Despite the end of the hippie era in Kathmandu, some relics still prevail today. Freak Street holds onto the past, be it the colored pipes that have replaced hookahs and shisha or the tie-dye shirts that still hang outside the stores.
The nostalgia around Freak Street rings true to the spirit of Kathmandu. As memories of peace signs, flowers and hashish-filled cafes flood into the mind, one recalls a somewhat interesting perspective on Nepal’s commercial scene. The winds of change flowed into Kathmandu Valley in the late 60s and 70s, bringing the hippie trail to its final destination- Jhochhen. And as tourists swarmed into this alley near Basantapur, smoking marijuana and drinking pale elixirs, the fate of Nepal changed- leaving it a tourist destination ever since.
Thronged with peculiar tourists and sybarites for the occasional high, the lane of Newars was endearingly renamed “Freak Street” after the people who fell upon its path. Freak Street was home to everyone who wished to escape the realities of Western societies and thus became a haven of escape for the hippies.
But then again, that was a long time ago, as it has been decades since the hippies moved out of Jhochhen. Since the illegalisation of marijuana in 1972, recreational cannabis was no longer available to the tourists in Freak Street, and they moved on, seeking refuge elsewhere. The tourism hub shifted to Thamel, where trekkers and adventure fanatics found everything they needed to scale mountains, traverse rivers and forage through the hills of Nepal. Jhochhen was no longer what it used to be. For the past few years, Jhochhen has been shrugged off to be “lost in time”, and tourists seldom visit its streets.
Despite the end of the hippie era in Kathmandu, some relics still prevail today. Freak Street holds onto the past, be it the coloured pipes that have replaced hookahs and shisha or the tie-dye shirts that still hang outside the stores. Travel further down the road, and you’ll see the Snowman Cafe, serving fresh cakes, juice and milkshakes since the 1960s. But contrary to popular belief, Jhochhen is not ‘lost in time’; it has metamorphosed into a popular destination among the local youth. Freak Street is a crowd favourite with popular fan merchandise stores and quaint coffee shops.
Throngs of lines span outside the cafes as people of all ages await their turn to get a hold of the delicacies they behold. Try out Bonum Cha, a place serving Bubble Tea in various flavours, or travel through the junction to Sweet Fix and try fruity popsicles. Try out the flavoured local chips and popcorn or drop in at the Swing Cafe. There’s always something to do, and there’s something for everybody in Jhochhen.