As the moon waxes, the island of Koh Phangan swells with frisky tourists from around the world who are ready to rage at the islands notoriously insane ‘Full Moon Party’ (FMP). And thats where we were headed. And I’m sure it would have been awesome, had we not missed it by a mere couple of hours. (Long story short- our only option at the pier was a 7 hour overnight ferry; that’s what you get for impulsively buying a plane ticket on the day of a FMP.)
We arrived to the island of Koh Phangan at 7 in the morning during the disturbing aftermath of the full moon party shenanigans.
As we made our way to Haad Rin, the beachy battlegrounds of the party, tweaked out couples lay snickering under blankets, and men and women in neon tanks stumbled down side streets that closely resembled their current state of mind: vacant with occasional psychedelic artwork. A stoned man stood dead still in the street leering at us as if he knew our secret… that we were coming and not going.
When we arrived at Haad Rin at 7:30 in the morning, the party was still going…. Music pounds on for bodies that are somehow still twerking, with help from hefty combinations of explicit drugs and alcohol; these hard core island junkies could give Lil Wayne a run for his money.
Body paint is widespread and glaringly neon, and it stands in jarring contrast to drained, damaged bodies who limp down the street. Why are they limping? They wonder the same thing. Behind glazed eyes, they are mentally flipping through elusive flashbacks of a drunken night- trying to figure why their legs are bandaged. Eventually they’ll figure out they have burn wounds from jumping rope with a gasoline-soaked flaming rope. What a horribly clichéd wound for a full moon party.
Along with gasoline-doused things, the island thrives on shady tattoo shops, whose accessible clientele is intoxicated individuals; I’m talking very accessible– we witnessed 2 straight men on drugs getting each others names tattooed on their private parts, and this was before dinner time.
Another money maker is the popular ‘Drugs Saved my Life’ tank top, which is ironically sported by those comatose in grungy lounges around Haad Rin.
The party rages out of control on the full moon, half moon, and all stages of crescent moons- just kidding… but not really. The island is a non-stop party with its motto being, ‘Fuck it- let’s get a bucket!’ The bucket is actually a bucket of alcohol sold for 250 Baht (about $6).
All the fun and games are made possible by the ongoing, unspoken promise that the authorities will take a blind eye approach to anything resembling a rule or regulation.
Unfortunately, this lack of, shall we say, concern gives way to a trashy beach strewn with Chang beer bottles, straws, cigarettes, and mate-less flip flops. (It doesn’t help that Thailand doesn’t have any trash cans to begin with!) It’s a very sad, disgusting site to see.
When you walk right into the careless aftermath of the FMP -conscious, unwounded, cognizant of Earth, cash and cards intact- missing the party doesn’t sound so bad…especially when you get to spend the rest of the day on a beautiful, clean beach.
Despite the trashy scene on Haad Rin, Koh Phagnan does have some beautiful beaches. We went to Leela beach, where we booked a simple bungalow with a door that opened to a secluded stretch of beach.
We spent the day relaxing, swimming in the turquoise ocean, and watching a man dance euphorically on the beach- you didn’t think we could escape it all!
This beach has some incredible trees growing right over the water, which make for shady relaxation spots like this hammock and swing. Ahh, bliss.
Despite our full moon party failure, this was a fantastic, spontaneous trip. If you’re on an island with cheap drinks that come by the bucket, good company, dancing music, and sand to squeeze your toes into, it sure as heck doesn’t have to be a full moon for it to be a great night.