacturing, trade and tourism, The chief sources of foreign currency earnings are merchandise export, services, tourism and Gurkha remittances. The annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about US$ 4.3 billion.
Eight out of 10 Nepalese are engaged in farming and it accounts for more than 40% of the GDP. Rolling fields and neat terraces can be seen all over the Terai flatlands and the hills of Nepal. Even in the highly urbanized Kathmandu Valley, large tracts of land outside the city areas are devoted to farming Rice is the staple diet in Nepal and around three millions are produced annually. Other major crops are maize, wheat, millet and barley. Besides food grains, cash crops like sugar cane, oil seeds, tobacco, jute and tea are also cultivated in large quantities. Most recently the cardamom is becoming one of the most popular cash crops in the eastern part of the country.
Manufacturing is still at the developmental stage and it represents less than 10% of the GDP. Major industries are woolen carpets, garments, textiles, leather products, paper and cement. Other products made in Nepal are steel utensils, cigarettes, beverages and sugar. There are many modem large-scale factories but the majority are cottage or small-scale operations. Most of Nepal's industry is based in the Kathmandu Valley and a string of small towns in the southern Terai plains.
Commerce has been a major occupation in Nepal since early times. Being situated at the crossroads of the ancient trans-Himalayan trade route, trading is second nature to the Nepalese people. Foreign trade is characterized mainly by import of manufactured products and export of agricultural raw materials. Nepal imports manufactured goods and petroleum products worth about US$ 1 billion annually. The value of exports is about US$ 315 million. Woolen carpets are Nepal's largest export, earning the country over US$ 135 million per year. Garment exports account for more than US$ 74 million and handicraft goods bring in about US$ 1 million. Other important exports are pulses, hides and skins, jute and medicinal herbs.
In 1996, a total of 390,000 tourists visited Nepal, making tourism one of the largest industries in the Kingdom. This sector has been expanding rapidly since its inception in the 1950s, thanks to Nepal's natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and the diversity of sight-seeing and adventure opportunities available. At one time, tourism used to be the biggest foreign currency earner for the country. Nepal earned over US$ 116 million from tourism in 1995.
Nepalese entry procedures change frequently. It is recommended to check prior to arriving in Nepal what the current procedure is. (Carry all necessary documentation in your hand luggage.)
Tourist Visa fee for visitors who enter Nepal for the first time in a visa year (Jan-Dec)
New Tourist Visa Rules from 16th July 2008:
- Multiple entry visa for 15 days or less from the date of entry US$ 25 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
- Multiple entry visa for 30 days US$ 40 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
- Multiple entry visa for 90 days US$ 100 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
To obtain tourist visa of any duration on arrival to Nepal a foreigner must provide 1 PP size picture and visa fee.
Entry Points: By Air:
Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.
(1) Kakarbhitta (2) Birgunj (3) Belhiya (Bhairahawa) (4) Nepalgung (5) Dhangadi (6) Jogbani (Biratnagar) and (7) Mahendra Nagar in Nepal-India border and (8) Kodari in Nepal-China border. The overland tourists entering the kingdom with their vehicles must possess an international carnet.
Private vehicles give the maximum freedom to visit remote places at your own pace with a minimum of time and hassle. The main drawback is cost, aggravated by the high price of petrol.
Motorcycles are available for rent at several shops who are located on Dharma Path south of New Road, near the Frensh House, and there are a few in Thamel. Motorbikes range from 100cc to 250 cc, the largest available. You'll need the extra power if you're planning trips uphill with a passenger. You're responsible for returning the bike in the same condition you received it, so check it out carefully before taking it. Some shops will ask for your passport as a security deposit. A Nepal or International Driver's License is required for motorcycle rental. If you have a valid foreign license you can get a Nepali license within a few days from the police station at Hanuman Dhoka. Motorcycles can be fun, but you need to be extra cautious in the hectic traffic of the city, and equally careful of ducks, chickens, dogs, and children in villages. Don't be overly optimistic in planning how much territory you can cover. Nepal's roads are rough, and long journeys are more tiring than you might expect. It's best to go slowly and stop for lots of tea breaks.
Renting a cycle is the ideal way to get around if you're slightly adventurous and reasonably in shape. It's also a good way to train for a trek. Cycling's advantages are unequaled by any other means of transport: it takes you out in open air through the countryside, at a pace faster than walking but still slow enough to enjoy.
Cycles come equipped with built-in locks on the back wheel. Only for a mountain bike will you need more than this. At places like Swayarnbunath, children swarm around new arrivals in a sort of blackmail, fighting for the privilege of "watching" the bike. If you decline, you may find your tires mysteriously deflated upon your retum.
