During the late 60s, scores of disenfranchised youth headed on a tour of Europe leading to the the Far East in an effort to ‘find themselves’. The Hippy Trail, as it’s colloquially come to be known, came to an end in the late 70s as countries on the route, in particular Iran and Afghanistan, entered periods of intense political tension. Although the days depicted in Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar might be gone, there are still destinations you can explore displaying that old hippy spirit.
If you think the traditional charm of Bali has been displaced by tourism, you’d be mistaken. Flanked by the Indian Ocean on one side and the Java Sea on the other, Bali is a paradisical retreat with plenty of opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation which puts it firmly on the Hippy Trail.
What sticks out the most here are Balians, or healers, who offer treatments to stoke the interest of any hippy. Energy healing is the most common technique used by Balians and can apparently cure a diverse range of ailments from a broken arm to a blocked salivary gland. Some of these mystical healers use a pointy stick, to use the correct technical term, to gain a diagnosis by poking your toes to see where you feel pain (unfortunately, this treatment is unavailable on the NHS). Even if you feel sceptical about the healing powers of these men, a visit is still well worth considering as it is certainly a unique experience watching them go about their work.
Yoga is ubiquitous in Bali. Head to the Yoga Barn in Ubud and you’ll find an oasis of indigenous Balinese architecture that inspires complete relaxation. The teachers all have a deep rooted knowledge of their discipline and will guide you through classes designed to suit all levels of skill. True to the ethos of the hippy movement, the Yoga Barn has an altruistic element which includes fund-raisers and a sense of ecological responsibility that creates little impact on its surroundings.
Bangkok was one of the tradition climaxes of the original Hippy Trail back in the day and still maintains much of the charm that initially attracted travellers. Explore this city and you’ll find yourself in a world of vibrant colours, bustling markets and holy shrines.
The temples of Bangkok have come to define the spirit of the city. During your time in the city it is highly recommended that you visit at least one. The best time to arrive is early in the morning, monks start their day between four and five in the morning so if you’re awake early enough expect to see them walking the streets in their golden yellow robes. If you only see one temple in Bangkok make it Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is one of the largest, oldest and most famous in the city and, as the name suggests, is home to a gargantuan golden statue of a Buddha striking a seductive pose as well as one thousand more images of the Buddha.
The home of where it all began, San Francisco is the place to visit if you want to get an idea of where the hippy movement has its roots.
The neighbourhood most associated with the Hippies is Haight-Ashbury, where many moved to try and establish a community based upon counterculture ideologies. As more started to move to the area Haight-Ashbury became a creative hub for psychedelic musicians including Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead as well as political groups such as The Diggers, who would hand out free food to residents. Nowadays you can tour the area and take in places including Golden Gate Park where the Human Be-In, a music and arts festival that was the precursor to the Summer of Love, took place.
Although the Summer of Love has long since finished, the colourful Victorian houses still remain and you can wander through the streets and quite easily re-imagine the days where the only rule was: “If it feels good, do it!”