Sunday, 11 December 2011

Kathmandu's Best Kept Secret: Pilgrims Book House in the Thamel

What do you do during the evenings in Kathmandu? The sun sets at 5.30pm, and dinner takes you an hour at the most. There is no Kathmandu Symphony or Nepal Philharmonic, and we are not into that Irish public house thing. Street hustlers try to entice you with hashish, with souvenir and craft shops shouting for business in every corner of the Thamel. Our favourite haunt is the Pilgrams Book House, the Indian-Nepali solution to Borders and Kinokuniya. Located on Thamel's main drag, just north of Kathmandu Guest House, it is the bibliophile's dream.

There are over twenty rooms on two storeys filled from floor to ceiling with books, and more books. Books on Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India take up much of the space, as do books on religion (all religions besides the obvious Buddhist and Hindu volumes), but there are lots of classics, fiction, non-fiction, travel and of course, mountaineering. Prices are very reasonable, a fraction of what would normally cost in Singapore. Many of the books are in its Indian edition, so expect paper of lesser quality, but what the heck, a good read is still a good read!

That's what I call a real bookstore! We found a 1980s Let's Travel to Nepal guidebook, written for young people by no less than Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The price? 99 rupees (about $1.60)

When you're hungry, just pop to the back of the bookstore for Pilgrims Feed N' Read, a vegetarian restaurant and bar. The sort of place where you can laze and relax with a book. I think readings and occasion recitals take place here too.

The bohemian interior of the restaurant. You can choose to sit on the floor with cushions at a raised section or at the usual tables.

The restaurant has an impressive colelction of books, and CD recordings, as well as some musical instruments, and art.

A fireplace at the al fresco section is good for winter evenings, or you could sit at one of its quiet corners. We had curries, a vegetarian burger and a vegetarian pizza, a fine way to spend your final evening in exotic and pretty civilised Kathmandu.

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