Thailand’s Full Moon Party on the island of Koh Phangan is one thing I’d been hearing about ever since I landed in Asia.
And by “thing,” I mean “massive, thudding tornado of debauchery wrapped in a neon shirt, soaked in cheap whiskey and lit on fire.”
From what I understand, in the 80s, a guesthouse on Haad Rin beach started having a party on the night of every full moon. It started as a relatively small affair, but through word of mouth it swelled into Southeast Asia’s biggest and most notorious party (think 20,000-30,000 people each time).
People either love or hate it. Fans say it’s a blast – a time to let loose and have fun and paint oneself and dance until dawn. Those who hate it say it’s a frat party gone wrong, a huge crowd of drunken idiots who go too far and ruin the local environment (both town and beach).
No matter what opinion a traveler might have about the Full Moon Party, everybody has a story about it. I had heard a lot from people I’d met over the past few months, and to be honest, their tales of Full Moon madness gone wrong made me a little nervous. Most of the stories began with one too many drinks (or mushroom shakes, or god knows what else) ended with “and then I woke up on the beach with no stuff and no idea what happened!” or “and then I gashed my foot open/got a horrible burn/broke my camera!”
As a person who a) likes a good party and b) whose existence is governed by morbid curiosity, I HAD to see it. I grabbed my camera (despite everyone telling me not to bring anything I’d care about losing), firmly resolved to keep my head on straight, and covered myself in fluorescent body paint. I wish this were socially acceptable on more occasions!
Thus decorated, we were ready to GO!
The famous Full Moon sign
It felt like every Spring Break I never had in college.
Crowds, crowds, crowds
The beach is lined with bars, and, in front of that, bucket stalls with colorful (and profane) names. Buckets are plastic beach pails filled with mixed drinks, and each one holds an entire bottle of alcohol (which, I suppose, is where people get their stories of waking up on the beach with no stuff and no idea what happened to it).
Next, we have the fire slide, which people try to slide down without getting burned. I think the success rate is limited.
Hartley and I spent most of our time there just chatting to people, which was really fun. We ran into a bunch of people we’d seen before, and made some new friends as well. Like the guys above. The one on the left told me he was gay, but that I could try to turn him straight if I wanted. Can’t say I’ve heard that one before!
We saw lots of stalls offering neon body paint designs. These were some examples (note the 7-11 one, haha).
People, people everywhere
And here are some of the pyrotechnics. This guy was twirling multiple fire batons!
I asked this guy if I might take a picture of his stall, and he said he’d have to charge me for it. I asked if his sign was true or not, and he let me take a picture for free.
Have you been to the Full Moon Party? I want to hear your opinions and stories. What did you think?