Full moon fun on Koh Phangan

There is one activity that is a must for any young traveller in Southeast Asia and that is to attend the famous Full Moon party. This monthly event used to be nothing more than a small gathering on the beach put together by locals for each full moon. Now thirty years on, it has become one of the biggest and well known parties in the world with people travelling from across the globe to be a part of it. Attending the Full moon party is almost like an initiation into the ‘club’ of the travelling community.

Our travelling trip was pretty much planned around the dates of the Full moon party, since it was only a monthly occasion. We had heard that accommodation goes pretty quick around these dates and were advised by others to book even months in advance. With this in mind we booked our accommodation for the party when we were in Cambodia to make sure we had somewhere to stay.

When looking online we realised that the prices for a room were very expensive. We managed to find a room considerably cheaper on the east side of the Island. It was a little further away but we were confident we could rent a motorbike and get around that way. Oh how wrong we were!

We arrived at the port on Koh Phangan with a heap of other backpackers there for one thing only, a dam good party! As usual there were a load of Tuk, Tuks and motos waiting to take us to our accommodation. As everyone bundled into the taxis a driver asked us where we needed to go. “Sea View Thansadet” we replied. With that a surprised look came over his face. “Oh err just wait here; I’ll see if anyone else is going that way”.

Confused by his reaction, we waited a while as we watched everyone drive off towards town. Eventually the man came back over. “There’s no one else going to that side of the Island. If you want to go in the Tuk, Tuk it’s going to cost you 2000 Baht”.

“2000 Baht!” we yelped. “That’s about £50! Why will it cost so much?”

“The place where you are staying is very far away and hard to reach. It has been raining heavily so the roads are very dangerous”.

We decided to ask a moto driver how much he would charge because they tend to be cheaper. “Sea View Thansadet, why are you going there?” the driver asked.

“Because that is where we have booked a room” we said.

“Ok me and my friend will do it for 400 hundred each but no less, the roads are very bad”. We had no choice but to agree or we would be stuck with nowhere to sleep. We were adamant there would be nowhere else available on such short notice and as it was getting dark, we didn’t want to be walking the streets at night.

We hoisted our massive bags on one moto each. They were just little scooters that could barely take the weight of two people on them let alone a 20 kilogram bag as well! Off we set perching on the back of these little scooters filled with apprehension about the journey ahead.

As we were driving along my moto driver was explaining that the place we had booked is very far away and that if we wanted to go into town it would cost us a minimum of 300 baht each time. He said we couldn’t rent a moto because it would be too dangerous. He then told me that we are only the second people he has taken there in three months because no one ever stays there. Apparently there are no shops and no restaurants accept their own but the food costs a lot. I started to wonder why we were bothering going all this way but at the same time, I wasn’t sure that the moto driver was telling the truth.

Well he certainly wasn’t lying about the poor road conditions that’s for sure! Days of heavy rain had created massive landslides across the road covering it with mud. This would be bad enough on a flat road surface with no hills but we were driving on pot hole scattered dirt paths up and down the steepest hills you could imagine on the side of a mountain! Just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the heavens opened! Pete and his driver fell off three times as they struggled behind us. I was clinging on for dear life hoping we would get there soon.

We finally got there two whole hours after setting off! The both of us got off the motos, took one look at the place and got back on! It didn’t look bad but it was miles away from any civilisation. We knew if we stayed there we wouldn’t be able to leave or it would cost us a fortune to.

We told the drivers that we didn’t want to stay there. My driver replied “Well why didn’t you tell me earlier, I told you that I know places to stay”. It turned out that the whole time we were on the motos my driver was trying to tell me that he knew of better and cheaper places to stay in Koh Phangan but I couldn’t hear him because the motorbike was so loud! That would have saved a massive and costly journey!

In the end we ended up paying the drivers almost double to then take us back! They were very nice guys though and would have taken us back for free but it was so much of a struggle getting us there with our bags that we had to bribe them with money to take us back as they weren’t too keen!

They took us around a few places and kindly waited while we asked if they had a room. Finally we found somewhere to stay on the outskirts of the main town. The room cost 550 baht. It was way over our budget but it became apparent that Koh Phangan is an expensive place, especially on full moon. We were just thankful that we managed to find somewhere to stay. It would still require us to rent a moto to get into town but at least the roads were safe this time and it would only take fifteen minutes!

After all of the drama we got changed and went out for some food. We had heard that there were themed parties leading up to the actual Full Moon party and soon enough we saw posters advertising a ‘Jungle Party’ starting at 9:00pm that night. After eating we walked around and noticed the place was empty. We asked a local man where everyone was. He told us everyone was at the jungle party so we decided to go and check it out. With that we caught a tuk, tuk full of drunken backpacks and made our way there.

