Koh Phangan Island


The Full Moon Party is the arguably the biggest and best beach party on the face of the earth.  As its name suggests, it takes during the full moon each month on the stunning southern Thai island of Koh Phangan.  As many as 30,000 avid party goers rock up to the island for one night for a night of absolute party.

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A lot of people had told me that the Full Moon party is one of many things that you have to do at least once when in Thailand.  I had presumed that it wouldn’t really be my sort of scene; I had envisaged rowdy drunk people, vomit, drugs and brawls and broken glass.  Although I did encounter some of that when I was there, I was pretty surprised when I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  My friend who who had caught a flight in from Germany managed to convince me to go and in the end I was happy that I did.

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Most people arrive on Koh Phangan a day or two before or stay on for a day or two afterwards to explore the island.  There are a number of other parties around this time including the Waterfall Party, the Jungle Party and the Eden Party.  They are well worth checking out as some of them are just as good as the Full Moon Party itself.  We kicked off our first night on the island at the Jungle Party which is the biggest and most popular pre-Full Moon event.

The Jungle Party is hosted in a secret location up in the wilderness of the mountains of Koh Phangan.  The journey up the mountain is an experience in itself.  It’s so inaccessible that most people rock up in trucks.  Our driver accelerated up the helter-skelter of roads so fast that it was like being on a roller coaster.
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Some irrevocably drunken guys were casually swinging off the back of our pickup.  I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this but these guys seemed to be having the time of their lives.
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Once you finally arrive at the secret location you are lead through a stretch of dense forest in the darkness until you finally see the lights and hear the music where the party is.
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Thousands of people arrive in a small clearing in the middle of the jungle amongst soaring palm trees; the location is simply unreal.

The night’s entertainment includes fire dancing and Muay Thai.  At the start of the night there were professional fighters in the ring which was exhilarating to watch, however it wasn’t so entertaining when drunken partygoers were let lose in the ring.  I love watching skilled Muay Thai tournaments but drunken violence isn’t really my cup of tea – so we ended up walking off at this point.
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There are a number of pop-up stalls where you can get glow-in-the-dark body paint, so your friends can find you in the dark.

The Jungle Party was a really great way to kick off our time on Koh Phangan and it definitely got us in the party mood.  If you’re planning on going, I would suggest pacing yourself.  I made the schoolboy error of going all out at the Jungle Party which meant I was a bit tired for the Full Moon Party; although I suppose it was worth it as I thought the Jungle Party was almost as good as the Full Moon Party itself.

The next day it was finally time for the Full Moon Party.  I had already had a bit of an insight into what Thailand’s beach parties entailed as I had previously checked out the party scene on both Phuket and Phi Phi islands.  The Full Moon Party was pretty similar to what I had already experienced…but on acid!

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The Full Moon Party is aptly named because the moon seems to shine so bright at Koh Phangan; so much so that we actually went ‘moon bathing’ one night; going for a late night swim beneath the moonlight was incredible.  However, I would avoid doing this if you have had a few drinks.

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There’s some pretty odd sounding alcohol for sale in the local shops; some of which we had never heard of before.

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There’s a lot of suspect alcohol kicking around, some of which isn’t safe for human consumption.  Some vendors try to pass off fake alcohol as the real thing.  There are countless stalls selling boozy buckets at every corner and it’s hard to know what is and isn’t legit.  We decided to buy our own alcohol and mixers from a local Seven Eleven and we mixed our own drinks up in plastic buckets that we also purchased from a shop.  This is safer and cheaper and I would highly recommend it.

Neon body paint is a quintessential element of any Full Moon party getup so painting yourself and your friends is a pre-Full Moon party ritual.
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Neon body paint?  Check! Boozy bucket? Check!  Let’s go shall we? It’s going to be an all-nighter.
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Turn up a little early because by midnight Haad Rin beachfront becomes packed out to the point where it’s nearly impossible to move.  The Full Moon Party attracts around 10,000-30,000 people, so you can imagine the scale of the crowd.  The beachfront is divided into sections with each playing different types of music meaning that there’s something to suit all music tastes.
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If by this time you still haven’t slathered every square inch of exposed skin in neon paint then fear not!  There’s a whole host of overpriced glow in the dark merch on sale over on the beach.  The Full Moon party is one of the few occasions that justifies decorating yourself up like a walking Christmas tree.  Hey, it’s kinda fun!  When at the Full Moon party eh!
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There’s even a designated ‘sleeping area’ which is fenced off and comes equipped with mats and blankets, so rest assured that if need a little kip any time during the night that you can.  I think it’s a hilarious concept.  As the night wore on, more and more party goers retired to the sleeping area.

