Full Moon Party

Posted by Garth on Sunday, July 20, 2008

Went to my first Full Moon Party (FMP from now on) in Koh Phangan yesterday. It was fun, but there were a number of factors which caused it to fall short of my expectations. Mostly they were just learning experiences though, and I'm sure the next time I go it'll be A LOT better, if for no other reason than the changes that I will make in my execution.

We decided to stay in Koh Samui instead of getting a hotel in Koh Phangan, mostly cuz the Phangan hotels require a minimum 3 or 4 night stay during the time of the FMP, but also cuz the hotel we were staying at in Samui was pretty reasonably priced and quite nice. For 700 baht/person they had a taxi-boat-boat-taxi service which takes you to some beach in Samui, piles you into a speedboat and whisks you away to Phangan - a 20 min boat ride. Then they run a pickup service in Phangan which whisks you back to Samui on the same (or similar) speedboat and returns you to your hotel. Sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice when we got to the beach there was one bar there where people sort of hang out and wait for their boat... and there were about 200 people waiting there. It was pouring rain, and no boats were running until it stopped, so even though we left our hotel at 8pm, we didn't actually board a boat until around 10:30pm. And I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to wear my running shoes instead of sandals thinking that (a) it would provide better protection against broken glass and people stepping on my toes, and (b) that it would provide better ankle support for my still slightly swollen and painful ankle. Well, it did both of those things, but boarding the boat required walking through knee-deep water, so I had to take off both shoes and socks and put them on in Phangan with wet, sandy feet.

On the boat ride over it was still raining a bit and there was a fair bit of lightning. At one point right after a lightning strike all the lights on the island we were approaching (Phangan) went out. They came back on a few seconds later, but it was definitely a sight to see. Once we arrived in Phangan we disembarked from the boat and walked through some sort of checkpoint area where we had to pay 100 baht for a bracelet, which supposedly went towards keeping Phangan's beaches clean. Considering this charge would have been about 100 DOLLARS back home, I found it quite reasonable. After that it was about a 5 min walk to the beach where the party was at, but even enroute all of the stores and restaurants/bars were open and there were obvious FM Partiers everywhere. Stands were set up everywhere selling buckets, which consisted of a mickey of booze and enough mixer to fill up the bucket. These ranged in price from about 180 baht to 300 baht, depending on the type of booze. Pretty reasonable, IMHO.

Once we got to the beach, it was pretty dark and tough to see what you were walking on, and there were a few areas where steps, which were actually just rocky outcroppings, caused a number of people to fall on their asses. The rainy weather, which obviously hid the moon, caused this particular FMP to be a NMP - No Moon Party. A flashlight would have been a good idea. The beach itself was packed with people, and there were various attractions along it, though most of the bars and various stands (drink, food, body paint, jewellery) were along the top side furthest away from the water. We wandered the beach for awhile and bought a few drinks. There was an area where the main attraction seemed to be fire, and here there were guys spinning fire sticks, as well as a huge skipping rope which had apparently been doused in gasoline and lit on fire, and dumb, drunk farangs were attempting to skip (and receiving 3rd degree burns in the process). But their drunkenness made for my amusement, and I managed to get some good shots of the skipping rope as well as a short video.

Most of my time was spent wandering and talking to various people. Met a cool French dude named Gregory (though I'm assuming it was actually Gregoire), and I was finally able to speak some French. I dunno about anyone else, but for me whenever I'm in an environment where people aren't speaking English I want to break into French. It's my default non-English language. Which obviously doesn't get me very far in Thailand, but managed to put Gregory on my side and we hung out for a bit before parting ways. Chanisa got a gecko painted on her cheek, and honestly the highlight of my evening was introducing her to this "scene", as she had the reaction that most people do when they first go to a rave - that of awe (I'm thinking of you, Mike). It was really no different than the raves of old, with the exception that it was on a beach, but really it could have been WEMF or the Love Parade or any such major electronica attraction that I've attended in the past. It was full of farangs, and though there were a few Thai people scattered amongst the partygoers, I think I've actually seen more Asians at parties in Toronto at the Guv than I did at the FMP. With the exception of the people selling stuff, who were obviously all Thai.

