Aaaahh, the Full Moon Party.
Epic stories have been told about this mysterious event. Some seem to be true, most of it seems to be slightly over exaggerated. If you read the information on the internet, Ko Pha Ngan actually seems a scary place to go to, during the Full Moon party – which of course, is absolute nonsense.
I went there in April 2015 myself, and here are the ins and outs.
How it all started
Many accommodations on Ko Pha Ngan claim they started the first Full Moon party around 1983 – 1985.
However, according to the TIME, the first Full Moon party on the beach of Haad Rin, actually started in 1988. Not a single accommodation was involved in this party. Ko Pha Ngan at that time, had no electricity and no roads leading to the beach. Haad Rin was just surrounded by mountains and jungle.
Two Dutch guys, two Swedes, two or three Brits, some American hippy chicks and a bunch of half naked Scandinavian girls got some tents and a fishing boat. They decided to take their cannabis and ‘Buffalo-dung mushrooms’ to Haad Rin. The view on the moon would be astonishing, stars sparkling in the dark sky around it. The sand was glowing silver in the moonlight, even when sober.
Including some locals, the group would come to a total of 20-25 people, discussing the adventures of Shiva and Vishna around the warmth of a bonfire. After some ganja (cannabis) smoking rituals, the magic mushrooms would come out. People would get naked, splashing each other in the warm sea, and dancing around imaginary Stonehenges.
Must have been magical times.
Some of them stayed for months, camping on that beach. The word would spread.
Nowadays, the Full Moon party is something completely different. From March to October it is low season and 8,000 to 12,000 people join the party. From November until February it is high season and 15,000 to 20,000 party goers would show up. Up to 30,000 people are attending the party held during the New Years period.
It is one the most well-known events in the world, thereby losing much of its mystique. Nobody discusses the adventures of Shiva and Vishnu anymore.
Full Moon fever
Tiago and a slightly obese Joao (a name I still find hard to pronounce) had come over to join me in my travels. More specifically: to meet me at the Full Moon party in Ko Pha Ngan. I knew the guys from Kuala Lumpur, where I had been working the past year. Just like me, they had been expats in Malaysia for some time now. For Joao it would even been his last month, since he got kicked out of the country straight after the Full Moon party. Unlucky.
Tiago and I had been singlet shopping the day before. Attending the Full Moon party without a bright and colourful outfit, is like going to Oktoberfest without lederhosen – you don’t want to be one of those guys. Luckily enough, you can buy Full Moon party outfits for just 150 Baht, right there on the island – and for that matter, also on one of the other islands in the South of Thailand.
Just before we took the taxi, we got ourselves some supergay face paint at our resort. Since there were no mirrors around, we tried to convince the girl painting Tiago’s face, to draw a gigantic blue dick on his forehead.
As you can see on the pictures, she refused to do so.
After face paint, we were good to go. We arrived at the road that leads to the beach, to be stopped by some security guards blocking the entrance. We didn’t get checked at all, but had to pay an entrance fee of 100 Baht. You will get a fancy bracelet in return though. Nice souvenir!
We finally arrived. This has been the party we had been waiting for months now.
We were very excited.
What to expect at Haad Rin
Haad Rin is a beach of one kilometer in length, stages spread all over. Most bars will have their own sound system and DJ’s. The music style would vary. Most of the places play house, dance, drum and bass and psychedelic trance. In the middle of the beach there is a large main stage, of about 1.50 meter high (what can go wrong with that?).
Facing the ocean, on the left side of the beach there is a bar built on the slope of a mountain. This is the place you want to go for happy shakes and magic cigarettes. It’s not a secret at all. It is actually easy to find the bar where they make them. The shakes will cost you 500 Baht and a cigarette will cost you 300.
It might have been the season, but the shakes were a complete scam. We were advised to share the shake and to not drink it too fast. The shake normally would be too strong for unexperienced tourists like us. We did that to start with, but we didn’t feel particularly happy. We bought another one and downed a shake each, really fast, but again – no happy feelings, besides for the ones we already had.
The magic cigarettes were a better investment. I heard so from other people.
The longest party in my life
I had a blast at the party, but the truth be told, it wasn’t particularly epic. This always tend to happen with the parties that are expected to be legendary on forehand. There is simply too much pressure, expectations are set too high. In my experience, the parties that are legendary, are the parties you didn’t expect anything from.
It had been my longest party ever though. We arrived at 10 pm and stayed until 7.30 am. Along the way we lost Joao, but Tiago and me were still standing. We partied until well after the sunrise. The Full Moon party is literally an event where you party until you cannot stand anymore.
