I recently wrote about a traditional hat that I bought in Nepal during our trip to South Asia.
In the post I mentioned how we got much better at minimizing the amount of souvenirs we buy on trips now.
Nepal is the one country in recent years where we actually wanted to buy a few things. As we wandered around the streets of Thamel and by various sites, I noticed many shops selling beautifully painted masks.
I’ve been collecting traditional masks during my travels since I first purchased one in New Zealand back in 2006.
My collection probably has around 15 masks. I try to limit the masks I buy to ones that are traditional and actually used in the country.
While looking at masks in Nepal, I asked if they’re actually used by the people. I was told that they are used during a holiday once per year by various shopkeepers. (I wish that I could recall the name of the holiday!)
While visiting Bhaktapur Durbar Square, I was interested in one particular mask. This led to a shopkeeper bringing me to her much fancier shop about a minutes walk away.
As she tried to push me to purchase a pricey mask I wasn’t interested in, I really got turned off and was about to give up on the idea of making any purchase.
However, at our next stop, the Hindu temple Changu Narayan, I noticed a few shops where mask makers were hard at work carving chunks of wood into masks.
After a quick lap around the temple, I decided to stop for a look at one of the shops.I watched the man hard at work for a minute or so before he looked up to chat with me.I was really impressed by his work and the info he shared. This made the experience really special and I wanted to support him by making a purchase.As I made my decision and negotiated a fair price, I was introduced to his wife and granddaughter.
It turns out that the mask shop is a family business! He carves and sands the masks, his wife is responsible for painting them. (No, these masks are not made in China!) In the end, I went with a bright blue mask featuring Nepalese Lord Mahakala.
I don’t remember the exact price but it was in the $8-$10 range. Talk about a real bargain for what is probably one of the nicest masks in my collection!