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Obligatory flaming laming limbo?  Well it goes without saying.  Like any beach party in Thailand, you can always expect some form of pyro-antics.  There was also a flaming hoop for drunken fools to launch themselves though.  Sadly we did see a few drunken people get maimed by the flames.  That’s the thing about Thailand, you will inevitably bear witness to countless things like this that will have you watching through your fingers.
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There are a couple of bars with observation decks on either side of the beach.  They are the best place to head if you want a better view of the whole beach. 

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Pulling an all-nighter at the Full Moon party is a must.  With the help of a couple of Red Bulls (in Thailand they are ultra potent) we managed to party on until sunrise, which was definitely worth staying up for.  By this time you can give yourself a celebratory pat on the back because you’ll have survived the Full Moon party.

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Admittedly, the Full Moon party isn’t the most placid, civilised or even safest of parties.  It’s in fact the most raucous, overwhelming and loud party experience ever.  There are few places that you can find controlled madness of this calibre, I guess you could describe it as ‘party’ in its purest form.  Everything about it is maximal; from the beauty of the location to the sheer number of party goers, the plentiful supply of booze to the ear splitting volume of the music.  It goes above and beyond your average party in countless ways.  Mediocre it is not.  That’s what makes it one hell of an unforgettable experience.  It’s one of those things that perhaps every party lover should experience at least once, especially while young, energetic and able to party through the night until sunrise.
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Tips for surviving the Full Moon Party

Go with at least one friend that you know and trust.  I wouldn’t really recommend going as a solo traveller.  Although I had a great experience and never felt unsafe, the Full Moon Party has a bit of a  reputation for the darker stuff that takes place so it’s important to be with at least someone who can ensure your safety.  If you are smart and look after yourself then there is no reason why you would have any problems whilst there.

– This is a bit of a no-brainer but stay away from drugs!  One of the things that the Full Moon party is infamous for is the fact that there are drugs kicking around.  Thailand enforces the death penalty for drug use.

– Don’t go into the sea during or after the Full Moon party.  Sadly throughout the night it gets used as one big communal urinal by drunken men.  Gross I know.  You’ve been warned!

– Don’t bring anything valuable with you.  It’s a hotspot for pickpockets.

– Watch what you drink.  As I mentioned earlier, there’s fake alcohol knocking around.  Also I really wouldn’t accept any drinks from strangers.  The Full Moon Party is an extremely overwhelming environment and it’s important to act with extra caution.  If you leave your drink unattended even for a second then get rid of it and get a new one.

– Avoid the pyro-antics.  It’s just not worth the risk.  Every Full Moon Party people get burned as a result of the pyro-antics.  Don’t be one of them!

– Decide on a meeting place with your friends.  It’s so crowded that inevitably someone will get lost.  This happened with a couple of people in our group who we would not have been able to find otherwise.

– Wear some decent footwear as there can be broken glass lurking in the sand.

– Don’t litter.  Koh Phangan is a stunning island.  Let’s keep it like that!

– Most accommodation, including hostels, usually goes up in price threefold around the time of the Full Moon party.  It can also sell out completely during some of the busier months.  Flights also tend to be more expensive during those times too so it’s something to keep in mind when budgeting for your trip.

– If you drink, pace yourself, especially if you are hoping to party on through the whole night.  Be safe and look after yourself because in the end the only person who is really responsible for you is you!

Getting to Koh Phangan Island 

Koh Phangan island is located in the South of Thailand and it’s very accessible to get to.  The fastest and most comfortable way is to fly.  Koh Phangan doesn’t have an airport so if you want take a flight you can go via Koh Samui or Surat Thani and get a boat transfer to Koh Phangan.  Air Asia do convenient flight and boat transfer packages for the Full Moon party.  You can also take a train or bus which does take a long time but it’s considerably cheaper.  Most people who do this catch boat transfers to the island from Chumphon or Surat Thani.  There are more details about the Full Moon Party on the official website.

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