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Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan

Updated on April 9, 2015

Moon Madness

Koh Phangan compared to Ibiza

It is tempting to compare the small Thai island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand to Ibiza. Both were idyllic spots that at first attracted a few hippies who were keen to secure cheap accommodation and just spend their time smoking dope and idling around the beach. The dream became hijacked by the commercial possibilities of holding parties. The hippies were ousted out by a new variety of visitor who wanted lots of bars, noise, resort accommodation with swimming pools, and of course all night parties.

Mike Oldfield no doubt came to hate what happened to Ibiza, just as I’m sure many long term visitors to Koh Phangan have begun to despair about how their adopted home has developed. For a start the prices went up for everything, and secondly the police became a lot more interested in collecting a handsome revenue from catching people with drugs.

The final point of comparison is the music. Ibiza had the Café del Mar, Buddha Bar and the Balearic ‘sound’ that evolved out of the party scene. The music sells the destination and draws big name DJs. Now in Ibiza it costs 100 Euros or more to get into the big clubs.

Koh Phangan has developed its own sound. The DJs have taken Goa trance and Infected Mushroom and incorporated progressive house and rolling techno build ups to create an off-shot of psy-trance music. No really famous names or tracks have come out of the Koh Phangan party scene yet, but it does attempt some type of originality. The famous Full Moon Party was free for many years. Now they charge anyone entering Haad Rin on the night 100 Thai Baht ($3). That is much better than Ibiza, but clearly an indication that the main movers behind the party scene are keen to exploit the success of the party as much as possible. The real money is made by renting out the bars along Haad Rin beach. These places do very little business until the Full Moon. It is like having Black Friday every month.

What is the Full Moon Party Like?

The Full Moon Party takes over all of Haad Rin. The main party is on the longer (and better) Haad Rin Nok beach where 10 or so sound systems pointing towards the ocean compete for customers and sound space. All the bars in town and along the smaller sunset beach of Haad Rin Nai also turn up the volume. The area has the feel of New Year’s Eve with people bursting with excitement, booze and illicit substances running amok, covered in fluorescent paint. The focus is on ‘having a good time’ and ‘going wild’. Few if any of the people in Haad Rin have come for the music, just as the Irish would say for the craic. Doing the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan has become a clichéd itinerary high light like doing the Inca trail, diving the Great Barrier Reef, visiting the Taj Mahal or seeing the Mona Lisa. If you get home and you tell people you went to Thailand they will no doubt ask you about the Full Moon Party and lady boys.

The sound systems on the beach each stick to a certain genre of music. In this way they are easy to identify and can attract a certain niche. The exceptions are Paradise, Vinyl Club, Zoom Bar and Tommy Bar all of which compete for the trance dollar. Orchid plays drum and bass; Drop in Club plays chart and RnB; Sunrise Club plays electro and house; and Mellow Mountain plays psychedelic music to compliment their milk shakes.

The beach becomes packed with bodies, many clutching the famous ‘bucket’ drink which is a mind blowing quart of Thai whiskey with a can of coke and a bottle of strong red bull. While crowds of dancers form around bars just as many stumble around the beach. There is a charge to use the toilets so many people (especially girls) pretend to take a cooling dip but are really just pissing in the sea. People are passed out everywhere, some not so prettily. And of course uniformed and plain clothes police continually patrol the beach looking for somebody stupid enough to spark a joint or buy drugs from one of their informants.

Fool Moon Party and Pollution

It used to be a running battle in the 1990s between the smokers and the police. That has now finished. This new generation are all either boozed up, pilled up on some nasty pharmaceuticals or spaced out on the fungi.

Those peace loving hippies who enjoy the herb and Bob Dylan and show restraint when it comes to alcohol are nowhere in evidence. For them and for many others the Full Moon Party in Haad Rin is more appropriately dubbed the ‘Fool Moon Party’. This is apposite since the moon is a symbol for change, for lunacy and for the transmogrification of man into howling wolf. Indeed seeing some of the sorry states that buckets and shakes causes it is tempting to think that the moon has wrought some pathetic dehumanizing changes on those most susceptible to the moon madness.

There is also the environmental aspect to consider. As with elsewhere in the world it seems to be money versus nature. Do we make money or do we keep nature clean and unpolluted? 30,000 people turn up in Haad Rin for the Full Moon Party. They drop cigarette butts in the sand; they urinate in the sea and they litter and vomit. They must also place a big strain on the sewage system of the small fishing village of Haad Rin. It doesn’t need much imagination to see how the FMP is not good for the environment.

Slightly ironically the Green Cross in Koh Phangan raises money by having a beach party. The proceeds from the parties go to placing recycling bins on the beach.

The other type of pollution not just in Haad Rin but also in the nearby village of Ban Tai where the Half Moon Party, Black Moon Party, Shiva Moon Party and Jungle Experience are held is sound pollution. The noise from sound systems carries far, especially at outdoor parties. The locals have lots of sleepless nights in Haad Rin and Ban Tai thanks to the noise. Even when the bars are empty on Haad Rin beach the Thai lads in the bars are apt to play loud music until the wee hours. Either they are hoping to attract customers or they are high on yaba and couldn’t care less about those sleeping nearby.

Thumbs Up or Down?

Do I like the Full Moon Party? I think it is a great idea. I would have loved to have gone to the original one in 1987. It must have been an interesting party full of colorful characters with an odd mix of music. All revolutions turn into conventions; all clever sayings become clichés. I’m waiting for the next revolution – one that is hopefully more environmentally friendly than the last.

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