A shopping day in Kathmandu and a moment of peace
07.04.2012 - 07.04.2012 26 °C
After the rigours of the mountains an easier day in Kathmandu was a welcome change. Some last minute gift shopping was in order in the tourist district of Thamel a short walk from where we were staying. Saturday is a holy/rest day in Nepal so the streets were slightly quieter than we had seen before when we left the hotel on foot. Approaching Thamel we started to get various souvenir sellers approaching us good naturedly offering beads, chess sets and a variety of Buddha statues all of which we politely declined.
We had been advised that a slight detour to the ‘Garden of Dreams’ was worthwhile so we dutifully paid our 120 rupees and went inside. The Garden was created in 1920 by Field Marshall Kaiser Shumsher Rana and is meant to represent the six seasons of Nepal with six pavilions, one representing each of the seasons. The gardens fell into disrepair for decades but recent work has brought half of the original area back more in keeping with its original design. The first thing you notice is the peace and quiet, one minute you are walking along a busy main road, the next you are walking in a cool quiet oasis. Fountains, ponds and quiet shaded areas are carefully laid out so you feel you have space and quiet even though there are a lot of people about. We stayed about an hour enjoying a coffee at the café, soaking up the warm sun and preparing ourselves for the shopping onslaught to come.
Thamel is a series of narrow streets where most of the shops are aimed at tourists. Tee shirts, woollen hats, caps, carved wood, jewellery and trekking gear (some of it genuine) are the order of the day. There are also some good cafes and restaurants although you have to be careful and it is worth getting a recommendation from a local guide or guidebook. Lunch was at the Himalayan Java Café for a Panini and coffee, which was a luxurious contrast from our mountain lodge diet.
Shopping is cheap and bartering is part of the fun, I think I’ve got all the gifts I need though I do worry about sizing when it’s a bit too far to take back and change. Laid down with bags we decided to get a bicycle rickshaw back to the hotel, which was great fun even though there were moments of blind panic. The rickshaw rider truly do earn their money not just in the effort they have to put in but also the risks to life and limb darting through the maddening traffic.