Since we were drinking our stamina wasn't so hot, and by about 1:30am I decided I wanted to get off the beach. So we wandered down some side street to some bar called Corner Bar. And let me tell you, this was the worst move ever. Everything was overpriced (150 baht for a drink, 120 baht for a shot). I ordered chicken satay and a couple shots of Jaeger. The jaeger was alright, but the chicken satay sucked. It was under cooked and the peanut sauce was like peanut butter that's been in the fridge. Took one bite and left it alone. A few minutes later I decided I needed to use the little boy's room (or "toilet" as they refer to it here). BAD MOVE. There was one toilet (not one bathroom, but one physical toilet) for the entire bar. And it being FMP, the bar was packed and probably had been all night. I was standing in line and noticed that people seemed to be taking an awfully long time in there. When it was finally my turn I went in. It looked like the bathroom from Trainspotting. Seriously. No joke. It was utterly disgusting. As I was standing there peeing I actually threw up a little. After I was done I attempted to wash my hands, but the tap was broken and no water came out. All I could think was "thank god I'm not one of those 6 girls that were in line behind me". It was around this point that I decided I needed to call it a night. It was around 2am, and the first return boat wasn't supposed to come til 3, but I decided to head over to the pier anyway and see what I could do. Turned out that there was a lot of people that shared my sentiment, mostly due to the rain, so boats had actually begun returning people to Samui early. We ended up standing in line til around 3am anyway. Got back to the hotel around 4. I had a drink and a smoke then crashed.

On the plus side of all this, the music was generally quite good, at least for my tastes anyway. Standard trance/house anthems and such. As mentioned before, drinks were pretty cheap, and there were food vendors everywhere who were also selling good food for reasonable prices.

Full Moon Party Recommendations

Based on the above experience, I have a list of recommendations that I implore anyone travelling to the Full Moon Party to abide by, or at the very least peruse and make a conscious decision to ignore.

  1. Wear smart footwear. Something like Crocs (I know, I know) or these funky things that Gregg sent me a link to awhile ago. Basically, you want footwear that will protect your feet from broken glass and people stepping on your toes, but at the same time you want to be able to go into the water with them and not worry about them getting wet.
  2. Check the weather. Obviously if you're making the trek to Thailand from North America or some other far away land and are staying for a month or less, you're stuck with whatever weather conditions happen to be. But if you have any say in the matter, try to avoid a FMP when it's a thunderstorm. I didn't see the moon once, the weather caused everything to be delayed, and it was wet and humid.
  3. STAY IN KOH PHANGAN. I can't stress this one enough. The ability to walk (or even taxi) from my hotel to the beach would have been a godsend. It would have meant that I could go there when I wanted to, return when I wanted to, and even swing back to my room in the middle of the night if I needed to pick something up, drop something off, change, or whatever. It also would have allowed me to avoid the 2 hour delay on the beach in Koh Samui while waiting for the speedboats to leave, and would have allowed me to avoid the 1 hour delay at the pier in Koh Phangan for my return trip.
  4. If you plan on partaking in substances other than alcohol you should really try to find it in advance and bring it with you. Alcohol is cheap... everything else is difficult, if not impossible, to find and the quality is questionable.
  5. Bring a flashlight. Even if it's not raining, you never know when the moon is going to duck behind some clouds and a flashlight, though not totally necessary, would have been handy on a few occasions.
  6. No matter how brave you might think you are, try to avoid actually skipping the flaming rope. I think the guys spinning it actively try to burn the skippers.
  7. Depending on where you're coming from, I really recommend flying. From Phuket flights can be had to Koh Samui for less than 2000 baht. The alternative involving minivan/bus + ferry is a long, grueling day which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. You'll still have to take a boat from Samui to Phangan, but next time I'm definitely flying to Samui.

UPDATE: Adding flaming jumprope video via YouTube.


Gillian said...

Will you go back for another one? Maybe with new shoes?

Garth said...

Absolutely. But I will heed my own words of wisdom.

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