Originally Name Jhhochen tole, Freak Street is a place in the southern part of Kathmandu Durbar Square which holds unique historical importance due to the hippies' congregation in the 1960s and 70s.
I sit beside the dark
Beneath the mire
Cold gray dusty day
The morning lake
Drinks up the sky
Katmandu, I'll soon be seeing you
And your strange, bewildering time
Will hold me down
- "Katmandu" by Cat Stevens
Freak Street, the original name being Jhhochen tole, is a place in the southern part of Kathmandu Durbar Square. It was named "Freak Street" at a time in the 1960s by the locals as strange, freakish looking hippies gathered there. The street is less than a kilometer long that is just about a 5 to 10 mins walk with Newari houses lined up. Most people do not regard the significance of the place and consider the alley boring. On the contrary, some people believe that the street still holds the aura of olden times. For the people unfamiliar with the history of Freak Street and why it was, and to some extent, is a congregation hub, here are some things to know.
HISTORY OF THE FREAK STREET
Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the "hippie trail" – An overland journey between Europe and South Asia was at its peak, Kathmandu was also a stop. The streets would be alive with flower children from all over the world. It was a time where marijuana and hashish were legal, and even the shops would be governmental. The fragrance would fill the streets
from the chai and pie shops selling a perfect cup of Nepali tea and delicious cakes all day. The place would just in budget accommodate the hippies that came along in search of hashish and nirvana that made sure that the Freak Street would be their home for the next few months.
The Eden Hashish Centre was one of the famous cafés in Kathmandu. Moreover, there is also the Snowman Café, where the hippies would gather. Amidst the multinational cast of hippies, there were the Beatles and Cat Stevens, who also made a stop in Freak Street. Cat Stevens, a well-known singer for the song "It's a Wild, Wild World." loved the place and the culture so much that he even scribbled down "Katmandu" (without the h) in tribute. Through the song, hippies knew that Kathmandu was the place for action though it was attracting many visitors already. Even so, the song conceded that Kathmandu was the most welcoming place for the hippies among all others. Another fascinating item was the calendar that the Eden Hashish Centre published every year. It was a great souvenir that the hippies would take back from their paradise.
The banning of hashish caused Freak Street to collapse in the 1970s. Though selling these things has been banned now, the hippies directly or indirectly established Nepal as a hot spot that still has much importance until today. Moreover, Freak Street also holds its historical significance to much of an extent even to this day.
WHAT FREAK STREET OFFERS NOW
The old hippie hot spot is still a place to look back in time and a worth taking a stroll there. The Eden Hashish Center still prevails that has newly been renovated, as the Eden Hotel. The Snowman Café is the most enticing place still alive in that place as it still holds the historical essence. The olden days' 'chai and pie' shop still serves delicious cakes to the visitors. It is of great significance as the place has passed down to generations, and the owner is the same. It still attracts the locals and the foreigners that will never go out of fashion. It feels like going back in time as you enter the place.
The street has a Tibetan Mask Centre that sells the best wood carved masks in all over Nepal. There is also a second-hand book shop that holds its uniqueness. There is a store that still sells colored pipes. Though Hookas and Shisha pipes are illegal in Nepal, colored-pipes are not. The carpet/embroidery shop along the street which prefers to showcase their products hanging outside the shop, without their shop name. As for cultural importance, there are a couple of Buddhist Chaitya and one Bhairab shrine. A Giant Lakhey street art on the wall that covers up to five storeys, Newari girl street art is also a spectacular piece to take a glimpse. The place also offers Juju Dhau (the King of Yoghurt or King Curd), which might be an alternative to the Bhaktapur juju dhau if you're in Kathmandu.