Koh Phangan, Thailand

Full Moon Party


Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan

Whether you’re sporting a new Koh Phangan t-shirt or concealing a new rash that needs 3 weeks of antibiotics, everyone leaves the famous/notorious Full Moon Party a little different than when they arrived. This event, after all, is the stuff of backpacker legend, with numbers averaging 10,000 and a fun-loving crowd from all corners of the world. Everyone arrives to Koh Phangan prepped with some expectations of the Full Moon Party, through travel guides or word of mouth. When I set forth to May’s Full Moon Party, my head full of other people’s stories and cautions, I still found a few surprises in this dance-til-dawn affair. So rather than outlining the importance of sunscreen, drug safety, and secure bungalows, below are some tips you may not hear, but which helped me enjoy the sweet debauchery of Hat Rin under a full moon.
Lessons Learned on a Full Moon

1) Don’t Pull Rank

We all know that travel takes many forms, and the Full Moon Party certainly draws a mixed crowd. Indeed, on the crowded beach, sweaty bars, or confusing ferry terminal, sooner or later you’ll get annoyed by fellow travellers. You might be on a gap-year trip and out of your parents home for the first time, or you might be an expat who went Buddhist long before Richard Gere made it trendy. Whatever your background, it may be tempting to roll your eyes at other SangSom-swilling beachgoers. In a group of ten thousand, you’re not going to like everyone. By the same token, in a group so big, you’re bound to get along with a lot of them. Don’t be dissuaded by disagreement, just move on.

2) Find a Guesthouse away from it All

Because Hat Rin beach is the centre of the party, a travel agent will hype the Hat Rin bungalows for their prime location, and indeed that’s true. However, while they may not be found on some Koh Phangan maps, there are some nicer, cheaper, neighbouring beaches an easy 10-minute walk (stumble….crawl….) away. Nearby Leela Beach and Sunset Beach boast cute, clean beach bungalows over beautiful turquoise beaches. Both have plenty of restaurant/bars and space galore to park your beach towel for the afternoon. If you fancy a rowdy place to party and a calmer place to recover, these beaches are a perfect fit.

3) Don’t Sweat a Solo Night

Nothing is worse than the one guy in the noisy bar yelling into his cellphone because he split up from his friends. If you’re with a group bigger than two, you’ll likely find yourself solo at some point during the evening. The crowd is so big, if you haven’t arranged a meeting point in advance, you can waste hours scanning the sea of faces in the dark, looking for your travelmates. My suggestion? The beach and the clubs are full or friendly, fun-loving peers who are delighted at the randomness of meeting new people. If you lose your friends, make new ones. It’s only for one night, and for better or worse, it will make for a more colourful evening.

4) Keep your Shoes On

Every morning, stray beach dogs take their pick of abandoned sandals to adopt as chew toys. Footwear is an easy thing to misplace when it’s dark, crowded, and everything is semi-covered in sand. As cheap as rubber flip-flops may be, they’re absolutely crucial when walking the concrete streets, using a public toilet, or sidestepping broken glass. Let my own cut-up soles be a lesson to you, while Hat Rin is lovely by day, a big party turns the soft white sand jagged and messy, fast.

5) Remember, you’re still in Thailand

You may be surrounded by goodlooking Westerners under 25, but gang, this ‘aint Daytona Beach. Yes, Koh Phangan tourism caters readily to rowdy, fun-loving, hard-partying travellers. Even so, some smaller gestures can avoid offense to Thai people and keep your travel experience peachy. Though the area is littered in stray dogs, this Buddhist country believes strongly in treating animals with decency. Also, while you won’t catch many Thai people correcting your behaviour, it’s best to practice some discretion on the beach. Bikinis and flirting are fine, though topless female sunbathers and VERY public displays of affection might cause discomfort. The women mixing your bucket cocktail or the men painting UV-light tattoos on your arm will be nothing but friendly, but remember that there are still Eastern/Western differences, even on a raucous beach.

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Koh Phangan – a Magical Mystery Tour

Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour
Koh Phangan - a Magical Mystery Tour

Another lazy day on holiday and I am sitting at a bar on the beautiful Koh Phangan, waiting for the guide of the Reggae Magic Boat Trip to arrive. As I wait I watch in wonder as a Thai man tries to sell his tiny exotically coloured ‘pet’ bird. “Ha roi” (tasty) he announces to my indignation. “No! Mai arroy!” I cry, thinking the man has just told his friends that the bird would be delicious. “No, no,” the man laughs. “I say I will sell bird for 500 Baht, ha roi!” Just then the bird escapes from the man’s grip and flies out of reach onto a rooftop.

