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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Katmandu Now

Hashish & hard drugs in Kathmandu

From: The Longest Way Home ~ January 7th, 2013. Published in: Travel Blog – Nepal.

Take a walk in Thamel after dark and you’ll soon be approached by several people loudly whispering the words “You want smoke …”
Anyone who has visited the tourist zone of Thamel in Kathmandu after dark can attest to the lone scruffy men who will brush eerily close by your face and loudly whisper the words

“Smoke? … Hashish … Smoke, you want?”

It’s been that way for decades. Once a free haven for the legal smoking of marijuana, cannabis, opium and other recreational narcotics Nepal’s drug scene is the stuff of hippie hangout legend.
Today things have changed. Drugs are illegal. But the sellers, buyers and traffickers are still here in abundance. Unfortunately so too are hardcore drugs like heroin, cocaine and amphetamines.
For better or worse it’s still very easy to get drugs in Nepal.

For the tourist buying drugs in Nepal is a dangerous path to follow in more ways than one.
Smoking Hashish during Shivaratri in Nepal is legal … but only for one day!
Why are drugs easy to get in Kathmandu Nepal?
Nepal is not a major drug producer per se. Yes, in some “remote” villages you might find the odd crop of green leafed medicinal plants growing. And certainly during the Shivaratri festival hashish smoking is legal for the day. Shiva is after all a deity who enjoys the odd smoke now and then.

The real reason that drugs are easily found in Nepal is two fold. Firstly due to the country’s geographical proximity to the Golden Crescent—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Add in frequent flights to Thailand and India along with a large porous land border with north India to making things even attractive.
Then there was that hic-up in the 1970’s with the USA telling Nepal to ban drugs which kicked off a hugely lucrative trade in heroin that some say toppled the monarchy.
That was all before the good old days …

Eden Hashish Centre poster
Eden Hashish Centre where once hashish was legally sold

The small street to the south of Kathmandu Durbar square called Freak Street was once a lot more lively than it is today. Once upon a time there were direct buses to Freak Street from the airport and borders filled with hippies looking for their legal smokes!
Yes, government-run hashish shops in the 1960’s were one of the main tourist draws to Nepal. Today Freak Street is a renovated “un-attraction” to hippies and tourists alike.

Only the former hippies of yesteryear revisiting Nepal walk Freak Street now. Occasionally bumping into and avoiding a few of today’s “designer” hippies trying to look as if they are of the same stock.
When US President Richard Nixon made an agreement with the new Nepalese King in 1973 to ban cannabis there was a round-up of traditional hippies on Freak Street.
They were physically deported to India. The hippie tourism of the 60’s was quickly replaced with the more respected business of trekking and cultural tourism.

Then came the royal heroin smuggling. The harder drugs had arrived into Nepal.

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