Where to get Saree-style #applique in #Kathmandu

Here is an unusual gift idea. Especially if you like to sew.

A friend in USA asked me to buy a saree that had those sewn-on decorative brocades. You know the ones I mean. She said she was thinking of displaying it in her home as a form of wall art, but maybe cannibalizing it by cutting out the medallions and using them as accents on some other clothes she wore.

Ooooo Nooooooo!

I told her don’t cut such a beautiful thing into pieces. I have got just the thing!

Indra Chowk of course!

Go to Indra Chowk, and to the right of the temple, is a small street with a dozen or so shops that sell these. I learned a new textile term today – “applique” – for this sort of ornament.


to the right of the Indra Mandir. About a dozen specialty shops catering to the fashion trade.


Here is a photo collage of the sort of piece they sell:

Tourist tip: When you get to Kathmandu, take time to explore this area general known as “Ason Tole”, it’s just as amazing as the monuments and heritage sites.



Why are we surprised when Buddhists are violent?

April 18th update: The stats tell me of a sudden surge of readers from – (drum roll please)  – Canada. Yes, Canada.

Would somebody from there please let me in as to why such a burst of interest from there? send email to joeniemczura@gmail.com

On March 5th 2018 the New York Times published a piece exploring the issue of violence in Myanmar, where the Buddhist majority has committed genocide against the Muslim minority, the Rohingya.

Most adherents of the world’s religions claim that their traditions place a premium on virtues like love, compassion and forgiveness, and that the state toward which they aim is one of universal peace. History has shown us, however, that religious traditions are human affairs, and that no matter how noble they may be in their aspirations, they display a full range of both human virtues and human failings.

While few sophisticated observers are shocked, then, by the occurrence of religious violence, there is one notable exception in this regard; there remains a persistent and widespread belief that Buddhist societies really are peaceful and harmonious. This presumption is evident in the reactions of astonishment many people have to events like those taking place in Myanmar. How, many wonder, could a Buddhist society — especially Buddhist monks! — have anything to do with something so monstrously violent as the ethnic cleansing now being perpetrated on Myanmar’s long-beleaguered Rohingya minority? Aren’t Buddhists supposed to be compassionate and pacifist?

The link is: https://nyti.ms/2FUOFvF

Thich Nhat Han

It was under the bodhi tree in India twenty-five centuries ago that Buddha achieved the insight that three states of mind were the source of all our unhappiness: wrong knowing, obsessive desire, and anger. All are difficult, but in one instant of anger—one of the most powerful emotions—lives can be ruined, and health and spiritual development can be destroyed. With exquisite simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh gives tools and advice for transforming relationships, focusing energy, and rejuvenating those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger. His extraordinary wisdom can transform your life and the lives of the people you love, and in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, can give each reader the power to “change everything.” ( from the book blurb to “Anger” by Thich Nhat Han

One wonders whether the people in Myanmar have read Thich Nhat Han’s book. I tend to think they did not.  I have, it’s a good read, and it does address the community response to anger expressed by individuals.

The Sacrament of the Goddess

This issue is central to my second book, The Sacrament of the Goddess.  I wrote the book to explore the issue of anger and injustice in Buddhist culture. Buddhist philosophy devotes attention to calming the anger within each person, but it is not enough for a Buddhist to reject anger and violence and stop at the personal level.


My book is my humble offering to those wishing to look at this issue as it affects communal violence. You can order it on Amazon.

What Every Nepali needs to know about Blood banks and blood transfusion in Nepal April 28, 2074


Executive Summary:

1)know your blood type.

2) get on Twitter if the only reason is to follow @YouthForBlood

3) esp if you are AB ( + or -)

4) join their Nationwide FaceBook page or one of the local FaceBook pages. https://www.facebook.com/groups/youthforblood/

5) watch this inspiring Nepali-language video and share it with everyone you can think of:


I am on Twitter.  There was a tweet.

I read the Tweet because I follow  @ShiwaniNeupane  and she always has interesting perspective.  I have not read her novel, Crossing Shadows, but the reviews were excellent.