In the end, we came to the conclusion the Jungle party (with a whopping 500 Baht entrance fee) was better. However, this is all determined by the people you meet and the crazy stuff you do. Tiago got his hands on some magical fairy dust at the Jungle party, which made him think his clothes were too heavy to wear.
I can still hear him say, in the middle of the party:
‘Bro. My singlet is so heavy.’
Luckily, I could convince him to keep his clothes on, no matter how heavy they were. (More hilarious adventures with Tiago the party wizard also available on this blog).
Back on topic: you cannot force a party to be epic, although you have been looking forward to it for months.
The Full Moon party is anything but intimate and mysterious, as the first Full Moon parties on Haad Rin must have been. Secretly I wish I could go back to that one evening in 1988, where it all happened for the first time.
I was a little bit too young to be chewing on Buffalo-dung mushrooms though.
EXTRA: Insider tips to survive the Full Moon Party
Where to stay?
Enough about our story, let’s get to business. Here are the do’s and don’ts of getting accommodation during the Full Moon party.
Don’t: book your accommodation online.
Normally I dó book my accommodations online. However, for the Full Moon party it is better not to. Accommodations available on the internet are much more expensive and often you can only book rooms with a minimum stay of three to ten nights.
You don’t want to stay ten nights on Ko Pha Ngan.
In low season (March to October) you can show up the day before the Full Moon party, in order to find a good accommodation on the spot – I did this as well. In high season (November to February) and with New Years, I would recommend to go to the island four days before the Full Moon party. You will find a room.
There is no need to book online in advance – it will be a lot more expensive. The overview underneath will give you an indication how much a bed will cost, if you find one on the spot. Prices triple just before New Years.
Dormitory: from 300 Baht a night
Regular room with A/C and hot water: 500 – 800 Baht a night
Basic bungalow (2 persons) with A/C and hot water: 800 Baht a night
Basic bungalow (3 persons) with A/C and hot water: 1,200 Baht a night
Do: get a bungalow not too close to Haad Rin.
Basically all you do at your accommodation is sleeping and storing your stuff. Logically, if you want to sleep, you best get an accommodation far away from Haad Rin, which is located completely on the South-East of the island. Ban Tai beach is a popular place amongst backpackers, who wish to stay a bit further from the party.
A private room is recommended, drunk people tend to get noisy or lost some way or the other. Also, the chances your stuff gets nicked, are way higher in a shared accommodation.
When you arrive with the ferry to Ko Pha Ngan, taxi drivers will approach you to bring you to an accommodation they will get provision from. It is safe to accept their ride. If you don’t like the accommodation, you can always have a look around at other accommodations close by.
Since we were with three persons, we shared a bungalow. The bungalow had three beds, warm water and A/C. This is by far the best solution. We paid 1,200 Baht a night, for a minimum stay of two nights. That is 400 a night each, which can be considered a good deal in the South of Thailand nowadays.
We spend most of our time in the ‘First Villa’ resort. I would recommend this accommodation to anyone. The staff is incredible, so is the food and the swimming pool.
Maybe: stay at a hostel in Koh Samui and take the ferry.
If you are on a very strict budget, booking a hostel in Koh Samui might be a good solution. During the Full Moon party period, accommodations on Koh Samui are cheaper than the accommodations on Ko Pha Ngan.
It is recommended to take a ferry, you can easily book them at your hostel. Take the last ferry of 18.30 to Ko Pha Ngan. The company is called Haad Rin Queen ferry and will take you from Koh Samui to Haad Rin in 50 minutes.
You don’t have to pre-book the ferry, there are plenty of boats running on the day of the Full Moon party. I would recommend you to book the ferry on the day you arrive at your hostel in Koh Samui, they will pick you up with a taxi at your hostel.
The first ferry in the next morning leaves at 7 am. The company is called Songserm Express Boat and the journey from Haad Rin to Koh Samui will take you 55 minutes.
Check the ferry schedule to be sure. It can change over time.
Speed boats run all night long, but are mostly overcrowded and more expensive. Chances are high you will get seasick as well, since you are probably not completely sober when going on one of these small boats.
I prefer going home to my bed whenever I feel like though. That’s why I always would book an accommodation at Ko Pha Ngan.
Don’t: book a dormitory close to Haad Rin.
I booked a dormitory close to Haad Rin myself, a month before going there. I am glad I still could cancel it on arrival. Dormitories are incredibly expensive during the Full Moon party. Where I shared a private bungalow for 400 Baht a night now, I would have to pay around 700 Baht a night for a shared dormitory (the cheapest dormitory available online!).
