The Full Moon Party is a monthly party that takes place in Koh Phangan, Thailand. It occurs—you guess it—every full moon. Though it may be moved to the day before or after in case of a Buddhist holiday. To avoid confusion, the schedule is published in advance in the Full Moon Party website. The island has been hosting the party since its inception in 1988, and it used to be free until recently as it now costs (a mere) 100 Baht ($3 USD). Although the party originally existed strictly through word of mouth, its popularity has escalated to the point where now it is a destination for many backpackers visiting South East Asia.
The popularity of the party, now averaging 10K-30K people per party, has given rise to other parties in Phangan Island: Jungle Party, Half-Moon Party, Water Fall Party, and the secret Eden Garden Party. These parties can be big in their own right but pale in comparison to the main event.
The Full Moon Party stretches for about 1.2km (by my eye-ball estimate), and takes place in Haad Rin Beach. The beach is filled by many bars blasting music, each with its own style. There’s also plenty of impromptu kiosks selling snacks and tons of buckets filled with alcohol because, well, that’s how you do it at the Full Moon Party!
It doesn’t take long for alcohol to flood the bloodstreams of every partygoer and for shit to escalate quickly. Before you know it, there’s artists swinging different contraptions lit on fire for everyone’s amusement. This is before fire rings appear for people to jump through, and there’s even a fire jump rope—because nothing says fun like fire and alcohol. But aside from other random activities like using a pull-up bar or a slide, the main activity is dancing, jumping, grinding, and fist pumping like any party. What does give it that extra something, is the sheer amount of people on the beach under a full moon and wonderful breeze. It is a shame not everyone gets painted in the customary night-light fluorescent paint, but enough do to constantly remind you that’s the way to do it.
Around 3 – 4 am people start passing out in the sand. There’s a designated
“sleeping area” for people to catch a few zzz’s, but many don’t make it there. Actually, given the size of the beach, and the amount of people in it, there’s many shortcuts taken so as to not go far and lose your friends. The beach is littered with cigarette butts, bottles, and buckets. The more the night progresses the more things and people hit the floor. Some people don’t even make it to the bathroom. Don’t ask. While there are people cleaning, they are no match for thousands of drunks. The sand, however, manages to cover a lot of what’s underneath your feet so you never think it’s too gross to hinder the vibe of the party.
Like any party, the people dictate its success. Given the sheer amount of alcohol consumption and presumably other stuff, I was quite surprised to not have witnessed any fights. Au Countraire, there’s people kissing everywhere: twosomes, threesomes and even four-way kissing. The vibe of the party was of fun and excess. But no matter how that fun and excess manifested itself, it was never through violence or “drunk jerk” behavior. Now those who went back to their hostels on motorcycles—that’s another matter altogether.
Sunrise occurs around 6am and by this time, my awesome eye-ball guesstimate calculates half the people were gone. Like the many survivors making it to the light of day, I wanted to see the the sunrise before heading home. Alas, it was not meant to be as it was very cloudy. I went home thereafter as I could not muster the energy of the true super heroes that stayed until midday.
While on my way to the Middle East, for some reason I said “yes” to a Full Moon Party invitation from someone I had just met while waiting on the immigration line to pass through Bangkok. Back in June I had decided to head to Laos instead of the party. I thought, “it’s just a party, not something I should make plans around.” But this time, I figured fuck it, maybe it’s meant to be. That “yes” lead me to unforgettable memories that were made but more importantly, to fascinating people with whom I continued to travel onward in southern Thailand for many days. Eventually though, once again, I found myself having to say goodbye when I wasn’t ready to let go. This goodbye hit me the hardest out of any other in the entire trip.
Even if you don’t find what I found, it was an unforgettable party that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. Just get leave your motorbike at the hostel, paint your face, get a couple of buckets and go for it.