Another of her followers, a videshi from UK,  Tweeted:

Something really needs to be done about Nepal’s blood banks. Seeing increasing numbers of social media shout-outs for emergency donations.

I’m not sharing the name of the videshi. It’s not about that person. They imply that something is wrong when the opposite is true. They don’t know any better. But I realized that something amazing is actually happening in Nepal which, to my mind, shows the kind of love and community that is possible in Nepal.

The best of Nepal.

First Nepali-language video:


Here is an English-language video from The Netherlands that describes what happens when you donate. How the blood is processed, etc

Here is the amazing part

There now is a network in Nepal named Youth for Blood and they use social media to publicize the need for blood and it seems to be nationwide.  Click here for their website. http://youthforblood.org/

In Nepali-bhasa:

This only has 693 views as of today. I think we all need to publicize this organization and the work they do. Please share it as widely as you possibly can.

Oh and by the way here is some science

We need more donors but that is not the only problem. My first inclination when I read this was to focus on the AB blood type of the pregnant lady in the original tweet. We need to get donors with specific  blood types. Specifically, AB+ and AB-

If you google it you will find that scientific medical studies have been conducted. this is something Blood Banks do. Here is the summary of one study conducted by doctors at TU IOM:

This study was undertaken to find out the trend of blood group distribution (ABO and Rh) among the 1310 Nepalese attended in Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital and Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital Kathmandu. The frequency of distribution of A, B, AB and O was 28.5%, 27.3%, 8.7% and 35.5% respectively. Only 0.8% of them were found to be Rh (-) ve. In this population of study, O (+) ve blood group was found to be predominant among the Brahmins, Magars and Gurungs. A (+) ve blood group was predominant among the Chhetris, and B (+) ve among the Sherpas and the Lamas. (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17357642 )

Get your blood tested.

Here is a chart showing distribution of blood types in various countries:


How to read the graph above?

Very simple. If you are walking down the street in Kathmandu, one out of every three people you pass will have type A, and another one of three will have type O. Only one out of twenty will have type AB. To find a donor for that person you may have to test nineteen more people before you find the one person who matches. That’s why most of the public appeals are for type AB.

The above graph did not include China. I have read reports that in China, 95% of people are type O. To find a matching donor is relatively simple in China.

If you have AB+ or AB- blood, get registered with Youth For Blood Nepal.


The Sacrament of the Goddess

The Sacrament of the Goddess is the title of my novel that takes place in a hospital in Nepal. You can find out where to get a copy if you browse this very blog you are reading. Part of the plot involves blood transfusion – the way that blood is transfused (or not) in Nepal.  Like many nurses and doctors, not just in Nepal but from USA, I have seen the lifesaving effect of blood transfusion but also personally watched people die for lack of blood.  I hate the helpless feeling when  no blood is available. Frankly, I found myself getting teary-eyed to learn about Youth For Blood and their mission.

Fifteen out-of-the-ordinary gifts from Nepal Dec 21st 2016

are you the kind of traveler who hates the idea of a t-shirt that says “My parents visited Nepal and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?” or perhaps “Hard Rock Café Kathmandu”?

Got a singing bowl? how about a Thangka? a little golden figurine of Buddha? these are two items that seem to show up when everyone unpacks after their trip.


Here is a short break taking you to a Himalayan Trek in Solu Khumbu, which by the way, I have never visited myself.

“Tokens of Love”

I happen to have those items and more, not because I bought them, but because people have gifted them to me. At the end of each class session we invariably have a ceremony in which I am given a “token of love.” Now, at this point I own about a dozen small Buddhas.


The hospitality of Nepali people is legendary, and they are respectful of teachers due to Buddhist influence. So I get these “tokens of Love – after awhile they add up. I love this particular one – the class at GBCHH was memorable and fun.

I am  difficult to please in the Nepali scale of gift-giving. Actually, I’ve always been difficult to buy for – I don’t like clothes for example unless I pick them out myself. Frankly, I am the kind of person who enjoys books as a gift.

