Turning werewolf – Surviving the Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan, Thailand
If you are a person who enjoys the thumping music, drinking party lifestyle, you may have heard of the (in)famous Full Moon Parties that are held in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
A small island located north of its more famous sister, Koh Samui; Koh Phangan is known for the Full Moon Parties that are held at the end of every month (well actually, every two weeks, but I’ll get to that). On this night, the party-goers of Koh Phangan and nearby Koh Samui descend onto the beaches of Haadrin in the southern part of the island for a massive beachfront party that lasts into the wee hours of the morning. Naturally, since my boyfriend and I were on the island, we decided we should at least stop by to check it out (for anthropological reasons of course). Some things to note:
1: Dress accordingly
You will be on the beach, and a beach with soft sand. But! It will be at night. So imagine a hybrid of something between beach wear and party wear, and most importantly something you don’t mind getting drinks spilled on/ getting wet because you’re drunkenly running into the sea/ getting dirty because you ‘accidentally’ fell onto the sand or burnt because you were playing jump rope. It will be a little humid, and breezy and cooling. Though that being said, that (again) in-famous jump rope that’s lit on fire for people to jump, so it could also be a little hot sometimes.
- Get something easy and cheap that you don’t mind throwing away after the night is done
- I would also wear a bikini underneath in case you need to use the ‘bathroom’
- Flip flops for sure, but something that stays attached to your feet since you tend to lose them in the sinking sand
- For ladies who are carrying a bag, a small cross body bag is ideal. Be aware that there are also pickpockets in the area, so watch out for your belongings
2: What are you supposed to do anyway?
Your tuk tuk will drop you off on the main road, and you’re going to have to navigate through some small streets to get to the beach. Along the way there will be stalls selling snacks, glow in the dark paints and temporary tattoos as well as cheap beach ware.
The most famous sight you will see would be rows and rows of small pails or buckets. These would usually have a small bottle of alcohol and mixer in it. You can personalize your drinks by choosing which bucket, alcohol and mixer you want. After which everything gets thrown into the pail with a nice straw for you to drink out of. I did say the entire bottle. You can imagine why people start going drunken crazy at these things.
All along the beach would be rows and rows of stalls, bars, and clubs. The upside of this place being that even with ~20,000 people thronging the area throughout the whole night, it is spacious enough that you don’t feel crowded in.
Recommendations: Walk, drink, snack, drink, and party on!
3: Things to watch out for
- Entry fee: There is now an entry fee of THB 100 (USD 3.00) to enter the beach/ party area. It’s a small fee and I think it makes sense that they collect this. I assume it helps to pay for the security, and the cleaning (which is severely needed)
- ‘Games’ at the party: One of the most notorious game at this party is the burning jump rope. Where (you guessed it) a jump rope is set on fire and you and a bunch of your new found friends start jumping it. In your inebriated state you will think this is a fantastic idea. In your next day hangover you will find yourself looking at huge burn patches on your legs and arms and question “what the hell happened last night”
- Bathrooms can be found everywhere: and by everywhere I mean almost everyone goes into the sea to piss. I even had the fortunate sighting of a man who walked halfway into the sea turned around to face the beach, and squatted. Perhaps you can imagine what he was doing. I, on the other hand, refused to set foot into the sea after watching everyone use it as their public latrine. Of course, sometimes people don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into
- (Caught in action. The men’s salute to the sea)
- Drowning?: With all that drinking done, you may not realize that you were halfway into the sea running around between the boats and stripping of your clothes (we certainly watched this happen in amusement). You may accidentally fall into the sea and not realize which way is up. There are a few police/ guards in the sea that look out for these cases and try to make sure you don’t drown there. If you’re travelling with friends, please watch out for each other.
- Drugs: Drug control is strict in Thailand and even stricter at known party places like this. There will be undercover Thai policemen at these parties watching to make sure you are not taking drugs. Just don’t do it.
(urm… I told you, no drugs!)
- Other parties: Due to the popularity of the Full Moon parties, and the gap between their party schedules, it is no wonder other enterprising minds have tried to step in to fill in the gap. Travelling around Koh Phangan, you will always be greeted by signs for ‘Full Moon Parties’, ‘Half-Moon Parties’ (which happens two weeks after the full moon parties) ‘Jungle Parties’, ‘Waterfall parties’. I personally have never been to the others, but hey, why not if you were traveling all the way there for the parties anyway.
For everyone else who may have been put off by Koh Phangan due to its ‘party’ nature, do not fret. I am here to tell you that the party scene is very much localized to the South of the island. The rest of Koh Phangan is breathtakingly beautiful, surprisingly quiet, and filled with the locals living their local lives. The (other) beaches are incredible with white sandy beach, turquoise water and amazing sun. For those who choose to go for the party, you should stick around as well, and enjoy this other beautiful side of the island.