Food & Drink :
Despite its isolation and the variety of its
local produce, Nepal has not developed a distinctive style of cooking.
Food consists, more often than not, of Dal Bhat – lentils and rice. An
exception is Newar cuisine, which can be very elaborate and spicy.
Rice is the staple food. Dishes include dal (lentil soup), spiced
vegetables, chapatis and tsampa (eaten by the hill people), which is a
raw grain, ground and mixed with milk, tea or water. Sweets and spicy
snacks include jelabi, laddus and mukdals. Regional dishes include
gurr, a Sherpa dish of raw potatoes, pounded with spices, then grilled
like pancakes on a hot, flat stone. Tibetan cooking includes thukba
(thick soup) and momos (fried or boiled, stuffed dumplings). Meat
includes goat, pork, chicken or buffalo, but beef is forbidden. There
is a wide selection of restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara, although
elsewhere the choice is limited. A 12 per cent government tax is added
The national drink is chiya (tea brewed with milk, sugar and spices;
in the mountains it is salted with yak butter). Another popular
mountain drink is chang (beer made from fermented barley, maize, rye
or millet). Arak (potato alcohol) and raksi (wheat or rice spirit) are
also drunk. Nepalese beer is available, as is good-quality local rum,
vodka and gin. Local whisky is not so palatable, but imported
varieties are widely available.
Kathmandu has a few cinemas featuring mainly Indian films. For Western
films, see the programmes of the European and US cultural centres.
Most people are asleep by 2200. Nightlife is fairly limited; a few
temples and restaurants offer entertainment and some tourist hotels
stage Nepalese folk dances and musical shows. There are casinos with
baccarat, chemin de fer and roulette, open 24 hours a day, every day,
at some five-star hotels in Kathmandu.
Shopping : There
are bargains for those careful to avoid fakes and the badly made
souvenirs sold by unscrupulous traders. Popular buys include locally
made clothes such as lopsided topis (caps), knitted mittens and socks,
Tibetan dresses, woven shawls, Tibetan multicoloured jackets and men’s
diagonally fastened shirts; and pashmina (fine goat’s-wool blankets),
khukri (the national knife), saranghi (a small, four-stringed viola
played with a horse-hair bow), Tibetan tea bowls, papier mâché dance
masks, Buddhist statuettes and filigree ornaments, bamboo flutes and
other folk objects.
Shopping hours : Sun-Fri 1000-2000
(some shops stay open on Saturday and holidays).
Special Events :
Nepalese festivals fall into several categories. Most are performed in
honour of the gods and goddesses, some mark the seasons or
agricultural cycles, and others are simply family celebrations. The
usual form of celebration is to take ritual baths in rivers or lakes,
visit temples to offer worship, and feasting and ritual fasting. The
festivals in Kathmandu Valley are the most rich and spectacular.
sees the end of the year-long Mount Everest Golden
Jubilee Celebrations, with outdoor events such as white water rafting,
climbing, moutain biking etc. For a list of special events and
festivals in Nepal, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the
Embassy (see Contact Addresses section).
Social Conventions :
As a foreign visitor, one must
be careful to respect local customs in order not to cause offence. The
following are some local conventions it is advisable to adhere to:
never step over the feet of a person, always walk round; never offer
food and drink which is ‘polluted’, in other words, food that you have
tasted or bitten; never offer or accept anything with the left hand,
use the right or both hands. It is rude to point at a person or statue
with a finger (or even with a foot). Shoes and footwear should be
removed when entering houses or shrines. Kitchens and eating areas of
houses should also not be entered with footwear, as the hearth of a
home is sacred. Do not stand in front of a person who is eating as
this means your feet will be next to his food; squat or sit by his
side. Local Chorten are built to pacify local demons or dead persons
and should be passed by in a clockwise direction, as should temples;
the earth and universe revolve in this direction. Small flat stones
with inscriptions and supplications next to the Chorten should not be
removed as souvenirs; this is considered sacrilege by the Nepalese.
Avoid touching a Nepalese dressed all in white; his dress signifies a
death in the family. Shaking hands is not a common form of greeting;
the normal greeting is to press the palms together in a prayer-like
gesture. A gift given to a host or hostess will probably be laid aside
unopened; to open a parcel in the presence of a guest is considered
uncivil. Casual wear is suitable except for the most formal meetings
or social occasions. Bikinis, shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not
be appreciated. Men only remove their shirts when bathing. Overt
public displays of affection, especially near religious places, are
inappropriate. Nepalese cities are generally safe, but take sensible
precautions with personal possessions.
Photography : Always ask
permission first. In general, it is allowed outside temples and at
festivals, but not at religious ceremonies or inside temples; however,
there is no hard and fast rule and the only way to be sure of not
giving offence is to ask first and accept the answer.
Only usual in tourist hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers need only
be tipped when they have been particularly helpful. Ten per cent is
sufficient for all three services. Elsewhere tipping should be