By John Peden
My first Thailand Full Moon Party was in April 2010, and I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. By that point in time, I’d been a TEFL teacher in Thailand for over six months; my girlfriend and I were taking the time to see the country as backpackers before the schools reopened and we went back to work.
This article is an account of my experiences at my first Full Moon Party and the subsequent four that I attended over the course of 2010 and 2011. I’ll take you through what you can expect and how to enjoy yourself to the fullest.
The first question most folks have about the Full Moon Party tends to be regarding the danger. The Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan itself isn’t dangerous and nobody is going to beat you up or rob you unless you bring it upon yourself. Most accidents at the Full Moon Party — which have in the past included the death of tourists — are almost always the result of too much drink or drugs; both of which are quite readily available and in huge supply at the Full Moon.
Thais are lovely for the most part and won’t resent you for being drunk, they cannot stand to be disrespected, however, so if you are an unsociable drunk consider yourself forewarned.
There are a lot of shady characters to be found at a Full Moon Party, both Thai and otherwise but for most of us, the same could be said about a typical night out in our home country. You are likely to get robbed or beaten up behaving like a fool in either circumstance so keep your wits about you and all will be right with the world.
Accommodation At the Full Moon Party
Insofar as my own guide to the Full Moon Party, let me first begin with accommodation. As a general rule, there will not be any free rooms on the day of the party so you have a few different options:
- Book your accommodation in advance – The hotels will force you to book for a minimum number of nights in most cases (usually 5) and prices are usually inflated if you book in advance. Another great option on the island is to visit the Same Same Guesthouse owned by two Danish travelers.
- Sleep on the beach – That is, passing out. The music is defeaning and waking up here will mean severe dehydration and sunburn in addition to your pounding head and rotten gut.
- Last ferry over, first ferry back to Samui/Tao – Too rushed for my liking. Koh Phangan is a nice place to be before, after and during the party and doing this will mean not getting to float off your hangover in the pool the next day.
- Arrive a few nights before the FMP and book your accommodation upon arrival – My recommendation. Unless it is the New Year Full Moon Party which gets really busy, you’ll be able to find a bed pretty easily if you are on Koh Phang Ngan at least three days before the night of the party. You’ll get a good rate and a bed to fall into the next morning.
There is also the issue of where to stay. The island is not especially large but is very hilly and the roads are quite poor. This means getting to the South East (Haad Rin – the Full Moon Beach) from the North West can take upwards of 45 minutes.
As such, staying miles away from the beach will render these pre-parties mostly inaccessible to you. Haad Rin is a bit of a dump thanks to thousands of tourists descending upon it and getting drunk each month but there are plenty of nice hotels just 10 or 20 minutes walk away including Coral Bungalow where you can find a pool party every night.
Most people don’t realise that every night leading up to the Full Moon sees a smaller party on the beach. Some of these nights were my favourite so if you have the luxury of time then make sure you spend a few days on Koh Phang Ngan before the night of the party.
Don’t Bring Stuff to the Full Moon Party
On the night of the Full Moon Party, many guidebooks will instruct you to leave all your Worldly possessions in the hotel, to take only a few thousand Thai baht and nothing more. The implication is that if you take anything of value with you, its going to be lost, stolen or destroyed. I don’t recommend taking anything too valuable with you but the only real risk to your possessions is you. Of course, if you get hammered and decide to go for a dip in the sea, your camera might be a little worse for wear. What I’d recommend is getting a little waterproof dry-bag and taking your things in that. You can keep them on your person should you want to go swimming, whilst keeping water, sand and light-finders out for the rest of the time.
There are ATMs all over Haad Rin so don’t take thousands of Thai baht in cash but do take your bank cards with you.
I’m not really into drugs so I can’t comment about buying them on the beach beyond the fact they are quite easy to acquire. We read and heard of stories where the police would turn up moments after a transaction and fine the tourists heavily. The police might have been nothing more than friends of the dealers in uniforms but you can’t take chances. I’d be very wary of buying anything on the beach and think it would be much safer to do so through one of the lower-level employees at your hotel who will be able to get anything you might need (for a small price) in advance.
You may or may not have heard of “Mushroom Mountain” which is a series of bars at the Southern end of Haad Rin beach where magic mushroom shakes can be readily purchased. If you want to dabble, here is my advice to the inexperienced:
- Don’t do shrooms whilst severely drunk, the two don’t mix well
- The shakes take at least 1 hour to begin effecting you and the effects last for several hours thereafter. If you rush, you’ll get into trouble and be stuck in a bad place for a long time.
- Shakes seem to cost 1000 Thai baht throughout all the bars.
- The shrooms can make you a bit paranoid (if this happens, you’ve just got to ride it out) and these bars add to the effect — the music is quite trippy and at night they can feel quite scary.
Flip-Flops or No Flip-Flops?
I prefer not to wear shoes and flip-flops when going to the beach as I did the first night and just ended up losing them. Many folks go barefoot so you won’t look out of place but what you will find is that it is very easy to cut your feet. I did, got it infected and had to have the soles of my feet injected to get them cleaned. One of the most painful experiences in my life.
If you do go barefoot, be careful with your feet and if you do get any cuts or injuries, get them seen to quickly. Infection comes quickly in Thailand thanks to the dirt and the heat. There are medical centres all over Haad Rin and the island.
Body Paint for the Full Moon Party
My final tip is regarding party dress. You’ll look out of place if you aren’t covered in UV rave paint, so buy some in advance and cover your body. I got a monster painted onto my back that burnt my flesh…rock’n’roll or what!? There are some really nice clothes to be had from the little shops on Koh Phangan too. Thong Sala (the ferry port town and ‘capital’) offers the best choice and prices.
All-in-all, its common sense. Take your time with the drink, arrive late (we tended to eat dinner at 10 to 11 p.m. and hit the beach about 01:00 a.m., go steady and you’ll last well beyond sunrise.
If you do survive the Full Moon Party, the after party at Backyard is supposedly incredible but I regret to say that I never made it that far 🙁
- See other great tips for the islands in Thailand before heading out.
About the Author:
John Peden went to five Full Moon Parties during the two years he spent living and working in Thailand. He is still alive…somehow.