During our Uttarakhand roadtrip last summers, we didn’t go to any of the regular tourist towns. And hence no Nainitaal, Almora, Ranikhet etc. However, this meant, we wouldn’t get to go to the regular shopping areas too. The offbeat road we took, starting from Jeolikote and going on to Abbott Mount,Jhaltola, Munsiyari, Chakori, Binsar and finally, Gagar, didn’t offer any shopping ‘paradises’. This was a big blow to our otherwise regular practice of bringing back handicrafts, clothing or even little trinkets from here and there. Nonetheless, we asked around everywhere we went and brought back some of the best things that Uttarakhand has to offer:
Honey from Jeolikote: Jeolikote has a horticulture department and it was awfully close to Jeolikote Cottage where we stayed. The owner, Ms Bhuvan Kumari, had strongly advised us to get a couple of bottles from there as the honey was pure and cheap at Rs 300 a kg. We simply had to walk down the hillock where we were and the horticulture department would be right in front of us. We did just that. But while we saw the bee hives and boxes, and also found the office to be open, the guy in charge of the honey had been on leave. The officials directed us to the shop across the road. We did find the same honey albeit at double the rates – Rs 300 for half a kg.
Clothes from Avani: Devika and Kavita, at the Misty Mountains (Read Review of Misty Mountains in Jhaltola) in Jhaltola, had, upon our enquiry, told us that Avani was the best place to buy stoles, sweater, Komouni jackets from. The best part was thatAvani fell on our way to Munsiyari, our destination from Jhaltola. Just a half an hour drive from the Misty Mountains, Avani is is run by the Kumouni women. A somewhat big building that has scores of women weavers weaving rugs, stoles, and sarees, Avani also sources most of its products directly from the villages and sells them directly to the customers from its outlet, thereby doing away with the middlemen cost. I bought wool jackets from there, but found the prices to be somewhat high. Later in Binsar, Sindhu did tell us that the products from Avani are available much cheaper at the villages….but then, until you are with a local, you wouldn’t know where exactly to go. Nevertheless,Avani has a good stock of woolen sarees, stoles, jackets for both men and women, and if you are lucky, you will get on for your little one too. We did. They also have a number of crochet kids dresses.
Trinkets from Munsiyari: Well, Munsiyari (Read: Sight-seeing in Munsiyari) doesn’t have must of a tourists’ shop. The one local market that is there caters to the residents and deas with their everyday use products. But by now, I had taken fancy to the Kumouni silver necklace and earrings. And went to a local jeweler to lay my hand on whatever I got. They normally work on orders placed with specific designs, and have very few over-the-counter options. Nonetheless, both a couple of pieces. You need to negotiate well.
Shop at Panchachuli: These are a chain of handcrafts shops scattered all over Uttarakhand. Run, once again, primarily by women, these shops too offer good products such as honey, oil and other natural produce, soaps, pickles, shawls, stoles, sarees and woolens. Prices are on the higher side, although not as bad as Avani.