Im not sure if this is what you were looking for btw cause its not really an adventure but more like information. When my friends from Germany (where i go to school) began planning our trip to Thailand, they had one requirement: that we attend a Full Moon Party. I’ve been to some pretty crazy parties here in Kenya (Earthdance, Diani on New Years) but these guys have been all over and apparently this party even ranks waaay up there with Tomorrowland. They didn’t know a lot about the party but they had heard so much about it they knew they to go.
But what is this party? How did it come about? Why is it so popular? And most importantly – how can you get there yourself!?
What is the Full Moon Party? (this part I had to google lol)
Legend has it that in 1987 (or maybe 86? or 88?) a group of backpackers threw a birthday party for their friend on the night of the full moon. They had such a good time that they came back the following year to do it again and then the following month and then the month after that. Word got out and more people started coming each month.
At first, it was like a small house party on the beach – a few hippies and backpackers playing guitars, smoking weed, and having a few beers. But as word spread and more people showed up, it changed. The 1990s brought the rave scene and all the drugs that went along with it. By 2000, this party was squarely on the travel map and hordes of young people inspired by the movie “The Beach” flocked to Ko Phangan (where the party is held) and, since then, the Full Moon Party has only gotten bigger.
Now, the Full Moon Party is a giant festival-like party with a lot of drinking, dancing and a general good time. Each bar has their own sound system so you’ll hear different music loudly blasting onto the beach every few feet. The beach itself is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers putting on shows, and little booths selling glow-in-the-dark face paint. By the end of the night, you’ll see people passed out on the beach and lost flip-flops littering the beach looking for new owners.
Despite the party’s obvious commercialization, it is still a lot of fun and people come here looking for nothing but a good time. It’s rare to see any of the problems (i.e fights) you might normally associate with 40,000 young, drunk people. People here are just looking for a good time and the energy is very positive.
When is it?
As the name would suggest, the party is on the night of the full moon. It you miss it, there’s always the half-moon party, quarter moon party, and black moon party. Really, every night is a party on Ko Phangan its like this particular group of South East Asians are looking for any excuse to party.
There’s accommodation all over the island but you’ll want to stay in Haad Rin (where the actual party is) so you can be close to the action. If you want to find accommodation, you’ll need to come here at least FOUR days before the party in order to find a cheap (and nice) place to stay. The closer you get to the actual night of the party, the more you’ll need a miracle to find something – at any price range. I’ll never understand travellers who just show up the day of or the night before and think they’ll find a place to. They never do. I at a restaurant and watched the same people wander up and down the street many times in a fruitless attempt to find something. Its just like going to Mombasa or the Mara during peak season only an idiot would try that (no offence to those who’ve tried :))
How much does a room cost?
Here’s what you can expect to pay for your bed:
Dorm room (there are a lot of dorms here, something that wasn’t the case a few years ago): 300 Baht per night
Regular room with A/C and hot water: 500-800 Baht per night
Really nice room: 1000 – 1500 baht
Basic bungalow: 800 Baht per night
Really nice bungalow: 2,000 – 3,800 Baht per night
(btw 1 Bhat is like 3 bob in kenya or 1usd is 30 Bhat)
The closer you get to the Full Moon the more the prices go up. The day of or the day before the party, any accommodation left is going to be double the price listed. And if you go there for New Years, you can expect the price to triple, with many places also including an expensive holiday dinner that is mandatory. (Just another way to get more money from you!)
My friends and I arrived 5 days before the full moon and found a lot of cheap accommodation still available. We settled on a room we would all share for 1,500 baht. A few days later, the cheap accommodation was gone and all that was left were the high-end rooms that cost more money than a night at the The Stanley but with River Road quality.
Lesson: Come early, get a room, enjoy the party, and say no to stress.
Should you book online in advance?
No, not even if you are going there for New Years. The accommodation you’ll find online will be the most expensive on the island and require long minimum stays (sometimes as many as 10 nights). There is a lot of accommodation in Haad Rin and most aren’t on online booking services like Hotels.com or Agoda. You will only find them by showing up. Just go early and you will have no problem finding a room.
A good alternative to Haad Rin is Ban Tai beach. It’s the beach over from Haad Rin and where a lot of people stay when rooms start to fill up. It’s a short and inexpensive taxi from Haad Rin. If you stay on the northern part of the island, you will be very, very far away from the party and, though boat taxis and normal taxis run frequently, they are expensive.
How to Get There
There’s no airport on the island so everyone goes by ferry. You can go via Surat Thani on the mainland, or from the nearby island of Ko Samui. From Surat Thani, roundtrip tickets cost 600 Baht and drop you off at the main pier in Thong Sala. From there it is a 100 Baht taxi ride to Haad Rin. From Ko Samui, boat tickets cost 200 baht and leave from Big Buddha Pier or Maenam beach. The Samui ferry will drop you off at the main dock of Thong Sala or Haad Rin depending on time of day and ferry company. During the Full Moon Party, boats go from Ko Samui to Haad Rin every hour.
