The entire purpose of a visit to Koh Phangan on the east coast of Thailand is to party. There are jungle parties, waterfall parties, half-moon parties, and black moon parties, but the big shebang is the full moon party. Everyone knows this. I suppose that’s why every month at the full moon, Haad Rin Beach (the location of the full moon party) is jam-packed with somewhere between 30,000-50,000 people covered in body-paint, sipping buckets, and dancing until sunrise. Jamie and I had heard from many people while traveling through Southeast Asia that the half-moon party is actually a lot more fun than the full moon party, despite the latter’s hype. We’d also heard that trying to find cheap accommodation on Koh Phangan around the full moon is near impossible (true), and that most hostels and guesthouses require you to book in for at least 5 nights (also true). Taking all of this in to consideration, we had originally decided to stay on Koh Tao and take a ferry over to Koh Phangan for the half-moon party, returning to Koh Tao by ferry the morning after. However, on our boat ride down to Koh Samui, on which we passed both Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, we quickly realised just how far apart the islands actually are. Returning to Koh Tao in the morning while hungover and sleep-deprived, trying not to puke from sea-sickness on a 2 hour ferry ride, didn’t exactly appeal to us. Although we mulled skipping Koh Phangan altogether, we quickly gave ourselves a kick-in-the-ass and started planning our full moon party extravaganza.
From that moment on, I put the full moon party on a pedestal that was impossible to reach. However, I’d be surprised if I was the only person to have done so. It’s one of the most famous parties on the planet, for reasons both good and bad. Nonetheless, we couldn’t stop thinking about the buckets, the body-paint, the beach, and the sheer number of people. We were in Koh Phangan for 3 nights prior to the full moon party and although we had a great time playing beer pong with people from our hostel and even got a chance to meet up with a good friend of mine from high school, we refused to go to any of the other parties that were taking place on the island so as to avoid burn-out for the full moon party. That was, after all, the ultimate reason why we had come to Koh Phangan in the first place. Although, we did manage to trek out to Wipeout Koh Phangan for a day, and it was easily one of the highlights from our visit to this island. Your body will be aching pretty heavily afterwards, but if you have the chance you’d be crazy not to check it out.
***Note: Check out our Instagram Feed for a video of Jamie being launched 20′ in to the air on “The Blob” at Wipeout Koh Phangan
On the day leading up to the full moon party, we decided to take it easy. In fact, we had strategically planned a nap around 6pm so that we could wake up around 9pm and party until sunrise. That was the plan. What actually happened was that as soon as I laid my head down, my stomach began to lurch and a couple hours in to our “nap” I was in full food-poisoning mode. For the next 5 hours the bathroom was my home, while I could hear the party beginning to start up around me. Beer pong was in full force, the Europeans were chanting as if they were attending the Champions League Final, people were scrambling to book their taxis to Haad Rin Beach and consume as much alcohol as humanly possible before heading out… and here I was, struggling to stand up without crapping myself and simultaneously puking all over the front of my “Full Moon Party” tank-top. This is a good lesson in the school of “live life to the fullest.” If we had made it out to the jungle party, waterfall party, or both, I wouldn’t have felt half as pathetic as I was feeling on the night of the full moon party. We had been conserving our energy and our money all for one night, on which I got food poisoning. After all of our caution and careful planning, I had come down with a condition that was completely out of my control on the worst night that it could possibly happen. Now, if there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s not being in control. I am 100% a complete and total control freak. For this reason, I popped a crap-load of medication including anti nausea pills, anti diarrhea pills, anti vomiting pills, tylenol, a little vile of Chinese herbal medicine, and anything else I could get my hands on that might keep the food poisoning at bay. Around midnight, I could finally stand up. Feeling a bit dizzy from the medication and immensely weak from being violently ill for 5 hours straight, I booked my taxi to Haad Rin and lathered myself in body-paint. F**k the food poisoning, I was back in control.
Over the course of the night I did not consume a single drop of alcohol, for fear of upsetting my stomach which seemed to be behaving itself for the most part, although still causing some serious pain from time to time. As a result, I experienced the full moon party in a way that I would never have imagined. I can confidently say that I am likely one of the only people on the planet who has ever been to the full moon party on Koh Phangan completely sober, recovering from food poisoning, having made it to sunrise.
