Several years ago, I was invited by a mutual friend to attend an art exhibition opening. The event, and I forget which artist it was, was staged in a hotel in a small alleyway off Lazimpat Road. My interest was further piqued as I used to live within 50 meters and knew the property. This is how I met Thomas and Annette Tingstrup, the owners of the lovely Tings Tea Lounge, also known as Tings Kathmandu. Over the next few years I became a regular at the many art exhibitions and social gatherings held in Tings. I also frequent it for the fabulous breakfasts with sourdough bread and cheese. Meantime, in 2016 Thomas and Annette moved to Lisbon to open Tings Lisbon but return frequently to Kathmandu. Earlier this year I visited them in Lisbon and finally had time to sit down and hear the story behind Tings. “Having had quite stressful and responsible careers, in 2000 we took a year out and travelled the world,” explains Thomas. “During this time we noticed a lot of out-of-school children and wondered how we as individuals could help.” And so the idea of opening small guest houses was born. The initial idea, I was told, was to open a guest house in five different countries, staffed and run by locals.
First up was Kathmandu. “We wanted to keep the guest house small so that it could be managed locally, to give back to the local community. So hiring local staff was a must. With our partner, Dorje Dolma in place in Kathmandu, we have achieved this,” explains Thomas. During their time in the corporate world, the Tingstrups stayed mainly in 5-star hotels but while travelling had been more at the budget end. What they wanted to achieve was the ambiance and friendliness of backpacker accommodation with more comfortable facilities such as on-suite bathrooms, heating and good food. An ‘oasis’ if you like for both social interaction and comfort. Exactly the type of place they would love to stay in while travelling. Job done!
I noticed when I was in Tings Lisbon that the staff were a mix of Nepali and other European nationalities. And the Lisbon-Nepal connection does not stop at the staff. While the Tingstrups’ love of art is obvious throughout both properties, in Lisbon there are two guest rooms dedicated to Nepali artists. The Kitten Room, with a beautiful, clean line mural by Shradha Shrestha, and the Chirag Room with paintings by Nepali artist Chirag Bangdel. Other Nepali artists, such as Aditya Aryal, are also featured in other rooms, along with artists from around the world.
An interesting twist at both locations is Tings Art and Tings Tings. Tings Tings is a collection put together by Annette which includes cashmere, organic soaps, paper lamps, and jewellery all made in Nepal, and bed linens made in Portugal. The soaps are hand-made, as are the rings. With stones sourced from Myanmar and the settings created in Nepal, each ring is a work of art in its own right. Tings Art speaks for itself… with the aforementioned artists gracing the wall of the guest rooms and public areas and colorful murals in the Lisbon garden.
In their Kathmandu property art exhibitions have never been of the boring kind. Take the wonderful bronze sculptures feature frogs in various day to day (human) activities by Mzn Shrawan. I actually own a pair who are playing chungi. And then there is the fantastic street art of Aditya Aryal. I think I am correct to say Thomas Tingstrup took up the promotion of Aryal’s work around the world to the extent that Aryal has exhibited in New York, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Lisbon, London and Nantes.
Like their guest houses, the Tringstrups take their art very seriously. More information can be found on their website, https://tingsart.com/. As for the guest houses, go visit, eat, sleep, explore—I know you want to