In the travel industry, people have made studies of the type of handicraft or souvenir that goes with different archetypes of travelers. For example, there is a specific sub-type of tourist who does in fact enjoy getting a Harley-Davidson logo item that might include the name of an “exotic” dealership – (“Harley-Davidson Waikiki” for example. Or a t-shirt from Super Bowl XVIII.  The Nepal equivalent would be a football shirt that says “Fly Emirates” I guess.

There is always a specific group of travelers who buy specific handicrafts. The handicrafts on display do not arrive there by accident.

First, India

When you take the Grand Tour of Rajasthan, the tourist people have it arranged so that when you hire a guide, the guide steers you to a specific shop that is making whichever handicraft is associated with that city or region. For example, in Aggra you are brought to a place where they do stone inlay work such as that found on the actual Taj Mahal.


you’ll see this inlaid work on items in Thamel, but it’s from India. It is truly beautiful.

In Jaisalmer you get a class on those bedspreads made of eclectic quilted materials.


In South Asia, the basic idea is, every handicraft is associated with a particular region or ethnic group. Here is an example of the kind of quilt they make in rural Rajasthan…..

In Jodhpur you get those moghul miniature paintings of the Kama Sutra. You get a class on the technique then an offer to buy items on a discount. When you get the backstory you end up learning how to appreciate the item you bought and you can practice what you will say when you show it to your friends back in USA.

Umm, those people with the Harley-Davidson logo? They are probably not visiting Nepal. Nepal has a high percentage of adventure tourists and vagabonds.

the top ten physical things people bring home?

  1. singing bowl
  2. thangka
  3. anything made with Pashmina.
  4. Buddha statues
  5. embroidered t-shirts (“Langtang trek”)
  6. diarrhea ( I suppose…)
  7. maybe a saree.
  8. a khukuri knife as made famous by the Gurkhas.
  9. little wooden picture frames carved in Newari style.
  10. prayer flags
  11. malla beads

as you see, these are ones I think of off the top of my head. I am not disputing the quality of pashmina or the singing bowls, I’m just saying these are what “everyone” gets.

Anyway, I tend to look for the less commercialized gift, or at least the one where the accompanying story needs to be as good as the item. Oh, and it needs to be inexpensive!

My turn to be “snooty”

I’m not better than others just because I like different stuff.


I try very hard to de-clutter my life in USA, but I do like to have unusual items. I usually return home with

  1. those green beaded necklaces, called “potey” that you can find in the Indra Chowk bead bazaar. to find the bead bajaar, use these directions: http://wp.me/p3b3md-5b
  2. more puja posters to add to my collection. these are devotional items you can get for about 25 cents apiece, and they are often striking pieces of visual art


    This is sample of a poster used for a home altar in Hinduism. Very colorful and intriguing. ah one illustrates some aspect of the Gods.

  3. various “paranda” – the hair tassels worn by many women, braided in as an extension ( see separate blog entry for this) http://wp.me/p1pDBL-Gz
  4. I have sometimes ordered “cholo” – those double-breasted blouses made of palpali dakka cloth worn by many of the locals. for that matter – anything made of Dakka! If you don’t know what Dakka is, is a sort of plaid. Usually hand-made on looms in Palpa district of west-central Nepal. Many patterns.


    bolts of Dhaka cloth on display in a shop in Tansen, Nepal. To understand decorative arts in South Asia you must learn about textiles! a trip to Tansen is not complete without seeing the Dhaka factory there.

  5. haku patasi – the black-and-red saree worn by Newari women. These are made of Nepali-grown cotton. ( see separate blog entry http://wp.me/p3b3md-iW )
  6. there are a few shops that specialize in Hindu or Buddhist puja supplies esp those used by young girls at the time of  “Bel Wedding” or for kids having their rice-feeding ceremony.


    This shop is located on the road from Ason Tole to Ratna park in Old Kathmandu. It specializes in Hindu religious items. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten path gift that will have a story to go with it, this is the place.