Just then, the enigmatic Thai man who calls himself Peter Pan strides around the corner. Dressed in yellow shorts, a patch work shirt streaked with gold and a brightly-coloured scarf, the man’s colourful costume matches his personality perfectly. “It’s OK, I am here now,” he chirps. “We can go!”

The relieved Israelis, who have been impatiently waiting, and I follow Peter Pan to a large wooden boat with a large group of relieved Israelis. There are 22 of us in all, including Peter and his two helpers, but there is plenty of room for us all.

Like a genial genie, Peter Pan sits cross-legged on the cool box, smiling down on us. “Now, we must balance the boat, otherwise we will flip over,” he tells us once we are all aboard. “I not care if you drown, but I love my boat, you know?”

It takes about an hour for us to reach our first destination. I lounge in the boat, lazily watching the scenery and the sun sparkle on the idyllically blue water.

Finally, we reach the beautiful beach of Haad Sadet and the boat shudders to a halt. The boat rocks violently as all the passengers race for the shore, eager to explore.

Once on terra firma, we pile into a waiting truck and are transported along a steep, treacherous road. Then, on foot, we follow a winding jungle path.

Suddenly, I emerge from the trees to find myself at the foot of the enchanting Than Sadet waterfall. Carefully climbing over huge granite boulders and navigating pools of fresh water, I make my way to where the others are waiting.

Than Sadet is Koh Phangan’s most famous waterfall. This 3km fall has had its share of royal attention. It was first visited by King Rama V in 1888. The magnificent waterfall clearly crept into his heart, for King Rama V visited the fall more than 10 times. The current monarch, King Bhumibol, has also visited Than Sadet and its waters are used for royal ceremonies.

After about half an hour, we begin to make our way back to the beach. Back in the boat, we sail for another 30 minutes or so. I sprawl on the deck, basking in the sun’s rays.

Soon enough, we reach Haad Khuat, also known as Bottle Beach. “You know why we call it Bottle Beach?” Peter Pan asks from his perch on the cool box. “Because that’s its name?” I chime in before I can stop myself. “No,” peter Pan grins. “Because it is shaped like a bottle.”

We climb out of the boat once more and onto the deserted golden beach. The only sign of civilization is a small restaurant, where we are scheduled to eat lunch. After perusing the extensive menu, I decide on vegetable pad Thai, as I don’t want to be too full for swimming.

After eating, I have half an hour to entertain myself and immediately head for the warm, clear water. Peter pan and his colleagues, I notice, are already snoozing in the shade.

When it is time to leave, I dry myself in the sun and join the rest of the group in the boat. Peter Pan is continuing his rest, softly snoring under a blanket.

This time, we are treated to a short ride around the coast to Mae Haad. Peter Pan’s colleague, who I am told is called Wendy, explains that this area has very beautiful tropical fish and coral. He hands out the snorkels and one by one we plunge into the waiting waters.

As I lower my face into the sea, my gaze is instantly met by several dozen fish. Striped black and white with yellow fins, these are known as Sweet lips. Deeper down, close to the beautiful soft coral, I spot the odd Hexagonal Grouper and exquisite exotically coloured Blue Ringed Angel Fish.

When I eventually surface, the other assistant – Tinker Bell, presumably – hands me some bread. As soon as I bring the bread beneath the water, dozens of fish surge towards me and begin to nibble the bread right from my hand.

After an amazingly timeless period, I pull myself back into the boat. Peter Pan is finally awake and is handing out chunks of pineapple for us to munch on. The fruit tastes wonderful after the saltiness of the sea.

The boat hand starts the engine once more and begins the journey back to Haad Rin, completing a circuit of the entire island. By the time we arrive, I am glad to be getting out of the hot sun.

At 7:30 pm, I return to a bar for a feast. My companions and I hungrily devour a delicious dinner of rice and vegetables with chicken curry for the meat eaters. Once the meal is finished, Peter Pan gives someone a guitar to play. With a happy belly, I sit back in my chair and sleepily listen as Israeli music floats out on the night air.

Information:

Tours start from 12 pm and cost 500 baht for six hours. The bar is situated on Haad Rin Noi (Sunrise Beach) just around the corner from Same Same Lodge.

Getting There:

The nearest international airport to Koh Phangan is at Koh Samui. From here the island is an hour ferry ride away. Joint bus and ferry packages are available from all of the travel agencies on Khaosan Road and take 12-15 hours.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!