When I travel somewhere, I like to take a piece of art back home with me. It doesn’t have to be an antique, exporting them is forbidden in many countries after all I am simply looking for something of local production, small, nice, and ideally practical as well (my backpack is always too full to take something big back home, such as a painting).
The problem is that you’ll typically won’t find good things in the tourist parts of the city, or perhaps won’t find them at all unless you know local artists or craftsmen in person. The typical souvenir shops in Europe (and those shops that try looking not so typical) are filled with Chinese crap. I don’t want T-shirt labeled with Barcelona that was made in China. Neither want I a pen bearing the name of the city, since it wasn’t produced there. The same is true about the caps, lighters, bags, handbags (what a pity), and most other souvenirs people typically take home from their journeys. Such things are good for one thing only: boosting about your trip. Everyone can see you’ve been to Moscow, if you wear a t-shirt saying “I love Moscow”. Really, it’s tough to find quality artistic souvenirs in Europe, especially if you look for domestic production.
Nepal – Beautiful local handicrafts
When I visited Nepal for a couple of weeks recently, I was very surprised with local souvenir shops. You will still find a couple of cheap Chinese places there as well, but you’ll also find plenty of authentic souvenirs stores, typically run by local merchants, offering only one kind of a souvenir. Whether they are beautiful Kashmir shawls or the ones made from Pashmina (equally soft on touch and even little bit cheaper), singing bowls, local teas, prayer wheels, or beautiful small notebooks made from recycled paper, they’re all authentic and made in Nepal. You can also buy paintings, but they are typically too big to carry them back home. Check a pictures below to see what I brought back home from Kathmandu:
Don’t forget to bargain for the arts
If you find yourself in Kathmandu, and would like to purchase couple of these colorful beauties, one thing may surprise you: you won’t find any price tags in the shops. You have to ask for a price, and what they say depends strongly on your demeanor and presence. If you look like a rich tourist, be sure they try to sell the things for a double or even for triple the price. This should not discourage you, however, and you should bargain. Tell them that you saw the things cheaper in another shop, or something like that. Or if they say thousand rupees, say you have only five hundred. Typically you can go as much down as seventy percent from the original offer. On the other hand, if you have enough money and can afford to pay more, don’t hesitate to take the original offer and support the local families….
Quality has the price
Having said the thing about bargaining, you can’t expect buying a real Kashmir shawl for 100 rupees. If something looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Shop around, bargain, and if possible take a local with you. Try to ask about the origin of things, where they came from and who made them. If they give you a definite answer, e.g. citing a proving in Nepal, or even a group of people who worked on the handicraft, than the items they sell are likely authentic.
Last but not least, you should always buy the souvenirs on site, that means directly in Nepal. If you try ordering them from home, you can easily and up with cheap Chinese crap. And we have just too much of that back here in Italy, and Europe in general….