It’s one of the favorite neighborhoods of foreign backpackers in Nepal, who check in to budget hotels here before leaving for trekking tours or Mount Everest base camps. At first sight, Thamel might look like a tourist hotspot or a red light district, as it boasts numerous hotels, bars, cafés, bookshops, and temples as well as massage parlors and dance bars. Nepali author Rabi Thapa doesn’t dispute that image, but his new book, Thamel, Dark Star of Kathmandu, helps readers rediscover this place as something much more than its public image, including in the minds of Nepali citizens.
A writer and editor based in Kathmandu and London, Thapa speaks to The Diplomat in this video. Giving a tour of the neighborhood, he explains that while Thamel is “what you want it to be,” it is, more importantly, representative of what Nepal is.