We were dropped off literally on the edge of the jungle and had to walk a few minutes through the trees to find the place. As we walked around the corner, the darkness lit up in a luminous colourful shapes and patterns. The clearing was filled with fire dancers and alcohol fuelled ravers stomping to techno house tunes. The music wasn’t our scene but the atmosphere and funky UV decor made up for it

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We stayed there for a few hours but waking up the day before at 5am to catch our flight finally caught up with us. We decided to get to bed and preserve our bodies for the real party.

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The next day we rented a moto and headed for the main town to check it out. There was something so beautiful about Koh Phangan but yet something so ugly. Since the rise in popularity of the Full Moon party, I can imagine it’s changed over the years. What was once and uncharted tropical Island has since changed into a young tourist hotspot.

The setting was nice, a mountainous foreground lined with a rich blue coastline but as we walked around town we felt like we were in Magalouf! The network of small streets was lined with a multitude of western bars playing family guy and friends so loud that you could hear it from just about anywhere. Next to them were beauty salons, tattoo shops and clothes shops selling nothing but fluorescent Full Moon part attire. That was about it.

We decided to make use of what was available to us. I went and got my hair dyed and cut while Pete got his tattoo finished off. I must admit it was nice to finally have my hair styled after going so long with it looking a mess. Although I was a little nervous about having my hair snipped, she did a really good job. Pete was happy that his tattoo was finally finished so all in all it was a good pamper day for the both of us.

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On our way back we noticed that there was a Mauy Thai boxing competition going on. We had wanted to see the boxing for real since our lesson in Chiang Mai so we decided to pull over and check it out. We stepped into this floodlight lit shed and squeezed in among the sweaty crowd. The place was full of ruckus travellers cheering for their side along with Thai men waving wads of cash praying that they didn’t lose their bet. It was like something off a movie. After a while we started joining in. The atmosphere was so infectious; who knew boxing could be so entertaining!

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Bored already of the main town, the following day we decided to go exploring somewhere else. Koh Phangan is pretty big but most people don’t venture to the other side. We found a nice, quiet beach and spent the day there relaxing. It wasn’t clear skies but at least we were away from all the madness.

In thrilled by the Mauy Thai boxing the previous night, we decided to go to it again. We managed to get front row seats this time since we were early and I even managed to get a picture with one of the fighters! After the boxing was over we left a little tipsy with some friends we made, to the beach. We ended up going to the pre-Full Moon party which was apparently exactly the same as the main one, just a little smaller. This would later be something we’d regret, as the next day was a write off!

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After a whole day recovering, it was time for the Full Moon party. I must admit our stomachs were still a little unsettled from the previous night but we were determined not to miss this party. It was the whole reason why we came! We slipped on our glad rags, I worked a little magic with a paint brush and off we went.

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As soon as we arrived who better to bump into but our crazy Mexican friend Efren! We knew he would be there but amongst the thousands of multi-colour dressed backpackers, we thought the chances of seeing him were slim. He certainly looked the part anyway; can you guess which one he is?

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The party stretched from either side of the beach with each bar competing against the next, trying to entice you in. It was like a mad circus. There were fire jugglers, dancers, colourful lights illuminating the bars pumping music. But the madness would be nothing without hare-brained clowns filling their guts with spirits and their minds with ecstasy.

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As we networked through the crowds seeking our taste in music, the beach floor was already scattered in its first victims. It was barely 12:00pm but the Full Moon party had already claimed its early peekers who were in too much of a rush to get wasted. After hearing stories of buckets being spiked, we decided to stick to bottled beverages only and keep it to a minimum.

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We finally stumbled across some decent Drum and Bass and spent most of the night stomping to the beat. Later on we bumped into our Swedish friends who we met at Halong Bay. Again what are the chances of that!? I even had a picture with another Mauy Thai boxer that I spotted on the dance floor. I spent the night socialising with all sorts of weird and wonderful characters and Pete spent the night fixed to the dance floor, entranced in the bass in typical Pete fashion.

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As the sun rose I looked around at the last remaining party goers. We had survived the Full Moon party and literally danced until the sun came up. What a party. You can imagine how we spent the day. Four days of non-stop partying had finally caught up on us and it was time for some rest and recuperation. I need at least a month to detox from this, I thought to myself as my face sunk further and further into my pillow.

The following day we left to catch a ferry to Koh Tao along with the whole island it would seem. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the white faces of hung-over backpackers sleeping on the side of the road and holding back their sick! Koh Phangan had been a nonstop, fun filled few days and reinforced the fact that we were still young and could still party hard. But at the same time we were glad to leave and get back to seeing amazing things and appreciating the world for its better qualities.

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Goodbye Koh Phangan. We will never forget you but I don’t think we’re in a hurry to come back. I don’t think our liver’s could take it!

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