Obviously, it is not a good idea to share a room with 12 completely drunk strangers. Everyone can just go in and out as they wish – mostly making a lot of noise. I wouldn’t want to see the shared bathroom the next morning either.
Don’t: sleep on the beach.
No. Even if all things go wrong, you should not sleep on the beach. The party lasts until the next morning and then continues – it is very likely you will not make it until the end. I stayed until 7.30 am the next day myself, and the party went on without me.
It always happens some people go completely off the chart and fall asleep right there, during the party. They will risk loosing everything they have on them (including their virginity).
How much money to bring to the Full Moon party?
Let’s get to the financial part of the Full Moon party. There are plenty of ATMs (also accepting Maestro) on the island. However, I would recommend to leave your cards at the accommodation. Just bring some cash.
Of course, your spending depends heavily on how much poison you will take. The overview underneath should give you an indication.
- Buy a singlet – 150 Baht. I didn’t buy one of the fancy dresses, but a singlet will cost you around 150 Baht (you will have to negotiate for that). You can buy them easily at Haad Rin itself. Nice souvenir as well!
- Get yourself some face paint – FREE. You can get yourself some body art at the beach, starting from 100 Baht. However, most resorts offer face paint for free. There are always some artistic fellow travelers hanging around. Ask them to paint you. Although in general you will sweat off the paint completely within the first two hours, it is a nice extra.
- Entrance – 100 Baht. The entrance will cost you 100 Baht. Don’t be a sucker and buy VIP passes from people who didn’t even organize the Full Moon party to start with. There is no such thing as a VIP area on the beach.
- Beer – 80 to 100 Baht. The same beers you can buy for around 30 Baht in the Seven Eleven just around the corner.
- Bucket with a mix drink – 200 to 400 Baht. Depending on the poison you prefer, you can get a mix drink for 200 to 400 Baht. Normally you can ask for a sip of the bucket, to taste it before you buy it. We always make use of this to ask for more alcohol (for the same price).
- Happy shake (total scam) – 500 Baht. This particular shake didn’t make me more happy than regular shakes from the MacDonald’s would make me. However, they cost me a lot more. Not a good investment.
- Magic cigarette – 300 Baht. Expensive, but worth it. I heard so from others.
- Normal cigarettes – 80 Baht. I have no idea what they are like, since I did not smoke myself.
- Toilets – 5/10 Baht. Although there is something romantic about pissing in the sea while listening to some techno music in the background, you are not the only one doing it. The sea is not only warm because of the Thai climate. Also, when you are standing with your back towards the beach, the waves will bring back your very own piss to your ankles. These are things we didn’t really care about after a few buckets, but now that I think of it, 10 Bahts is not a bad investment to make.
- Food & water. Full Moon parties are a Marathon, not unlike other parties, that can be considered sprints. You will need food and water. An average Thai meal will cost you 120 Baht, a Western meal at least 200 Baht. The cheap food sold on the beach (banana pancakes, pizza slices etc.) will be around 40 Baht. A bottle of water will cost you around 20 Baht.
- Taxi back and forward. You don’t want to be the guy who spends all his money at the party, and then cannot afford the taxi back home anymore. Taxi rates vary between 100 to 200 Baht.
In total I brought around 1,500 Baht. By that time I already drunk some beers at our accommodation. At parties like these, you will spend all the money you have on you anyway, no matter how much you bring.
Insider tips: Full moon party like a pro
- Wear shoes. There is a lot of glass and lost flip-flops lying around on the beach. This of course, is not a good combination.
- Bring clothes you can throw away afterwards. Chances are, there will be body paint on it later. I found out the hard way.
- Bring nothing but cash. Leave your passport, cards and phone at the accommodation.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Most people arrive at around 9 – 10 pm, some of them pass out before midnight. Drink water, share your bucket and eat.
- Don’t swim in the sea. Thousands of people are relieving themselves in there. Stay away from it.
- Skip the fire rope. Fire limbo dancing is relatively safe, fire rope skipping is not. Do not do it.
- Drugs. Do not buy drugs from the locals on the beach or the streets. Some will rat you out for a reward, others are undercover police officers themselves. Although it is better than Thai prison, bribes can cost you up to 1,000 USD.
Was the Full Moon party ‘Bucket list worthy’?
Yes and no.
Although the party was not legendary for me personally, it is definitely a party with the potential to be legendary. Nowadays the Full Moon party has simply become too commercial and lost most of its mystique.
However, fact remains it is still a fun place to go to.
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