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Thamel is the main commercial district of Kathmandu and a popular shopper’s haven as well as the heart of Nepal’s tourist industry. It’s a place where tourists get everything they need. Our hotel was located right in the center of Thamel, which gave us plenty of opportunities for walking around to check out the shops and all the different venues. For mountaineers, the area boasts a wide range of mountaineering gear shops. So if you don’t fancy weighing your backpack down with extra stuff, you can buy it all when you arrive. While for the tourist, you can find shoes, bags, Gurkha knives, jewelry especially silver, scarves, clothes, handmade crafts for home decorations, books, electronics, paintings, metal works, ceramics, pottery, rice paper and original Pashmina shawls made from mountain goat’s fur which makes it softer than the regular ones, but of course, there’s a full Pashmina price tag to it. Thamel is touristy so the prices are higher than in other areas. If you’re obviously foreign it’s not uncommon to be charged up to three times the original price of an item, so be confident and ask for a lower price. Bargaining in Thamel is very much expected. One key tip is to let the seller tell you their price before you start to haggle them down.
Pashmina for sale
My favorite photo of Thamel – a kid selling clothes
If you are a big time foodie, just like me, and wouldn’t mind experimenting with the taste of local cuisines, Thamel is the place to do just that. The streets of Thamel is lined with cafes, pubs, and restaurants renowned for its delicious dishes and cozy ambiance. They serve almost every cuisine, Continental, Indian, Nepalese, Chinese and much more. And yes, they taste great. You’ll never be short of ideas about where to eat here! And I can assure you, I am more than ready for a great gastronomic adventure 🙂
With utmost curiosity, we dig in with the local cuisine. The food was delicious. It was flavored with spices and accompanied by tasty homemade relishes and served with a variety of bread. In many ways, it is a diet that we could all learn something from. (Related article: Exquisite Taste of Nepal: 9 MUST try Nepalese Food)
Aside from some really tasty food, eating in Thamel means sitting in nice places, whether it’s a rooftop or in a good cafe. Like the Roadhouse Cafe which was the first restaurant we ate in Thamel. It has a relaxed atmosphere and a quiet courtyard in the back that gives a relaxing escape from the chaos of Kathmandu.
My all-time favorite Nepalese dish – Momo
It seems to me that walking around Thamel is an adventure in itself. Why? Because all the alleys are interlinked and one can never guess what is coming out at the next turn. It’s like one vast intricate maze. Every corner reveals new surprises. Little temples and stupas are well hidden in the back streets – all are parts of the neighborhood! You can easily get lost if you are not careful. In fact, I got lost several times in search of the hotel where I am staying…. well I thought I knew I was on the right track! Seriously, all the streets look pretty much the same – for me, anyways 🙂 (Related article: Wandering Around the Monkey Temple: Kathmandu Nepal)
Streets of Thamel
That’s why I always tried to keep a close pace with my local friend while trying to register everything around me. But sometimes it was just too much. In one instance, gazing at a massive web of electric wires and telephone lines entangled together and dangling dangerously over my head, I backed off for a better view of it, and that’s when I was almost run over by a speeding taxi. My friend had to yank me away from the danger zone. It takes a while to get used to sharing the narrow streets with all the cars and motorbikes. It can be done, you just have to keep your eyes firmly on the road and not on the Nepalese examples of bad safety-code practices. No locals seem to be troubled by that anyway, so why should a tourist?
Spider web of wires
Eventually, I slowly became accustomed to the sounds, smells, and crowds, which enabled me to soak in and appreciate the uniqueness of the Thamel Streets even more. It’s fun and it’s a great venue to meet people. I enjoyed talking to vendors who often mistaken me for a local. They talked to me in Nepalese language, asking me to convince my friend to buy one of their products. I don’t speak their language but at least, that is how I understood it! Ha ha… Can be a good way to get a big discount eh? But as soon as I started to talk ….. its all gone, I am done!
Traffic in Thamel
We came upon a Gurkha Knife shop on our quest to find a good resto bar for dinner. The shop keeper was so enthusiastic, proud to be Gurkha. The Gurkha people have been known for their fighting abilities for centuries and the Gurkha knives are high quality and beautiful. I am a bit hesitant to touch any of the knives on display because I am afraid I may cut myself! These are real knives and sharp too. It’s better to be safe than sorry 😉 hehe! As I walked around the shop I’ve noticed a very impressive knife with an inscription and learned that the sign says, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.” Impressive! But we didn’t buy anything to avoid any inconvenience in the airport.
After a day of touring, there are many ways to relax and entertain yourself in the evening. The moment Thamel’s nightlife starts; you can expect your ears and tongue to get some treat. Yes, nighttime in Thamel is all kinds of fun. Whether you’re looking for a stylish evening of champagne and conversation, or a fun night of upbeat music and exciting dances, Thamel has it all. Isn’t it wonderful? But you have to be mindful of the narcotic dealers who tend to congregate here and they will discretely try to sell some to you. Remember that it’s illegal to purchase drugs in Nepal and police are often undercover here.
Thamel at night
One thing that I don’t like about the place, in general, is the air pollution. It’s overwhelming, with some part of the street completely filled with dust and smoke which makes breathing a bit difficult. If you are too sensitive to air pollution, a cloth mask worn over your mouth and nose is the best solution. They can be cheaply bought in most clothing shops and many locals use them here, and so was I.
Overall, the chaos of this place creates a different experience and vibe of the city. The street life is both unexpectedly, colorful and interesting. And the Nepalese people are typically very friendly, smiling, peaceful and hospitable, who will do everything to make you feel welcome in their beautiful country!
So If you are planning on a trip to Kathmandu make sure to drop by Thamel.
For questions or suggestions please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I would gladly be of help.
Happy travels everyone!