Being a country rich in culture and traditional art forms, Nepal has a very wide range of souvenirs to choose from. Most are skillfully made handicrafts with colorful designs; however, practical items such as Nepalese clothes or folk music cassettes and records are also popular among tourists. Some of Nepal's best known and most popular souvenir items are listed here along with a brief description of where to go and what to look for when buying these items.
As mentioned in the section of culture, thangkas are religious paintings usually depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities. There are many different types and qualities of thangka available in the Kathmandu Valley but probably the best value for money can be found in Bhaktapur where many professional ateliers devote their en tire time to producing hand painted masterpieces. Besides Bhaktapur, good thangkas can also be found in the Jhochhe, Thamel and Hanuman Dhoka areas of Kathmandu.
Batik and Oil Paintings:
While on the subject of painting, miniature oil paintings and batik art have become very popular over the last few years. Batik paintings usually depict everyday village scenes such as a girl carrying a baby on her back, porters carrying their loads etc. Most souvenir shops have a number of different sizes and designs, mostly unframed; it is also possible to order one's own design if sufficient advance notice is given.
Oil paintings have a charm of their own and are especially successful in depicting landscapes and mountain sceneries. An interesting variation is found in oil paintings painted on the reverse side of the 'nanglos' - circular hand-woven trays used by Nepalese women to sort rice.
Yet another form of painting is found in greeting cards and consists of oil or water colors painted on leaves of pipal tree. The most common design shows Buddha in meditation; bird and flower designs are also available. Leaf greeting cards are attractively presented and usually contain a brief description of the making process.
After thangkas and paintings, carpets are probably Nepal's second most popular souvenir item. As making a good carpet requires a lot of work and materials, this can be better understood by taking a cursory glance at the making process.
It is woven entirely by hand on huge handlooms. Chemical dyes are also used instead of vegetable dyes. In places such as Jawalakhel and Boudhanath it is possible to see the entire making process.
The smallest size of carpet available is sixteen inches square, a size usually used for chair coverings. The price depends on whether a chemical or vegetable dye is used in the making process. A chemical dye is cheaper but has brighter colors, making the carpet seem slightly less authentic even though the quality remains the same in every other way.
The most popular size of carpet is three feet by six feet, although longer sizes are also available. Carpet designs vary from fire-breathing dragons to Buddhist deities and geometric patterns. Apart from the above mentioned areas, one can also buy carpets in the lndrachowk and Durbar Marg areas of Kathmandu and at Mangal Bazaar in Patan.
Besides carpets, a variety of other traditional and religious items such as wooden, ivory or bronze prayer wheels, magic amulets, prayer boxes and ritual bells, as well as practical items like the coats, belts and buckles are also made usually by hand. Souvenir shops are found in the shopping arcades of most of Kathmandu's larger hotels as well as in Boudhanath, Swayambhu and Jawalakhel.
Dolls and Puppets:
Dolls and puppets are some other souvenir items that accurately reflect Nepalese culture and lifestyles. Beautifully colored and available in many different sizes, Nepalese dolls show traditional costumes of different ethnic groups, often carrying, in miniature, the tools of their trade, for example, a plough or sickle. String puppets usually represent the masked dancers, as one sees in the festivals like Indra Jatra or Gal Jatra. Although available in most souvenir shops, the best place to buy a doll or puppet is in Makhan Tote, the paved road leading from Hanuman Dhoka to Indrachowk.
Rice Paper Prints:
Like carpets and thangkas, rice paper prints are another traditional art form that have survived the passing of centuries and again gained popularity, this time as souvenirs rather than religious manuscripts. Rice paper is made by hand from rice husks and is well suited for printing purpose due to its high absorbative properties. The actual prints, usually of deities or religious monuments, are made by wooden blocks rubbed with a thin layer of black ink. Nowadays colored prints are also made, though these are naturally more expensive. Rice paper prints can be purchased along with the wooden blocks if required, in the Basantpur area of Kathmandu, as well as at many souvenir shops in the Valley's three main cities.
Nepalese clothes, both traditional and modern, are common and easily available souvenirs. Beginning at the head, Nepalese caps or 'topis' are available in the lndrachowk and Asan areas of Kathmandu, as well as in the market areas of most of Nepal's towns and cities. One can either buy a black topi (popularly known as 'Bhadgaonle topi' as it was first made in Bhadgaon) or a colorful printed cap, known here as 'dhaka topi'.
