Since being a raver in my 20s, I’d heard about the famous Full Moon Party on the paradise island of Koh Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand and promised myself that I’d go one day. Fast forward 12 years and I finally made it.
Although my clubbing days are long gone, when me and the other half started planning our trip to Thailand to celebrate our 10 years together, we knew that Pha Ngan and the Full Moon Party had to be in the itinerary. The other half had actually been to the party when he spent 5 weeks traveling around Thailand with some friends in 2006, but he was keen to go back, relive his youth and see what had changed.
Haad Rin, on the southern tip of the island, balloons in size a few days each month as revellers from across the globe gather to dance under a full moon. Most hotels and hostels insist on a minimum stay of 3 or even 5 nights during full moon week and if you want to stay in Haad Rin itself, you need to book months in advance to get somewhere decent. This party attracts up to 30,000 people in high season and there’s only so many beds in this small town. I really would recommend staying within walking distance of the action too as the roads on the island aren’t great with drink and drug driving rife.
Despite only attracting tourists since the mid-80s, and only getting mains electricity in the 90s, it’s very clear that this is a party island. It reminded me of a very rustic Ibiza. There’s tons of bars and restaurants, posters advertising pre-parties, after parties, pool parties, waterfall parties, party parties! Travellers are here for a good time and they are well catered for. On the day of the full moon party, everyone is out in force buying tie-dye clothes and neon paint. Some are starting on the buckets or otherwise pre-loading for the night ahead.
There’s a 100THB entry fee for the party which gets you a keep sake wristband but also pays towards the upkeep and cleaning of the beach. There’s retailers selling buckets from 150THB up to 450THB, the cheaper end being local spirits, the higher end being branded spirits. You also get a bottle of Red Bull and a mixer. I’d recommend sticking to the branded spirits and mixing your own drink so that you can check that the bottle is unopened, can control the strength but can also ensure that no unwanted ingredients make their way in to your drink. Rumours about Thai Red Bull containing amphetamine aren’t true, but that stuff is around 10 time stronger than Western versions, so you really don’t need the whole bottle in one drink! I’d also suggest buying an extra can of mixer so you don’t peak too soon. There’s loads of food and drink stands all along the beach so you can line your stomach or buy individual bottles of beer and alcopops if you can’t face another bucket.
There’s a few different genres of music pumping from the bars, so you’re bound to find something to boogie to. This beach isn’t massive and from midnight it got crazy busy and most people were steaming drunk by that point. The sea kept coming in further which left even less sand to dance on so the crowds were getting more condensed. It didn’t stop me dancing until the early hours, even with soggy trainers and wet, sandy feet!
The party was great fun but it can be very dangerous. Thailand’s drug laws are very strict, don’t even risk it. The police work with informants and will arrest you for just being near drugs. It’s easy to drink too much too quickly and the sea will be unforgiving if you get in to trouble. Stay with your friends and treat strangers with caution. The party is nowadays know for descending in to anarchy with drunken brawls common, so go early and leave early to stay safe.
Within a few days of the party, Haad Rin turns in to a ghost town. The bars and restaurants are empty and I felt a bit sorry for the locals trying to make a living. Although, I think some will appreciate the rest after a hectic few days! Pha Ngan is a beautiful island so don’t just come here for the party. Stay a few extra days, go zip lining, learn archery or scuba diving or just laze around on the beach. Stay to appreciate all that the island has to offer apart from booze and parties. Of all the places we visited in Thailand, Koh Pha Ngan was my favourite, not for the party, but for the realism after the party had ended.
This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Andrew Apperley, a British man who sadly died on the night that we were at the full moon party.
Date of trip: February 2017
Price paid: £280.00 for 3 nights the Sunset Beach Hotel, Haad Rin on B&B basis.
Points earned: approx 2500 Virgin Flying Club points for booking through hotels.com.