The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party seems to be a kind of right of passage for all travelers in Thailand. People generally seem to have a “love it” or “hate it” kind of reaction to the event. Talk to anyone who has been to a Full Moon Party, and they will tell you it was either a) The single best party they have ever been to in their entire life or b) It was an obnoxious, embarrassing display of backpackers gone wild. I was prepared to feel either way about it, because despite some negative reviews, there was no way I was leaving Thailand without seeing one for myself.
As the story goes, the Full Moon Party was started by a small group of backpackers who thought that the moon looked particularly lovely on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin beach. They decided to hold a beach party the night of the full moon to celebrate and appreciate its divine prettiness. The party eventually grew into the massive spectacle that it is currently, attracting more than 10,000 people to the beach each month.
Koh Phangan was also the perfect place to try out a little scuba diving. I’d like to say I took to scuba diving well. In reality, for the first half hour, I flopped about choking on seawater, struggling to propel myself using the massive flippers on my feet, and fighting the irrational need to “come up for air” every 10 minutes. Our very patient instructor kept reminding me to just relax and watch the fish. Eventually I did. And they were beautiful. Colourful and tiny, swimming around the coral in perfectly aligned schools that moved as a single body even when I disturbed them. After our session was finished, I was bursting with adrenaline from having stayed under despite my initial nervousness. I’ve heard that diving is rather addictive – I could already see why.
We danced, tried a bucket, which was potent combination of whiskey, coke,and a terrifying Thai version of Red Bull, and then danced some more. After a while, we just laid down on the beach and stared at the sky. That was the one thing I loved about the Full Moon Party – it seemed perfectly acceptable to do whatever you wanted, wherever you wanted. Some people danced, some sat and talked, some laid down, some swam. I like to think this feeling of acceptance wasn’t just because everyone was drunk. It seemed to be because we were all collectively thrilled to be on this beautiful island, and wanted to allow everyone else to enjoy themselves in their own way. Brent and I looked up at the moon, which appeared enormous against the contrast of the even white sand, the black sky, and the endless dark waves of the sea. It really did look particularly stunning on this beach.On the cab ride home, we met a mild-mannered French man who had proudly attended the party for 2 hours, drank one bucket for good measure, and then decided to call it a night. Also in our cab were two very displeased Norwegians caring for their 300 lb. friend, who had drunk so much that he didn’t seem to notice that his head kept slamming against the metal bars of our truck as we navigated the hilly road away from Haad Rin.When we arrived at their stop, all the passengers helped the Norwegians roll their friend out of the truck. He was not an easy man to lift.
So did I end up a lover or a hater of the Full Moon Party? I loved the experience and enjoyed it for what it was; but, that said, I don’t think I’ll be rushing back for the party next month. Diving, great food, and the beautiful beach? Those are a few things that might bring me back to Koh Phangan.
Have you ever been to a Full Moon Party? What was your experience like?