A lot of companies run overnight buses from Bangkok to Ko Phangan for 450 – 600 Baht. This price also includes the ferry. You’ll take an overnight bus to Surat Thani, sit at the ferry terminal for a few hours, and then take the ferry to the island. It is a long, long night/day but it’s much cheaper than flying. Also im pretty sure as students we’d look for the cheaper option.
If you decide to fly, flights from Surat Thani generally cost around 2,000 baht (with taxes and fees) from Bangkok on Air Asia. Flights from Ko Samui are at least 3,200 Baht since Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways keep a monopoly on the airport and see no reason to lower prices with demand so high (remind you of Kenya Power). During the high season and around New Year’s Eve, ticket prices can get as high as 5,000 Baht.
The Full Moon Party Itself
The party begins days before as people trickle onto the island. On the day of the party, you see people from the neighboring Ko Samui and Ko Tao and from other parts of the island adding to the crowd. You’ll see people start drinking in the afternoon and most people begin to head to the beach around 9pm with the crowd peaking around midnight to 2am. On New Year’s Eve, the beach will be full by 8pm.
Here’s what stuff costs on Haad Rin:
Average Thai meal: 120 Baht
Average western meal: 200 Baht
Banana Pancakes: 30 Baht
Cheap food sold on the beach: 40-50 Baht
Beer: 80-100 Baht (30 in 7-11)
Cigarettes: 80 Baht
Buckets: 200 -300 baht, depending on what kind of alcohol. They can be up to 400 baht on New Year’s Eve.
Toilets: 5 – 10 Baht
Money Saving Tips
Alcohol – Buy your beer at the 7-11 or buy buckets away from the beach, where they are as cheap as 180 baht.
Food – Food is expensive in Haad Rin but there are some good budget choices. Paprika, the Israeli restaurant, had an amazing a falafel sandwich and fruit shake combo for 100 Baht. In the center of town there’s a parking lot and if you walk down the street behind it, you’ll find small Thai restaurants that offer 50-60 Baht meals, about half the price of most other restaurants. Moreover, across from “Planet Hollywood” (just a restaurant that ripped off the name) is another good and inexpensive Thai place. Thai food is great but sometimes really strange, i had scorpions and squid with my noodles so I’d suggest you ask exactly what they’re putting in before you buy.
What the F$%^$ is a bucket?
Remember when you were a kid and you built a sand castle using a little bucket? Now, picture that bucket filled with a can of Coke, Thai redbull, and 375 ml of alcohol — and you now have a Thai bucket. A few of these and you’ll be having a really interesting night.
Party Survival Tips
Drugs: There are a lot of drugs here, especially during the full moon. All drugs are illegal in Thailand and punishable by time in some pretty bad prisons. Undercover police will try to sell you drugs only to arrest you. Locals will snitch on you for a reward. Thais love to crack down on foreigners who are dumb enough to be doing drugs in the open. And besides drugs are just stupid
Skip the jump rope: Picture this. We’re at bar. I turn to you and say “Hey friend, let’s go outside. I’m going to soak a rope in gasoline, light it on fire, and then you and some drunk strangers are going to skip rope.” You would look at me like I was crazy and tell me to get lost. But people on this island do exactly that – they jump over a rope of fire. It’s stupid. You may be the world’s best jump roper but the drunk guy who decides to join you might not be. At my full moon party I saw a lot of people get burned, and the rope wrapped around one guy’s arm and burn all the skin off. He had to be rushed to the hospital. It was not a pretty scene. It’s not how you want to remember your holiday.
Buckets: They’re deadly! One, two, three, passed out on the beach! I saw people having these things before the sun had even gone down. Im told they’re the same people I saw passed out on the beach by midnight. A few buckets will get you very, very drunk so I had a hard and fast rule that I followed: no buckets before midnight. If you want to actually see the sunrise, I’d follow it too. (Note: The Red Bull sold in Asia contains ephedra. This substance is like speed. It also negates the effect of the alcohol quickly, keeping you from feeling drunk. Be careful and watch your consumption of both liquids.)
Hydrate: You are going to be drinking a lot and, even though it is night time, the weather is still hot and humid. Drink a lot of water before and during the event! It will also help your hangover the next day.
Stay out of the ocean: It may seem like a good idea to play in the ocean but it’s not. Not only do you risk drowning (there can be strong waves), but everyone uses the ocean as their personal toilet during the party. There’s a reason the water is warm — and it’s not because you are in Thailand. Stay sanitary and don’t go in.
Wear footwear: Partying on the beach without footwear may seem like a good idea but as the night goes on, broken beer bottles and other sharp objects litter the beach. I had a friends slice open her feet after stepping on a bottle. You are drunk, it’s dark, and you aren’t always looking where you are going. Avoid a foot injury and just wear something on your feet!
Personal belongings: Theft is rife during the party. Bring as little as possible. Bring enough money for drinks and your room key. You don’t really need anything else. The pictures here aren’t even mine 😦 lost my bag and camera there but its just the same as any party in Nairobi, watch your stuff!
The Full Moon Party is one of the biggest and most well-known parties in the world. The vast majority of travellers in Southeast Asia attend at some point and I have saw people of all ages and nationalities (as well as a few families) here. The party is definitely a unique and interesting time but if not done right, it can also be expensive and dangerous.
So party — but party smart.