Thamel, which has been in the limelight since the time of hippies in the 60s, continues to woo visitors. Every corner has different people from different parts of the world, carrying different stories of their own.
— Pradip Karki
Thamel is one of the most popular destinations in Nepal and a tourist hotspot in Kathmandu Valley. As expected from many tourist areas, Thamel is full of stores selling clothes, jewelry, mandalas, trinkets, food stalls, tattoo shops, etc. Numerous gullies winding across Thamel and old Newari-style buildings give Thamel a unique Nepali touch and feel. It has also remained a popular tourist hangout since the hippie era when many tourists visit this place because of legally available marijuana and other drugs.
Nepal was one of the most popular stopovers on the famous hippie trail. The entry of hippies in the 60s brought Nepal to the limelight and opened up different business opportunities in Thamel. The best example of hippie influence can be seen in the clothes around here. Hippie clothing was often loose and made of natural fibers like cotton and hemp, very colorful, with floral and tie-dye patterns.
We can see most of the stores in Thamel full of clothes that match the hippie description. Also, hippies adored various jewelry, and we can see stalls with colorful jewelry like earrings, necklaces, rings, anklets, etc. We can see Tibetan influence in this jewelry. The place is, therefore, particular with the hippie and Nepali cultures intermixing for an authentic experience.
Thamel has also been considered a backpacker’s paradise with many budget hotels. Thamel has many stores selling mountaineering and trekking gear. Very often, it is also the first stop for many mountaineers. Accommodation is readily available here. The place has numerous stores, cafes, pubs, music stores, mandala shops, and gift shops to cater to the needs of tourists. Tourists also visit this place to get inked. Thamel is full of gullies and small streets. Each corner has fascinating stores, food, sound art, music, and an incredible sensory treat.
Many shops are selling both fake and authentic branded gear. You can find The North Face opposite Fire and Ice Café. Along with Fire and Ice, other beautiful cafes like the New Orleans Café, Northfield Café, and Black Olives, and bars like Funky Buddha, Tom and Jerry, Neon Pub, and J-Bar. There are also numerous bookstores like Paradise Book Store, Summit BookStore, Pilgrims Book House, etc. The stores here have various famous and rare books, travel books, travel guidebooks, travel journals, etc. Most of the stores also have provisions for trading books. Nightlife is also happening in Thamel, with many cafes providing live music.
Thamel has seen a rise and a fall in the number of tourists. But it has always remained the top destination for tourists. Marijuana is not legal anymore. So the authorities are trying to keep illegal activities under check. But still, we can see some trading going on. Thamel seems to entice everyone who visits this place, and they consider it beautiful, enchanting chaos. Most tourists here wear the local hippie clothes signifying the ease with which Thamel influences the visitors. The intermixing of humans, traffic, sellers, and rickshaws are always there, and most visitors need to take some time to immerse in it to enjoy this ever-bustling place thoroughly.
Although there are numerous stalls and shops, the price can be very high as it targets tourists. So, bargaining can be the best option. Despite that, some tourists in Thamel shared that they do not mind paying a little extra as they can see that these sellers are not wealthy, to begin with, and need what they can earn to sustain themselves.
Every turn usually has a music shop with music playing, which adds to the fantastic Thamel experience. In addition to the modern and meditation music from these stores, we can also see the street musicians of Thamel, the Gandharvas, playing the Sarangi and providing a cultural feel to the atmosphere. Thamel, therefore, has also become a place where researchers and music students come to complete their studies. They usually learn from skilled traditional folk musicians in Thamel who are adept in folk instruments like Sarangi, Madal, flute, etc.
Thamel, which has been in the limelight since hippies in the 60s, continues wooing visitors. Every corner has different people from different parts of the world, carrying different stories. Thamel is also one of the oldest trading places in Kathmandu, which the old Newari-style houses can see. Thamel provides a very enticing, compelling, and colorful experience. The nearness of Durbar Square, New Road, King’s Way, and the monkey temple make the place convenient. The area has been attracting various tourists who come here for adventurous, educational, or spiritual purposes and seem to enthrall all.
But like any other place, Thamel might not be suitable for anyone who cannot stand the crowd and chaos, vendors trying to sell, and a bit of traffic along the narrow streets.
Along with all these attractions, Thamel also sees illegal traders still trying to sell hashish, cocaine, and even more potent drugs. They usually come up to the tourists and whisper it out, but most are smart enough to ignore them. It is still straightforward to get hashish in Thamel, as it once was a fantastic hippie hangout place, but the security is very high, and sometimes tourists get caught with drugs. So like Dave from The Longest Way Home says in his excellent travel journal — Like all countries, Nepal has its good and bad sides. Enjoy Nepal for everything else!