Koh Pha-Ngan

21 Jun

Koh Pha-Ngan’s Full Moon Party is one of the most infamous events in Thailand. Every lunar cycle, zillions of backpackers descend upon the otherwise sleepy island to crowd on to Hat Rin beach and celebrate. The party is notorious for neon ensembles, bucket drinks, and people making poor life choices. Orestes has wanted to go since we moved to Thailand. I felt more trepidatious about the entire affair. It had the potential to be fun; it also had the potential to be a hot mess that I wanted no part of. Still, I’m all about the random experiences in the name of adventure, so I agreed to go. The one caveat was that I wanted friends to join. Bizarre events are more fun when you have people to share them with!

To Orestes’ great delight, the stars aligned this year with the full moon party falling on our three-day holiday in May, and several of our friends being successfully convinced to join. We left school on a Thursday afternoon, and flew down to the large but uneventful city of Surat Thani. After a night spent bonding over beers, we set out bright and early Friday morning via tuk-tuk, bus, ferry, and songtao (oh my!). Koh Pha-Ngan is located in the Gulf of Thailand, tucked IMG_5005between Koh Tao and Koh Samui ~ it’s a bit of a trek to get to. Still, by 1:00 pm we were poolside. Our hotel was a lovely little place located on the western coast of the island; I felt quite strongly about not staying in a hotel on the actual party beach. The Sunset Cove Resort looked a bit like it had once been destroyed, and then was completely rebuilt around the existing ruins and foliage. The bungalows, walkways, and decks yielded to palm trees and toppled stone walls. Our room boasted an outdoor but private bathroom, complete with a tree growing up in the middle of the shower. I particularly enjoyed the nearly perpendicular palm sprouting through the main deck near the beach. The overall effect was ramshackle but charming.

We were as lazy as possible leading up to the full moon fiesta. We made a brief foray out on motorbikes to purchase some neon apparel, and otherwise spent our time lounging by the pool. My feelings on Saturday afternoon are best summed up as nervous anticipation. I was loving the weekend up to that point, but was anxious about the unknown. The internet makes the party sound like mayhem (give it a quick google for images). Well, in retrospect, all I can say is that the internet was right, but the mayhem was highly entertaining.

IMG_5047As our taxi pulled into town near Hat Rin, the streets became filled with our fellow partygoers, clad in all manner of neon tanks, body paint, light-up headbands, and floral wreaths. I saw several clever yet silly looking people who chose to deal with the issue of footwear by wearing their flip flops pulled up around their ankles by the thongs so as to save them for later use. This particular trend made it look like they were wearing tiny wings on their feet a la Hermes and his winged sandals. There were tons of stalls offering body paint designs, more neon garb, and adult beverages in large quantities. We headed through the official police check point (yes, the police regulate this – we had to pay admission and get wristbands) and out onto the main beach.

The Full Moon Party was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Hat Rin was lined with bars and restaurants, all pumping dance music at top volume. More IMG_5069stands were set up along the beach, and every single person seemed to have a beer or bucket in hand. Between the strip of restaurants and the ocean, thousands of people were packed, dancing, drinking, wandering, flirting, and taking selfies (literally, thousands ~ 8,000-12,000 is the average attendance during low season). The people watching opportunities were priceless. We plunged into the throng and the rest is history.

The final verdict: I’m glad we experienced the Full Moon party, but I don’t know that I ever need to go again. In the long run, there are plenty of places in Bangkok where one can dance and imbibe without the lengthy trek. Koh Pha-Ngan itself is lovely. If it weren’t such a pain to get to, I would happily return for the beaches and laid back vibe. Orestes’ take? “When are we going again?”

IMG_5060

Our awesome full moon fiesta crew

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