  7. In these places, each  item is a sort of cheap imitation version of adult jewelry. There is a beautiful traditional hair clip known as a “chandrama” and at some of the puja shops  you can get a fake one ( i.e., not solid gold) for 300 rupees. (in the picture at the top, the lady is wearing a chandrama in her hair). img_20160811_124436_hdr
  8. I bought a momo maker for a friend – about 800 rupees. I am partial to those teapots made of aluminum, and I plan to get one for myself next time. It brings back happy memories.


    used to make momo. widely available.

  9. those saffron and orange cotton shawls used by the shiva devotees.
  10. I have bought several thangkas while there, but for these I choose the subject carefully to make sure the story is aligned with something in my life. for example, I have one depicting vajarayogini, because she is the patron deity of the heroine for my novel. I have one showing the Wheel of Life. And the biggest one, four foot by six foot, once hung in the lobby of a hotel and shows the mandala made up of all the significant religious locations of Nepal.
  11. I got some costume jewelry in the “Kandan” style for some friends. This is actually not Nepali but was popularized by Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai in a movie and it’s a big hit. You can get these at Indra Chowk on the street that goes toward Basantapur.


    okay, so it’s based on a Rajasthani design, not Nepali. But -it’s fun.

  12. at Boudha they play “Om Mane Padme Hum” on a continuous loop, pounding it into your brain. The CD is available for 500 rupees. https://youtu.be/gx1SrxDwxXo
  13. I was given a “madhubani” style painting while in Janakpur. This is a particular style associated with the Maithili ethnic group. It’s distinctive and wonderful. said to have inspired Picasso!


    Madhubani painting on silk. This one depicts a wedding

  14. I own a conch shell, they kind used by sadhus or in front of funeral processions.
  15. in Terai there is a particular kind of shawl the men wear, hand-embroidered cotton.


    you wouldn’t even notice this unless you already knew what it was. For many Hindu etivals, the kids act out the legend of one God or another. This crown would be worn by somebody impersonating Krshna. It cost $3 US.

  16. diarrhea (not limited to the unsophisticated traveler; discriminating travelers also acquire it, and just like with a tangible object, the story to accompany is often entertaining).

    closeup of one of the manikins outside the Lagankhel shop. The “real” jewelry would be solid gold and $$$. this is an inexpensive alternative….

    As you can see, I gravitate to the offbeat. because I am given many “tokens of love” at the end of any given teaching session, I try to make sure people are told not to give me any item that contains glass or that can’t be crushed when it is shipped back to USA. That’s why textile items are so handy – they don’t break when you drop them!

    Most of the above items can be found in “Old Kathmandu” – the neighborhood of Ason Tole or Indra Chowk south of Thamel but north of Kathmandu Durbar Square.

    and of course a copy of the Nepal edition of my novel. Here is the back cover:


    The back cover of the USA edition was a short synopsis. By the time we printed the Nepal edition, there were some reviews to quote and they were more colorful. In a bookstore, people make decisions to buy based on the first page and back cover, or so they say.

    I will edit this in future, hopefully to add pictures and also locations of some of these things ( I already posted blog entries about the Bead bajaar and where to get Haku Patasi).

    If you got this far, please feel free to add suggestions as to what exotic items you would bring back…… there are so many!

Buy “The Sacrament of the Goddess” as a Christmas present for the #globalhealth aficionado in your life.


The back cover of the USA edition was a short synopsis. By the time we printed the Nepal edition, there were some reviews to quote and they were more colorful. In a bookstore, people make decisions to buy based on the first page and back cover, or so they say.

If there is a person in your life interested in #global health, this is the perfect Christmas present for them.

An aficionado?

Is a person who has aficion for something. Hemingway used the term in The Sun Also Rises to describe that feeling when a fan of bullfighting finds another fan whose passion runs deep.

Yes, it’s a novel. But the stories are based on true-life medical situations encountered in a rural hospital of Nepal, the Himalayan country.

There was a civil war in Nepal for eleven years and it is part of this book. Nepal is considered to be a spiritual country, and many visitors view it only through that lens. It is an unfortunate truth of global health that you get to see behind the curtain to experience life in a new way.

