Monday, January 20, 2014

Guest post: Full moon party in Thailand

Six days in Thailand is hardly enough to soak it all in. So we had a packed week with the usual activities: visiting temples, monuments, beach trips, canoeing, street shopping.

I won’t get into the details of all the places we visited because my family reads my posts it would be tough to add value to all the information that is already available on Thailand. Yet, there is one particular event/party/place that we visited and, as I was to come to realize, is not very well-known.

Koh Pha Ngan is one of the several islands in Thailand. It is a little-known, quiet island on most days. Nice beach, but not even close to remarkable when one is already in Thailand. Yet, every month, for a few days this island plays host to 15,000-20,000 tourists from all over the globe: Americas, Australia, Europe. And everyone has just one agenda – PARTY!

The crowds going crazy!
I am no guru on parties so perhaps my benchmark of ‘wild’ and ‘crazy’ might be a tad low. But if you are looking for an insane night without looking around every five minutes to check if there is a police bust, this is the place. 

Dark side of the moon
This party has a history and you can get some basic details here or here. No prizes for guessing it happens on the night of the full moon. And for some reason, the full moon here is extraordinarily big! It has become such a massive tourist jaunt that the island now has offshoots: Half Moon and Dark Moon parties besides parties on Christmas, New Year, etc.

So, if you want to be part of this, you might want to plan your trip itinerary accordingly. It is helpful to book accommodation in advance. There are small resorts (obviously, more expensive) and then there are hostels (Cheaper with decent facilities. Also, the crazy crowds are all here so more fun). I stayed at this place called the Lazy Hostel – a decent place, conveniently close to the beach. You can look up others at Hostel World

Most hotels/hostels need you to book a minimum of 3-5 days during the party. The island’s economy survives on this party so this seems understandable. A day’s stay should cost you 500-600 Baht. Plus, they hand you free dinner/drinks coupons so the deal is rather reasonable.

Alternatively, you can plan your stay on the nearby Koh Samui islands. Enjoy the scenic beauty here and travel to Koh Pha Ngan on the day of the party on motorboats. Entry on the Haad Rin dock (that’s for the Full Moon party beach) will cost you 100 Baht. One can then stay overnight at the beach and head back early next morning.

What’s so special?
The atmosphere. A lot of people land at least a day prior so the party starts on the previous night. Even during the day, it is fun to watch the liveliness pervading all streets. And come the evening of the party, the tiny town transforms into a smorgasbord of bright tees, glowing tattoos, pretty faces and colourful buckets.
Buckets of alcohol!
Pause for interesting detail. Alcohol is consumed in buckets - literally – though they are rather tiny. Each bucket usually has a small bottle of vodka, Red Bull and a cola. It presents an interesting picture, if nothing else. Then there are the glowing paint tattoos. Simple designs painted for 50 Baht or if you are the DIY kind, there is paint available at hostels/shops. And needless to say, there is a variety of party merchandise available, mostly in fluorescent yellows and oranges.

Music is everywhere. The beach shacks have their own mini-parties with DJs playing. The entire beach is just flowing with dancing crowds.

And then there are the fun games – from the fire-limbo to fire skipping ropes and even fiery-hoop basketball shots. It all depends on your level of crazy as to which you want to try. These are all free so you just need to pay for your food/drinks.
Fireworks are amazing too
Remember, people have flown in from across the seas to party. So, most of them are generally friendly and looking to have a good time. And if you want to enjoy dancing with complete strangers without coming across as creepy, people here are as welcoming as they get. 

Some points to note:
* There is drug abuse happening. It would be wise to stick to alcohol. One, there is policing. And two, avoid just because.
* Wear shoes. Yes, wear them with shorts. It is OK. There are shards of broken glass all over the beach and there is no fun being retired-hurt at a party!
* Keep your phones, cameras, money safe. Like in any other party. 
* Again a general party rule. Don’t be silly to strangers. Most people are madly drunk. You do not want to get into a brawl here.
* Stating the obvious here but, if you don’t like parties in general, don’t go. There is nothing else to do on this island.
Thin line between crazy and dangerous
How to get there?
One needs to make arrangements to travel to Surat Thani District. You can fly Air Asia from Bangkok or Phuket (though that would be slightly expensive). You can also take the road if time permits. It is less than 200 kms from Phuket. A mini-van (if in a group) will take 3-4 hours and cost 400-500 Baht a person. 

Once there, get to the Don Sak Pier where you will find ships that carry people to Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Samui. Again, booking in advance is useful. 

Intra-island travel can freak you out as the terrain from dock to the town is a continuous array of sharp bends, steep, undulating roads. So, just hold your bags and selves tight. And keep a silent prayer in your head!

Seems exciting enough? The wait for the next full moon ain't too long.

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From Facebook stalks to equity stocks. From innocent crushes to market crashes. Ishan Mahajan is your regular twenty-something navigating the tedious entry from college to corporate. He finds his peace by ranting on his blog Digitally Yours from time to time! 

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