The full moon party is a right of passage amongst many backpackers in Thailand, but what is it exactly? What should you expect from the famous island party and what do you need to know before you go?
The full moon party takes place every single month on a stretch of beach on Koh Phangan in Thailand. It is infamous for its pure, unadulterated hedonism and is one of the reasons many backpackers flock to Thailand’s islands every month.
It is in fact in many cases a rite of passage. Are you even a real backpacker if you haven’t attended one of these all night parties at least once? Well of course you are, and the party isn’t for everyone, but for those who want to experience one of Thailands most hedonistic nights out (and that is saying something), then the full moon party is a must.
But what exactly is the full moon party and what do you need to know before you go?
What is the full moon party?
The full moon party is exactly what it says it is, a huge party on the infamous Haad Rin beach on the night of the full moon.
There is no cultural reason for it, no long, interesting history, it simply started in the mid 1980s as a beach party and has grown into a fully fledged tradition when backpacking Thailand.
It is estimated that up to 30,000 people head to the beach on Koh Panghan every single month, starting at twilight and slowly building up to an all night party as DJs blast out everything from Reggae to Trance and everything in between, fire dancers do their thing, whisky buckets are handed out like sweets, fireworks displays explode randomly through the night, huge crowds of people dance in between any one of a number of bars and arenas along the stretch of sand and drink and debauchery rule the beach until the sun comes up.
What you need to know about the full moon party.
How to get there.
Koh Phangan is an island on the gulf coast of Thailand, near Koh Tao and Koh Samui. As such it is extremely easy to fly to Koh Samui and then get a ferry over to Phangan, get an overnight bus or train down to the southern mainland and hop on a ferry or fast boat to any of the islands and a ferry in between any of them too. In short, it is actually very easy to get to Koh Phangan and there are so many backpackers heading there al the time it isn’t hard to find someone who will point you in the right direction either.
lternatively Bangkok is streaming with travel agencies who can get you down there on a package deal, at a premium of course, but this really isn’t necessary.
The party starts early.
It isn’t just about the full moon party itself, there are actually pre moon parties a night or two before (and post moon parties afterward) but it is during the day that things start getting heated up.
Everyone will be getting ready for the night ahead by having their faces (and bodies) painted up in bright neon luminous paint as if the 80’s exploded everywhere. There are guys who go around charging for this but honestly you can buy the body paint at local shops and everyone usually helps paint each other in the hostels.
The official full moon party starts at 2300 hours and lasts all night, but that doesn’t mean everyone won’t be already partying before then! Don’t plan on getting any sleep for at least 48 hours!
Hostels, hotels and beach huts fill up fast the week of the full moon party and it is almost imposible to find a place anywhere a few days beforehand, so this is one of those rare exceptions where I would always advise booking ahead, especially if you want to stay near Haad Rin beach. Some backpackers arrive after one party ends and book up a good room in a hostel for a month!
Alternatively you can very easily stay on nearby Koh Samui or Koh Tao, get the ferry over during the day, party all night and get the ferry back the next day.
Alcohol is everywhere!
It should go without saying really that alcohol flows like tap water at the full moon party and the famous whisky buckets can be lethal!
If you want to save some money you can buy alcohol from the shops a short way away from the beach instead of from the bars there, as they really do inflate the prices. By 1 am no one really notices or cares anyway.
By all means have a great time and enjoy yourself, but just remember to pace yourself too. The party lasts all night, and you do still want to be standing in the morning, right? The party takes place on the beach itself, and although there are people to watch out for you they can’t be everywhere at once and drunk people and the ocean don’t really mix.
It is a good idea to stay as hydrated as possible both before, during and after the full moon party. NHS guidelines suggest drinking water in between some of your alcoholic drinks and spacing your alcohol intake out a bit.
Drugs are everywhere.
It is an unfortunate reality that drugs are as plentiful as alcohol on Haad Rin, and although I am a proponent of the phrase enjoy yourself but be sensible, this is where I draw the line. If you take drugs you are a dick, if you sell them or disseminate them you are a bigger dick, and if you get caught – and believe me the Thai police are out in force looking for it and even participating in stings – then you deserve all you get when you end up in a nice crowded concrete cell.
Be careful, watch your drinks and be sensible.
Don’t wear sandals.
This may sound like strange advice, especially when people all around you won’t be wearing much of anything anyway, but seriously the last thing you want is to be walking around the beach without anything protecting your feet completely. with up to 30,000 backpackers in various states of inebriation there are bound do be all manner of bodily fluids, broken glass and other unsavoury things dotted about.
Take some protection.
No I don’t mean a kevlar vest and a baseball bat. Look, we are all adults here, we all know what is going to happen! Just be sensible and look after your health.
Be careful with your belongings.
The beach is crowded with 30,000 people, most of them are drunk, and the amount of lost and stolen reports the poor Thai tourist police have to deal with keep them busy for weeks after the party itself!
It is so, so easy to lose your wallet or purse in this hedonistic tidal wave of people, and it is just an unfortunate reality that there is likely to be pickpockets operating on the beach too.
Take sensible steps to reduce your chances of losing everything and just take the bare minimum of what you will actually need onto the beach with you and keep the rest of your stuff locked up and secure. All you need out there is enough money to pay for drinks and maybe some food and your room key. And if you want to consider your phone essential, fine, but be careful with that too.
And just enjoy yourself!
It is easy to read these sensible precautions and get a little paranoid but honestly it is absolutely fine, just remember to keep your head as you have a good time and you will generally be absolutely fine.
And yes, okay, the full moon party may be a Thai backpacker cliche and it certianly isn’t for everyone, I probably will never do it again myself, but it is an experience I am happy to say I have ticked off. So go there, forget any expectations you may have and just let your hair down.
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