It’s set in the foothills, not the actual Himalaya. Very few people live in the actual Himalaya.

I tried to capture some more sophisticated cultural issues of the average Nepali person. There are no western rock jocks in this book.

You are at the wordpress blog that goes with the book. Take a look at the page titled, “Glossary of terms to Accompany the book, annotated” for just a hint of the mystery that awaits.

In USA you can find it on Amazon. https://goo.gl/PGTW30


Why America’s insatiable appetite for stories about Everest may actually discourage Nepal tourism Nov 29th 2016

In The Kathmandu Post of November 29th, a  tourism consultant gave his ideas for resetting Nepal tourism. here is the link: http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2016-11-29/a-new-trajectory.html

Note: My novel of Nepal makes a fine Christmas present especially for a nurse or doctor thinking of global health or medical missionary work. Buy it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Sacrament-Goddess-Joe-Niemczura/dp/1632100029

The consultant seemed to advocate restricting flights so as to get rid of low-cost airlines; and clearly stated that “hippies” are not wanted.  These were astounding assertions.

You can’t tell how much money a tourist has to spend, by looking at their clothes. Frankly, any tourist who comes to Nepal wearing a business suit (an outward indicator of the type of wealthy tourist he wants to attract) will get right back on the plane the moment they realize there is no toilet paper and few western-style toilets. (see below).

Huffington Post

This very same day, a Nepali guy wrote on Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/2017-nepal-as-traveling-destination-and-culture-shocks_us_581d782be4b044f827a78d49?ncid=engmodushpmg00000006.

If this is your first time in Asia this might be interesting for you. Nepal does have some western style toilets but in most of the homes you will find only a regular Nepali style toilet. You can practice using this toilet by doing yoga positions and maintaining your balance to drop your stuff into the hole. Nepali people are experts in it but I have heard out of 10, one foreigner says they would rather hold it for a year than use the squat toilet. The next thing you’ll notice is that there is no toilet paper. Most of the people use their hand and water to wash their stuff after poo. It is taught from childhood to wash their hands with soap after use of a toilet but you never know for sure if you can get soap in every toilet.

The Kathmandu Post article appeared in Nepal; the Huffington Post article appeared in an online publication read by hundreds of thousands of people in USA. The guy who wrote for Huffington Post was giving them an unsweetened view of Nepal travel – read it your self and ask if it entices you to visit Nepal….

For me? My opinion?

I wrote my opinion in summer 2015 after the quakes, and I think it still holds true. http://wp.me/p1pDBL-AQ. Marketing decisions by the tourism industry need to focus on the five main target groups as I reviewed them in my 2015 piece.

The plain truth:

Nepal is an amazing, mystical and fantastical place, and holds a special place in the mythology of humankind.

You can quote me on the above. Much of my CCNEPal blog ( http://www.joeniemczura.wordpress.com) is used to share information with a highly specialized group of possible visitors to Nepal – nurses and doctors thinking of sharing their skills with their Nepali colleagues. I travel to places no western Tourist ever visits – and I am treated like royalty. So can you be!

Tourism to Nepal took a huge hit when the twin earthquakes struck in April 25th and May 6th 2015.

Okay, so Nepal always promoted themselves as a place to go for adventure tourism. Nepal is 800 miles from the nearest ocean – nobody would take the kids for a sun and sand vacation as if it were Cancun or Cape Cod or Maui. You don’t see any Nepalis winning swimming medals at the Olympics, do you? there is a good reason….

Nepal has tried various strategies to re-introduce them selves to tourists, mostly along the lines of “it’s safe to come back now” but not really making an impression.

the above is more or less “It doesn’t suck as badly as you may think.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

My friend Donatella Lorch, the enigmatic journalist, https://tangledjourneys.com/ wrote a piece in Goats And Soda titled “I am in Nepal now”  http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/09/10/439195188/i-am-in-nepal-now-says-new-tourist-campaign-only-nepal-is-in-chaos  that examines this issue.


Nepal deserves this designation, it really does. My trips there have changed my life.