Nepalese woolen jackets are also very popular, especially during the colder months, and can be purchased in most tourist shops at a reasonable price. There is a variety of different colors and designs and although size fittings are not given, most shopkeepers are hapy to let potential buyers try on a number of different jackets until they find a suitable one. As all jackets are made by hand, it is also possible to design one's own jacket at a tailoring shop.
Whereas jackets are suitable for both ladies and gentlemen, pashmina shawls are mainly a ladies' souvenir item. The name pashmina refers to the extremely soft and warm underhair of a variety of mountain goat found in the upper regions of Nepal.
Pashmina shawls come in different colors and designs, the natural color being a dark ash-gray. Scarves and mufflers of the same material are also available. For the warmer months, cotton garments such as the traditional daura (shirt) and suruwal (trousers) worn by the men, are available in most bazaar areas.
Shoes and slippers complete an outfit of the Nepalese clothes; velvet, flannel and cloth designs are commonly found, many of them also colorfully embroidered. Often, the soles are made of thick cord rather than the synthetic materials one usually sees. For ladies, cotton saris and other clothes are both cheap and attractive. Many souvenir shops, particularly in the shopping arcades of larger hotels, sell different varieties of silk shirts and T-shirts with the printed designs such as traditional dragons, temples and mountains.
Bags and Purses:
Although not the traditional Nepalese items, handbags and purses are practical and attractive souvenirs. They are usually made of velvet, wool, cotton or leather and often include intricate embroidery work in their designs. Another variation on this subject is passport pouches made to hang around the neck inside one's shirt or jacket.
Idols and Images:
Miniature replicas of Nepal's many Buddhist and Hindu deities have became one of Nepal's most famous souvenir items. Bronze or brass images are made by a wax modeling process known as the 'cire perdue' method. This process involves first making a clay mould, into which the molten metal is poured. The idol is then sanded and smoothed to remove rough edges. A large variety of metals, as well as wood carved idols are commonly available in most souvenir shops. Stone images are naturally more difficult to make and are thus rarer and more expensive. Although most of the stone and metal images available in the shopping centers, it is forbidden to take out of the country any artifact more than one hundred years old without specific written permission from the Archaeology Department. Artistically designed miniatures of Pashupati temple, Swayambhu stupa and Krishna temple are also available in both wood and metal. Miniature Nepalese houses are somewhat rarer but are of equal artistic value, being made of local materials such as wood, hay and clay.
Khukuris are long curved knives, made famous by Gurkha soldiers. Khukuris are also frequently used by the villagers as an all-purpose weapon. One can buy the khukuris in most Kathmandu souvenir shops or alternatively at open side stalls in Basantpur, near Hanuman Dhoka. Khukur! has different types and varieties. The older one contains inside its sheath, two miniature knives, one serving as a pen knife and the other as a flint for lightening fires. Some khukuris have elaborately carved handles and sheaths while others have plain designs. One can also buy miniature khukurjs and khukuri brooches.
Jewelry, Ornaments and Precious Stones:
Both Nepalese and Tibetan in style and design, many different types of pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings and bangles can be bought in nearly all souvenir shops. These are often adorned with such precious stones as tourmaline, garnet, aquamarine and smoky quartz, all indigenous to Nepal. Among other indigenous stones to Nepal are coral and turquoise, used both in religious ceremonies and in ornaments. The best place to buy good quality jewelry and rings inlaid with precious stones is New Road in the central Kathmandu.
Folk Music Cassettes and Records:
As mentioned briefly in the chapter on entertainment, Ratna Recording Corporation has, since the very beginning of its establishment about twenty years ago, compiled and recorded a large number and variety of instrumental and vocal folk music cassettes and records. Although all the recordings are in mono at present, quality and production are good. Ratna Recording Corporation has its retail shop in Gangapath, between Basantpur and New Road in the central Kathmandu.
Stamps and Coins:
Popular as souvenirs all over the world, Nepalese stamps and coins can be purchased in most souvenir shops, probably the best areas of Kathmandu being New Road and Basantpur. Though Nepalese stamps date back to 1907, many interesting and colorful sets have since been issued, for example, mountain, temple, flower and coronation sets to mention just a few. Besides stamp sets, it is also possible to buy miscellaneous sets containing fifty or one hundred stamps per packet, either used or mint. In addition to Nepalese stamps, Mongolian, Tibetan, Chinese and Bhutanese stamp sets are also common; some of them are quite unique as they are made of silver foil or silk instead of paper.Various coins of historical interest are also available in the souvenir shops. High quality tea products of Nepal are becoming popular among the tourists as a typical souvenir.