As proud as I am that I managed to last through the night, a bit of alcohol may have added to the experience in that it may have blinded me to some of the shit that was going down. In the first bar that we visited on Haad Rin, a drunken guy who was slurring his words was stealing the show until he sat himself on a table, slouched over, and went to sleep. After a couple of his friends tried to wake him up, a friendly partier who claimed to be a nurse jumped in and proclaimed the guy as non-responsive. The situation was quite serious, and his friends were baffled as they stated that he hadn’t really had all that much to drink. The nurse said that he’d seen this happen a couple of times within the night and that in most situations, the people in question were drugged. All of this went on as the crew that I was with (including Jamie) were enjoying the view of the beach from the top of the bar. The only reason that I happened to notice was because I was sitting down near the guy who fell asleep, taking a bit of a breather as I wasn’t yet in good enough shape to stand for lengthy periods of time. Otherwise, I would have been oblivious to the situation. So too was any form of authority, if it even existed, as the only person caring for this guy was the partier/nurse I mentioned previously.
Next, we decided to take a bit of a walk down the beach and explore the party. We soon came upon a makeshift waterslide which party-goers were hurtling down at a constant pace. In order to go down the slide, people were climbing up the side of a building by means of a rope latter, many of whom were so drunk that they got stuck half-way, nearly falling off altogether. The slide was propelling people along at a pretty decent speed with the only thing to cushion their landing being a weary looking crash pad, no bigger than 4′ wide x 6 ‘ long. As a result, many of the people who came down the slide missed the crash-pad altogether and landed on their side, back, or awkwardly twisted their ankles when trying to land feet first. One guy even landed on his neck and was, in my sober opinion, lucky not to be seriously injured.
I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about the full moon party, and I’d be lying if I said that they didn’t have me a bit nervous leading up to it. People being killed amidst gunfire between opposing Thai gangs, drownings, women being raped and their boyfriends beaten due as a result of drugging, massive riots breaking out… to put it quite plainly, bad stuff. We saw a lot of stupidity going on, but nothing that had me fearing for my safety. The people that decide it’s a good idea to do the flaming jump-rope are mind bogglingly dumb, as almost every single person that does it gets burned (the number of bandages and burn-laden tourists we saw the next day was ridiculous), but that’s self inflicted. As for the stories about alcohol vendors filling bottles with cheap chemicals brewed in bathtubs that happen to resemble Whiskey, simply so as to take advantage of tourists who are more than willing to open their wallets and consume a few more drinks, I’d believe it. It goes along with just about everything else that you see in Thailand, all provided simply because tourists will pay for it. For anyone who’s heard the stories about the fake booze, purchasing anything in a bucket from the beachside vendors is ludicrous. However, these are certainly a bit more deceptive than a flaming jumprope and many who haven’t heard the rumours may wind up like the guy we saw at the first bar of the night. My advice to anyone visiting the full moon party would be to buy bottles of beer that are sealed. Problem solved.
In all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of the full moon party and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it. I will presume that many people who are reading this will think, “he was sober, so his opinion’s biased.” I got through it unharmed because I was sober. I’d wonder what the guy who got drugged thought about the whole thing the next morning. Or perhaps a few of the people that we saw walking around our hostel on crutches (one of whom was forced to head for Koh Samui to get his foot X-rayed, as he was convinced that his ankle was broken). I’d be curious to know how popular the full moon party is amongst the locals who comb the beach and clear the absolutely massive pile of garbage, all from tourists who throw their empty buckets, straws, and glass’s in the ocean. At the worst it’s a sloppy, dangerous party that claims an average of 24 lives per year. At the best, it’s a lot of people on the beach, drunk or high on various substances, dancing until sunrise while listening to Avicii’s Wake Me Up, or We Will Rock You by Queen (I swear, the same 10 songs were on repeat all night). It’s anything but unique, even with flaming jump ropes, makeshift waterslides, and flaming limbo sticks. You get that everywhere else in Thailand, every day of the year… it loses its lustre after the hundredth time you’ve seen it. Sunrise isn’t an achievement, it’s an illumination of how much garbage you’ve been trotting on all night, and the simple fact that you are on the beach is contributing to the problem. A lot of people do a lot of drugs at the full moon party, but that much is to be expected. I’ve been to numerous clubs in Montreal where that was prevalent and had a perfectly good time despite the weirdo’s who masturbate on top of a speaker while sketching out on E. You get your typical idiots everywhere, but you focus on your night and you have a good time.
I’m not a guy that doesn’t like to party… one of the best experiences I’ve ever had while traveling was when Jamie and I partied on Zrce Beach in Croatia. I enjoyed that party from the moment we stepped on to the beach, and at that point I was bone sober. Some of my favourite memories from University included going to Picnik Electronik in Montreal, a massive outdoor techno party that occurred every Sunday. I like to party, I like to meet new people, and I don’t mind being in the middle of a huge crowd. That being said, taking everything in to consideration, the full moon party just didn’t do it for me. I will go farther and make a prediction that many might think is crazy: if the Thai government doesn’t step in and enforce a bit more control over what happens on Haad Rin Beach come the full moon, these parties aren’t going to be around to see the end of the decade.Her Take