Here is a seven minute video montage:

Read this piece titled 8 Reasons to visit Nepal. https://www.travel3sixty.com/8-reasons-to-make-nepal-your-next-adventure/

About the movie Everest

probably the biggest  recent event to promote Nepal in the public consciousness of USA was the movie “Everest.” Here is the trailer;

Here is the problem with all the above. The promo pieces are either too shallow or too deep and they don’t really appeal to the audience of travelers who might actually visit the country.

A shameless plug for my own book to be made into a movie

Nepal is a terrific place for trekking and hiking. The problem with the movie Everest is, when that’s what people see, they think all trekking and hiking in Nepal is death-defying, and while the story is suspenseful, the person in the audience is saying to themselves “those guys are truly crazy and they are risking death for no good reason.”

America’s Insatiable appetite for stories about Everest may actually be scaring people away from Nepal tourism

The key is, the movie Everest represents a mythological extreme. Trekking in Nepal is not death-defying, and it’s not a man-against-high-altitude-elements experience. It’s really really fun,  and part of the fun is to learn about the wonderful hospitality and culture of the people of Nepal along the trekking routes.  You can go on hikes in areas with green forest cover and distant snow-covered vistas, without needing to be in world-class mountaineering conditioning, or risking death.

What the Nepal Tourism Board needs

Nepal needs somebody in USA to make a Hollywood movie that will show the scenery but also the nature of it’s people.  Or maybe a TV show. Having a TV series set in Nepal would echo a very successful strategy employed by the state of Hawaii in USA. In Hawaii, they try to always have a TV show set in the islands – Hawaii Five-O; Magnum P.I., etc.  Why can’t Nepal find a way to do the same?

That’s where my book, The Sacrament of the Goddess,  https://www.amazon.com/Sacrament-Goddess-Joe-Niemczura/dp/1632100029 comes in. the Nepal Tourism Board needs to find somebody who will make it into a movie. This book is set in the western hills, along an area later designated as “the Guerilla Trek” after the civil war was over. The Maoist combatants travelled over beautiful scenery in their quest to overthrow the Royal Government. Nowadays is peaceful and beautiful with a rich cultural history.



Written in 2014 to explore the aspects of Nepali culture that go beyond the temples and trinkets. The day-to-day life in Nepal is not easy. You can get this book at Vajra Books on Jyatha in Thamel, or Tibet Books. Or Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Sacrament-Goddess-Joe-Niemczura/dp/1632100029/

Some of the readers of my book have told me that the fast pace reminded them of a screen play and they found themselves picturing who they would cast in each role when it became a movie.

The Sacrament of the Goddess could be Nepal’s version of “Slumdog Millionaire” – after all, the novel includes a love story, an exotic location and a compelling plot. with a suspenseful ending.

The Sacrament of the Goddess could also be a medical show on TV. Not too long ago there was a series named “Off the Map” which purported to show a health  outpost in a low income country. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1587694/ That one didn’t last long. Jenna Bans, the creator and producer, should have consulted me. I could have provided better technical advice than she received.

ER the TV series

In my opinion, the best-ever sequence showing USA doctors using their skills in global health was the sub-plot of ER a few years back.


the best medical TV show of all time. ER ran for years. One season there was a global health subplot in which some docs served in Africa with a group like Medecins San Frontieres. No amount of marketing money will compete with the exposure TV show gives to a place in the world or an issue.

Somebody posted a tribute and link is here: https://youtu.be/83ozEDEA1QU Having said the above, I do need to tell you that most global health experiences as nowhere near as intense as the ER clip depicts. All the same, I think that subplot of ER iout nspired a generation of nurses and doctors to get involved in global health.

and of course, ER included this short scene that was and is incredibly powerful for anybody who has ever really and truly prayed: https://youtu.be/wXhUEyzCuR8

So – if anybody from the Nepal Tourist Board reads this, or if there is any movie producer sympathetic to Nepal looking for a screenplay that would entice Americans to fire up their curiosity about this exotic (and yet peaceful) place – let me know. The movie rights are for sale!