Monday, 27 June 2011

Sari Shopping

After school was finished on Friday, some of the Nepali medical students (Nihaar, Kailash, and Anjit) offered to take Kiley, Hasan and I sari shopping. Nihaar knew the exact place she wanted to take us, so we hopped in a public transportation vehicle and off we went.
Before we get to the good stuff, first a word on public transportation.  Other than taxis, the options seem to be tuk tuks, rickshaws, or buses. We opted for the latter because there were a lot of us. It wouldn’t be feasible to have a bus in the North American sense on the streets of Kathmandu – those massive giants would never be able to weave in and out of the dense array of pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and cars. (Mind you, there are big air conditioned tourist buses that come through from time to time, but they are few and far between.) The buses in Kathmandu are what we would consider large passenger vans, sort of like a 12 person Ford Econoline if you will, but with smaller seats so as to fit more passengers. They shuttle passengers all over the tri-cities (Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur) and perhaps beyond.  It is close quarters to say the least (I counted 20 people in our vehicle!) but they get you from Point A to Point B for a fraction of the cost of a taxi.

When we arrived in the heart of Kathmandu, our eyes immediately caught sight of a giant white tower. This, our Nepali friends informed us, was Dharahara. 9 stories tall, it was originally used as a military lookout tower, but now serves the same purpose for Nepalis and tourists who want a better view of the city, or perhaps want to visit the Shiva temple at the top. We opted not to that day (we were on a mission!) but will make a point of doing it next time we’re in the neighborhood.

Our Nepali friends expertly led us in and out of the streets and alleyways of Kathmandu, dodging traffic and chatting with us the whole time. We arrived at one particular alley, about as narrow as you could imagine. Here we were guided through kiosks of sparkling bangles to some stairs. When we climbed up to the 3rd floor and we knew we were in the right place.
Everywhere you looked was vivid with color! The PAHS students guided us to a row of stools in the periphery of the room and invited us to sit. As we watched in awe, staff members of the sari shop would unfurl the exquisite fabrics and float them in front of us to the white mattresses covering most of the floor. As soon as one would hit the ground, the staff would open up another sari and parachute it in front of us. We were dazzled! All over the place were sunny yellows, deep indigos, ravishing reds, and icy blues, each with its own intricate, sparkly beading. Our senses were overwhelmed.

We began looking through the piles of unfolded saris to find one that would work for each of us. The PAHS students were wonderful – Nihaar told us which colors would looks best on us, and the gentleman of the group, Kailash and Anjit, were incredibly patient and happy to photodocument the whole experience for us.

Kiley and Hasan each tried on variations of blue, while I tried a magenta one as well as a rich aubergine. If you’ve ever worn a sari, you’ll know that getting into one is no easy feat, especially your first time. You stand, shoes off, on the mattresses amidst the multicolored piles. Your friends and the other patrons of the store look on as a staff member makes a skirt of the fabric around your waist, forms pleats of the material to tuck in to your newly fashioned skirt, wraps you all up and loops the excess around your shoulder. Those who know me will laugh when I say this, but I felt like a princess!

In time we had explored the options and ended up going to a lower level of the store to look at suits. If you’re imagining us trying on grey and black power suits, think again! Suits in the Nepali culture are long draping shirts of gorgeous material and are worn by women. They are less formal than saris and meant to be worn either daily or on semi-dressy occasions. I found a gorgeous purple one with black and gold embroidery that fit absolutely perfectly. Kiley decided that a royal blue sari she had tried on upstairs was something she couldn’t leave Nepal without, and Hasan ended up with the most striking turquoise material that she’ll have tailored to her when she visits India in July.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that it is the custom in Nepal to haggle over the price of something you’re about to buy. The PAHS students took over for us and had an animated discussion in Nepali about how much we should pay. Meanwhile, I played with a baby of one of the staff members, who when I said “Namaste!” would put her hands together and beam the cutest smile at me. In the end, the PAHS students were successful in securing us probably the greatest discounts ever!

Afterwords, Anjit had to depart to go visit his family, while Nihaar and Kailash took us around to buy bangles and bindis (aka “tikas” in Nepal). We taxied home, satisfied with our purchases but even more happy to have made such great new friends!


  1. lovely blog renin! we miss you.
    xox M+E

  2. Hi Renee ..!!!! Lucky to discover your post About Nepal regarding the sari shopping , which is awesome . I was in Nepal for tTrekking in Nepal Himalaya , i was in love with one Nepali guy , we decide to marry . I have same experience as you , and it's quite funny for me, he declared our ceremony is going to held in his village in his culture , i was made to were sari , we went to somewhere in local market , i think is the same as where you bought , it looks the same , i was impressed looking those colourful small street , my husband bought me nice sari , i loved that colour . makes me were always but i had one problem always occurred , the problem was i need someone to fix it , all the time , it was just very hard for me to fit to me . hahahahaha ..!!!! but i love my sari , once i have very funny day , generally my sister in law (sister from my husband) she used to fix my sari , one day my husband fix my sari because she was not available , it was so funny he was not good , i was just looking at him , when i start to walk the sari get fall ..!!!! hahahaha