Take a look up in the sky tonight. If you see a perfectly full moon up there, know that within hours, one of the biggest parties in the world is happening. It’s called a Full Moon party and it takes place about once every month on Koh Phangan when there’s a full moon in the sky. Nearly 30,000 backpackers attend this boozefest every month where you dance like maniacs on the beach, limbo under kerosene soaked ropes, paint yourself with neon colors, and drink a seemingly unlimited supply of beer and buckets. It started in the 90’s with a few friends who liked to have a party on the beach when there was a full moon out. As years went by, it caught the eyes of other people and grew into the phenomenon it is today. I went there. But instead of detailing my exact experience (thus saving myself and the others from embarrassment!), I thought I would give my two cents on how to make it through a full moon party alive!
1. Get Decked Out
When you attend a Full Moon party it’s not mandatory to decorate yourselves with neon colors and wear bright tank tops, but it’s frowned upon if you don’t – and why shouldn’t you? Even a guy like me, who normally wears boring solid colors, who you would never ever catch in a million years wearing a bright tank top, went all out in the spirit of Full Moon. It adds to the mood and you’re telling everyone “I’m here for a good time!” Besides, part of the fun was painting Viola, who had no idea what I was drawing on her face and vice versa. Oh and wear shoes, not flip flops. You’re going to be walking on a kerosene soaked beach, riddled with litter and glass and who knows what else.
2. Avoid the Drugs
You won’t believe how incredibly easy it is to get your hands on any drug you’ve ever wanted in life on this island. And I couldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard of backpackers who’ve been cuffed and locked up after buying from undercover officials. Unlike back home, entrapment is legal here. Even if someone came to you offering to sell something nice, and you buy it from them, there is a chance it could be a trap and before you know it, off you go to jail. I’ve heard multiple stories of backpackers who have been locked up for days, with the police taking out the maximum withdrawal amount out of the ATM from the poor backpacker’s bank account, until they have paid off their fines and are “satisfied”. Also, I’ve seen people here do stupid things after a few hits of something. A guy in my dorm bought some kind of drugs from a bar owner and ended up running around the beach naked and getting his wallet and clothes stolen after not realizing the enormous high the drugs gave him. This is Thailand! The stuff here is crazy different than what you’re used to back home man. I don’t know much at all about drugs, but I’ve seen and heard enough to know it’s best for everyone to just avoid them. Period.
3. Keep An Eye On the Local Creepers
Jack noticed at the Jungle Party, there were bummy locals, who had no business being there, alone and creeping on the most drunken people, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to steal their stuff. After he told me this, I noticed it at the Full Moon party as well. Except here, you would witness these creepers, casually drop a little “somethin somethin” into the buckets of completely oblivious female backpackers. Date-rape drug? Most likely. I don’t need to say more. Just stay close to your friends and watch your precious drinks.
4. Boost Up Before You Go
I have the bad habit of buying drinks for everyone around me, even for people I don’t know, after I have had a few too many already. To ease the burden on my wallet, it’s common knowledge to pregame at home before you go out. It’s cheaper and you enter the fray in a terrific mood. I may still buy drinks for completely random strangers, but at least I saved a little money by boosting up beforehand right? Which brings me to my next point…
5. Secure Your Valuables
Common sense here. The only things I brought were my wallet with some cash. I left my bank cards, I.D, and other important stuff locked up in a safe in my hostel. Also, one of the single most important things I brought was a business card of the hostel I was staying at. I put a couple in my wallet, and one in my pocket. This was in case I got separated from my group (I did) and didn’t know how to get back. Just had to show this card with the address on it to a tuk-tuk driver. I didn’t bring a camera, I don’t have a camera small enough to carry around. If I still had my iPhone, I would of brought that with caution. Its easier for guys I think. Girls have big bowling bag purses with loads of things they want to bring. Before you know it, you’re walking through a crowd of wild tourists and even locals, and you come out seeing your bag is missing or has been tampered with. Just leave all the stuff at home. Come with as little as possible. A money-belt and small camera would be ideal.
6. Water Saves The Day!
One thing I found cool about Koh Phangan, is that the local stores all over the island sold bundles of bottled water for extremely cheap. We managed to find a bundle of six for 80 cents! Do yourself a favor and buy a bundle and leave it on your bed. I bought myself a bundle and drank water all day, right up to the start of the Full Moon. And then as soon as I got back to my hostel afterwards, I chugged a bottle or two, even when I didn’t want too, and then went to bed. Yes, I had to wake up and use the bathroom every hour but I woke up feeling absolutely perfect even after how much I drank the night before. My dorm mates also bought water but were too intoxicated to remember to drink them. They woke up feeling like death. Water works wonders.
7. Stay as Long as You Can!
The Full Moon party starts fairly early, around 6 or 7 pm and its lasts until 9 or 10 am. My group didn’t get there until around midnight (we were busy boosting up!) and we tried to stay as long as possible. What other time in your life will you have the chance to go wild with no responsibilities with people from all over the world as long as you can in one of the biggest parties in the world? Now is the time to live it up and have as much fun as possible. In my group, Viola and Kevin were the only ones to make it through the entire party. At one point, in the middle of the night, one by one, we all became separated. There was just so many people! I was knackered and ended up leaving around 5 am. Do go home whenever you want but try and go the extra mile! There were still tons of people by the time the sun rose.
8. DO NOT GO ON A MOTORBIKE WHATSOEVER
In my personal opinion, this is the most important rule of all. I’ve rented motorbikes in Laos, northern Thailand, and even on Koh Tao. But I didn’t even think about getting one here in Koh Phangan. The idea of riding a motorbike in a foreign country on an island full of young drunk backpackers who think they rule the world should never sit right with anyone. Whenever I walked from my hostel to Viola’s, I would pass a hospital, and inside this hospital would always be about a dozen or so tourists, bloody and bandaged up, from a motorbike incident. Everyday, I would see a handful of backpackers, with a cast on their leg, huge scrapes and gashes on their arms and legs, and even some in crutches. It was mind-blowing how many accidents there are everyday. Most of them are alcohol related and the fact that most people who rent a motorbike, have little to no experience riding them. Two days before I arrived on the island, there was a death and serious injury from a motorbike incident. Then there were those tourists who liked to show off and blaze down the road (no helmets even) with a girl they just met at a party. Idiots. Avoid the temptation. Motorbikes are fun, but not on a boozed up party island.
By the way, to continue where I left off from the previous post, the next morning after the Jungle Party, I went to Cosy Bungalows where everyone was residing, to check and see if they were okay. They were all there, some in better condition than others, but all safe. And after going to the Full Moon the next day, we all decided that we liked the Jungle Party a lot better. Other backpackers we talked to said they preferred the Waterfall Party, or the Pool Party. There was just so many people at the Full Moon and it was hard to move! I personally didn’t enjoy the constant sand flying into my bucket. But regardless we all still had a great time. This is just my personal advice for surviving a Full Moon party, with the bottom line being to have as much fun as possible.
Even though the Full Moon Party is the main attraction for the majority of tourists on this island, it wasn’t for me. There was something else that drew me to this island…and I’ll explain what it is on the next post. For now, just think Giant Red Balls :).