My first experience with the full moon party (January, 2016) wasn’t that good. In fact, it was terrible. But this time, a friend was flying down (and tickets from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani were cheap), so I thought I’d give it a second chance. Also, I had a few days to spare until I finally flew out of Thailand, so it made sense going to a place that is not the north of Thailand.
Chiang Mai to Surat Thani by flight, followed by a short bus journey from the airport to the Surat Thani’s pier, followed by a ferry that goes Surat Thani -> Koh Samui -> Koh Phangan. It seems like an easy journey when you research online, only that it’s not. The entire journey took me about 8 odd hours – and I was drained by the time I reached Koh Phangan. So I spent my first night doing what I do best: sleeping. My hostel was on Baan Kai beach, a 10 minute ride from Haad Rin, which is where the full moon party is held, and also a 10 minute ride from the Thong Sala pier, which is where the ferry (usually) drops you off. It was a good decision staying away from the noise and chaos of Haad Rin, but a short ride to anywhere on the island, and my hostel owner was a super fun guy, and that made my stay even better.
On my second day on the island, our hostel owner drove us to a small jetty from where we took a speed boat to a tiny beach near a cluster of hills that included the highest one on the island. We then trekked up one of them for about 45 min to one of Koh Phangan’s many viewpoints. The trek wasn’t difficult per se, but the heat made all of us sweat little puddles. The view from the top though? Totally worth the trek.
The next day my friend and I went up to this cafe on a hill close to the Thong Sala pier. Almost all places on Koh Phangan can be reached by a THB 100 ride in a songthaew, so everything is easily accessible (a songhthaew is a shared taxi / pick up truck with two benches at the back – they are the easiest and best way to get around the island, and the cab will drop you right at the doorstep). The highlight of the cafe was another viewpoint; you can sit and order a few drinks while you wait for the sun to set. Beautiful, but I’m a little biased towards the previous view point – maybe because of the effort I had to put in to get there.
Later that night we attended a warm up party to the full moon party called the ‘Jungle Experience’. Also a 10 minute ride from the hostel, we were dropped in the middle of a highway and asked to cross the road. I was expecting an actual jungle party, at least deep in the jungle area of Koh Phangan, but it was in an area that was flattened and looked like parking lot – a grand total of about 100 feet from the highway. I guess they just needed another reason to help tourists party / make money. When you’re on Koh Phangan, you drink the famous buckets (literally a tiny bucket filled with ice, alcohol and a mixer). The ones at the party though were overpriced, not strong, and made me want to use the restroom a lot, which had a THB 10 entry every single time you went. Those visits added up, and I think between my friend and I, we spent almost the equivalent of a bucket at the restrooms. The party itself was alright. I felt the music was repetitive, and the place itself was far smaller than I had imagined. Overall, probably not worth the THB 600 entry, expensive alcohol and expensive restroom visits.
And then just like that, it was the day of the full moon party. Pre-drinking started early in the hostel, a little too early perhaps. But I paced myself well, and was the right amount of tipsy when we got to the full moon party at around 12 am. The place was jam packed, and we saw many passed out drunk people while we walked from the taxi drop point to the beach. Typical full moon party welcome. Clothes that you can and will discard and glow in the dark body paint are a must for the full moon party, and we were on fleek.
The party is absolute chaos. Thousands and thousands of drunk people on a small beach, dancing. The estimated attendance that night was around 30,000, and that’s about half the amount of people they get during peak season! Protocol is to get a bucket of alcohol or a beer, and walk along the beach until you find a bar that’s playing music you like. And then you just stand there and dance. Or find a random girl and grind (whether she wants to or not) if you’re like one of the many foreigners looking to score.
I was with my friend and a few other people from the hostel, who I promptly lost after I stepped away for a restroom break. So I did a few up and down walks of the beach until I ran into another group of people from the hostel, and we bar hopped and danced until the sun was almost up. The beach itself is full of neon lights, and it looked pretty amazing.
A couple of bars had some fire performers, who were skilled and amazing. Another part of the beach had an area where they soak a big rope in gasoline and light it on fire. Two of the bar workers then held the ends of the rope and looped it in the air for drunk (and very stupid) tourists jump over. Every few jumps someone would fumble, get hit by the rope, and get burnt as they tried to scramble to safety. Why they would want to do this, repeatedly, after watching others get burnt (some even got some fire rope to the face!), is beyond me. We spent a good amount of time looking at some of these idiots get burnt.
(I can’t upload videos because I’m on the cheap, free version of WordPress, but if you’re curious, there are tons of videos on YouTube a quick search away).
The restroom prices during the full moon are double that of the jungle experience – THB 20 per visit. Not surprisingly, most men and some women found it cheaper to just stand on the beach at the edge of the water and relieve themselves directly in the sea. There’s also beer bottles, food, wrappers and empty buckets thrown all across the beach, so it’s best to wear covered footwear to prevent injuries.
Towards the end of the night, my feet were aching, and I had lost the second group of hostel peeps as well, so I got some street food, and made my way to the shared taxis to get back to my bed. My experience was better than it was the last time around, but it still, for some reason, didn’t feel like a party that I truly enjoyed. I’ve had more fun at a simple dinner with drinks. But that’s just me.
The party was on until much after I left, and there is also an after party that begins at 7 am, and runs until ‘late’. In fact, there were these two girl who came back to the hostel at 1 pm the next day when I was about to leave the island. They partied all night, went to the after party, then went back to Haad Rin (apparently one bar was playing music until 11 am), passed out on the beach, woke up an hour later and came back to the hostel. Obviously they fall in the category of people that absolutely love the full moon party.
In terms of food, I don’t think any restaurant on Koh Phangan really stands out. You could just drop into any place you like, and you’ll get the standard Thai fare and maybe some western food, at mostly reasonable prices. There’s a bunch of street food stalls, like every place in Thailand. There’s also some specialty restaurants like burger joints, steakhouses and cafes that serve German and Lebanese food, but they’re more expensive, and I personally found them lacking.
In terms of activities, there’s snorkelling and diving (they take you to Koh Tao, which is a short boat ride away). But Koh Phangan is mainly a party island, so if you’re there, it’s best to just do what the island is famous for.
Would I go back a third time? Unlikely. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m older now and I don’t enjoy parties that much, or maybe something this intense just isn’t for me. I also found it a little difficult to relate to the younger generation of people who were on the island / the hostel. So while I am not likely to do this again, if you’re curious, I’d say it’s worth checking out once… maybe.