If you come to Kathmandu, you will no doubt visit Thamel. It’s a warren of alleys lined with hotels, restaurants, bars and shops of all kinds. It’s the main commercial destination for tourists and trekkers.
Thamel streets are narrow, dusty and usually partly under construction meaning mud and potholes. Foreigners and locals intermingle on the crowded streets competing with motorcycles, taxis, small trucks and pedicabs that carry goods or people. There are no designated lanes or sidewalks. People walk down the street wherever they please, motorcycles weave through the crowds, sometimes honk their horns to let you know they’re behind you. Cars and trucks inch down the roads on the right or the left depending on the flow of pedestrians.
The shops are open to the streets; their doors, like garage doors, roll all the way up. They offer jewelry, pashmina (and fake pashmina), electronics, clothing, brand-name trekking gear (knock-offs), purses (usually knock-offs), leather goods, souvenirs, “antiques,” hand-made paper, books, maps, felt items and so much more.
Shopkeepers stand in front of their shops scanning the crowd for possible customers, chatting with their neighbours. Others sit on the stoop waiting for customers to come to them. Still others sprinkle water on the street with a practiced flick of the wrist to keep the dust down. In some shops, the clerk works on the wares they sell, usually jewelry. It’s lively and entertaining.
When I went to Thamel to buy some hot weather clothes that I should have brought from home, I met Frederica in one of the shops. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler and we both enjoyed our meeting. She is Swedish and came to Nepal to trek the Annapurna circuit. She told me her partner has been to Nepal many times and loves the country. She chose to come by herself to discover it and form her own opinion. I asked her if she would be back. Definitely, she answered. Good news for her partner.