The Heart-breaking silence of buzzing Thamel: Once upon a time, the streets of Thamel were so crowded that people walking around would dash each other, bump onto one another. But due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), these streets now are haunted. The fear of this COVID-19 pandemic has scared everyone and made them cold. Everyone is at home to stay away from the infection. "Stay home, Stay safe" has been the common goal of the whole world. Nobody would have ever imagined that the hotspot of Tourists in Kathmandu city will be so silent one day for an unexpected time period. It is really awful to see Thamel losing its buzz and vibe. Thamel once was the heart-throbbing center for everyone, either local or international tourists. But this pandemic has turned these buzzing streets into mute.
COVID-19 pandemic has brought down the tourism business to zero levels. When one sees the ghostly streets of Thamel, the only wish is the end of this terrifying situation of COVID-19. The shopkeepers, stakeholders, businesspersons, tourism entrepreneurs who have solely invested in the tourism industry are bearing a huge loss as Thamel is completely in shut down mode. The hotels, restaurants, shops, stalls, etc. are closed day after day as the infection rate of COVID-19 is increasing in the Kathmandu valley and in the entire nation. Many have got unemployed and are now in a state of such a financial crisis that some of the shopkeepers and owners of restaurants, hotels, etc. have sold their business only for maintaining their daily expenses. Due to this, the daily wages workers as cycle-rickshaw drivers, tourist guides, taxi drivers, etc. are suffering until the worst. The situation of Thamel is really very pathetic. With the hope of rising back to the same level or better than the past, Thamel is still standing by.
The day when the whole world will be free of COVID-19 and its effect, everyone will find a way to relax their mind which was tired due to home isolation and quarantine. Hence, here is a short description of Thamel that might allure you to plan a visit to Nepal.
Stay at Thamel
There are a lot of hotels that range from bed and breakfast to a Five-star level. Every hotel provides free Wi-Fi. Thamel is the first place in Nepal which was declared a "Wi-Fi Zone". Even though Thamel is very noisy at all the times, many prefer to stay in Thamel as they can wander around the streets anytime and the surrounding is very cozy. A lot of shopping can be done nearby. Also, it takes about 20 minutes only to reach Tribhuwan International Airport.
Food at Thamel
Several restaurants ranking Three-star to five-star are available in every corner of Thamel. Traditional to continental food items are prepared in almost every restaurant of Thamel at affordable prices. Street foods are also sold in food stalls.
Shopping at Thamel
Formerly named "Tabitha Bahal", Thamel is popular as a tourist hub. For ages, this maze of alleys was home to stalls where different kinds of artistic items, potteries, etc. were sold. Gradually, those stalls transformed into shops in buildings. In the present context, Thamel has become a small commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu valley. Every alley is full of shops where one buys any kind of trekking/climbing/hiking equipment and gear, handicrafts, hand-woven shawls or dresses, and varieties of souvenirs. There are many restaurants and hotels where every kind of cuisine, drinks are available. There are travel and tour agencies lined up in the streets of Thamel providing all kinds of information and services to the tourists.
Is it safe to walk around Thamel at night?
Thamel is one of the best places in Kathmandu valley to enjoy the nightlife. There are cafes, pubs, live music, and nightclubs where a jolly night can be spent. There is now a movie center too, recently built. As of now, a wide range of entertainment centers is available in Thamel. These not only have served tourists for their enjoyment but also have provided employment to many needy ones.
Highlights of Thamel
Thamel is a historic place in Kathmandu valley. It is not only famous for entertainment and shopping but also well-known for temples, stupas, and architectural buildings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is a palace where royal families from the Malla and Shah Dynasty used to reside. It is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is around 20 minutes walking distance from Thamel.
The next highlight is the Garden Of Dreams. It was built in 1920 and named "Swopna Bagaicha" which literally means garden of dreams in Nepali. This garden is about 5 minutes walking distance from Thamel and is located inside the Keshar Mahal. The environment of the Garden of Dreams is quiet and one can spend hours in peace. There are now resting chairs and benches. The entrance fee is Rs. 100 per person.
Another attraction is Swayambhunath – the biggest holy shrine for Hindus as well as Buddhists. At walking distance of about 30 minutes from Thamel, this stupa is situated at a hilltop. Swayambhunath stupa is also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1953. Also called the "Monkey Temple", there are chortens, temples, statues, ponds in this area. A fantastic view of Kathmandu valley can be enjoyed from here.
Narayanhiti palace or darbar – now as Narayanhiti Museum is at about 10 minutes walking distance from Thamel. This was the residency palace of the King of Nepal. After the dethroning of the King, this palace now has been converted into a museum and is opened to everyone. Located at the Durbar Marg, this palace is still heavily guarded by armies and police. An entry pass should be obtained to enter the palace. Worthy enough to explore while in Kathmandu valley.
Thamel now is very peaceful but as soon as the pandemic goes away, it will once again rise as one of the busiest and most happening places in Kathmandu. So, plan and get ready to visit Thamel soon.
Author: Step on Himalaya
Date: 14th August, 2020