Thailand travel has become synonymous with Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party. No matter what age you are, or type of backpacker, this party has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime. I have seven Full Moon parties under my belt. Some were spent writhing around in the crowds growing massive calves from attempting the hard feat of dancing on sand. Others were spent ‘working’ behind a bar, where the booze was free flowing and I spent more time laughing at all the heathens rather than being one myself. Either way, this party is so memorable and one of the many reasons why I love Thailand.
Full Moon Party Origins
Full Moon Party folklore tells us that when I was only a whisper of a thing at two years old in 1985, a large leaving party, for a group of super cool travellers on Haad Rin Beach, went down so well that some clever soul thought, “Why don’t we do this every month?” From there spawned that glorious heard-it-on-the-grapevine thing and every month since, the party has gotten bigger and bigger with around 30,000 revelers turning up each month. The Full Moon party totally deserves it’s reputation for a unique experience in paradise.
How to get to the Full Moon Party
The island of Koh Phangan is a couple of hours off Thailand’s mainland. Most travelers take a sleeper train down from Bangkok to Surat Thani or Chumpon and then a catamaran ferry to the island for around 1,200 baht. Increasingly, cheap flights are being offered which whisk you down from the capital city to the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. Costs for flights vary greatly, particularly during peak seasons or New Years Eve, so booking in advance is essential. The ferry from Koh Samui is only 45 minutes so this isn’t a bad option if you don’t have a lot of time.
Haad Rin Beach
The party happens on Haad Rin beach, a cove setting where the only road access goes over some steep and often treacherous hills that make for a white knuckled moped ride or a shaky open taxi. Staying in Haad Rin can be convienient as this party goes on until the sun comes up and beyond, so stumbling back to your hotel makes life easy. Most people who are on the island for more than a few days often choose to stay on quieter parts of the island. I’ve done both and it totally depends on how long your staying and how much you can afford.
I have stayed just off the beach in Haad Rin in a private fan room for as little as 400 baht. I found this place the night before the party which was very lucky by Koh Phangan standards. When I had friends come and visit, they stayed in a 4-star resort on the neighbouring beach, about five minutes away from Haad Rin for around 1,500 a night – and they booked a month or so ahead. Be sensible and try to arrive a few days before with either an advance booking or time to find somewhere perfect for you.
What to bring to a Full Moon Party
Not a lot. Firstly, who wants to be partying with a bag to lumber around? Not me. Security is definitely something that should be adhered to during this party. Common sense goes a long way here.
Tips for a Fun and Safe Full Moon Party:
- Only bring enough money to last you the night, under 2,000 baht should be fine. (Although I often went with less than 1,000 and had an incredible time)
- Don’t bring any valuables as they’ll likely end up waterlogged or coated in sand.
- Don’t wear your best outfit. Neon body paint is all the rave here and it doesn’t come out of clothes, so be warned.
- Of course you’ll want to bring your camera but be careful if you do. Don’t leave it on the bar while you order a drink, and if it’s waterproof and shock proof, even better.
- Shoes! I know it’s a beach and being barefoot makes sense but broken bottles and naked feet are not a happy combination. The clean up effort that happens the day after the party is brilliant but you’d be amazed at how many flip flops are left behind…
What to see at the Full Moon Party
Look up at the moon! It lights up the beach and casts a beautiful silvery glow over the crowds.
Make sure you check out the the Thai professional fire poi dancers. They are the best in the world. Gorgeous sun kissed Thai men, usually adorned in some pretty impressive traditional Thai tattoos, marvel the crowds with perfectly timed fire routines. They know how to get the crowds going and it’s easy to spend hours dancing around them.
Watch out for the fire skipping though. I am still baffled by the amount of people that think skipping rope whilst its aflame is a good idea. It’s not. If you start thinking it’s a good idea, check yourself, you may have had one too many buckets and need to have a quiet word with yourself.
Burns are the most common form of injury during the party, followed by all the mad people that ride a motorbike whilst inebriated. Never a good idea, especially on the Haad Rin hills.
Lastly, if huge thronging crowds seem a bit much for you, there are many calmer, nicer bars that overlook the beach. Here you can dance to Resident DJ’s and still enjoy the atmosphere of the party whilst staying away from the mayhem.