Should you stay in Haad Rin? The answer isn’t so simple.
Haad Rin. It’s the epicenter of the Full Moon Party.
Haad Rin has everything you need. There are heaps of restaurants, bars and convenience stores. Pharmacies sell tramadol, ritalin and valium over the counter. Weed, coke and MDMA can be bought at more discrete places. Accommodation is everywhere, ranging from spartan dorms to lavish resorts.
Haad Rin’s location is another asset, as it is literally right next to the Full Moon Party.
All of this makes Haad Rin the logical place to stay if you’re going to the Full Moon Party.
However, it’s not quite this simple. In fact, there’s a problem.
A big problem.
Haad Rin, it’s an absolute shithole.
Haad Rin lives for the Full Moon Party. Perched on Koh Phangan’s southeastern tip, it’s a slave to the lunar cycle. The hordes of partiers from each full moon flow in an endless stream.
This transience is reflected in Haad Rin’s nature. Its roads are narrow and feel like they were laid randomly. Buildings are squeezed next to the roadside, each looking more haphazard than the last.
A hum of electricity pervades the place. It crackles and spits from powerlines that hang precariously overhead. This is Haad Rin’s soundtrack.
Haad Rin is small, and can be traversed in about five minutes. Its claustrophobic nature is amplified by the thousands of partygoers. The roads turn into footpaths as vehicles become subjected to the crowd’s whim.
Haad Rin’s location is its key feature. It’s wedged between Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach. Sunrise Beach hosts the Full Moon Party, and Sunset Beach is where the ferry from nearby Koh Samui docks. Gaudy hotels line each beachfront. While Sunrise Beach is absolute bedlam come nighttime, Sunset Beach offers a tranquil refuge from the madness.
Not that you come to Haad Rin to relax.
Haad Rin is a prime example of the corrupting influence that tourism can have.
Thai culture in Haad Rin extends as far as Chang and Singha beer. The local economy is supported by sales of infamous “buckets”. Bucket stalls line Haad Rin’s streets come nighttime, selling booze by the gallon.
If you have flown all the way to Thailand in the hope of eating fried chicken, then you’re in luck. “Chicken corner” has celebrity status in Haad Rin, which the plastic nature of the food probably justifies.
That’s not all. Schnitzel, pizza, kebabs, hamburgers. It’s all on offer in droves. Apparently you don’t come to Haad Rin to eat Thai food.
A spicy green curry isn’t the best hangover cure.
It’s hard to overstate just how dirty Haad Rin is. It’s a cesspit. Rubbish is everywhere.
I visited Sunrise Beach on my first morning and was shocked. Bottles, buckets and straws littered the beach. It was like a bomb site. I went swimming and was pelted with trash. Paradise lost.
This is how many tourists view Koh Phangan. It’s a place of no consequence, a rubbish dump; to be disrespected and then forgotten as the ferry departs. There would be outrage if this sort of defilement happened back home. It’s a double-standard clear to even the most mildly social-conscious.
The dirt and grime of Haad Rin’s streets will make your feet black. The morning ritual of shopkeepers is hosing from their storefront the bodily fluids from last night’s party. Bear this in mind as you step in that puddle.
There’s also a persistent stench – a combination of vomit, dog piss and fried food. This fetid odor can only be escaped by leaving Haad Rin. Even then, it lingers on you.
It all sets a new standard for cabin fever.
The convenience factor
Thankfully, there are alternatives to a stay in Haad Rin. Koh Phangan has many beaches that are beautiful and unspoilt. Some are only accessible by boat. Others are nestled down long dirt roads. It’s a very different experience to Haad Rin.
However, these beaches are far from the Full Moon Party. Going one way can take 45 minutes on twisting roads. The taxi drivers will rip you off. It’s an unpalatable choice at four in the morning.
Hiring a motorbike is an option, but you can’t ride back from the party. Koh Phangan’s roads are also easy to crash on, and the descent into Haad Rin is viciously steep. You’ll see many people with thick bandages covering their body — the “Koh Phangan Tattoo”. I saw a girl who’d grazed her entire face.
It’s this logistical challenge which made Haad Rin the winner — by default — for me.
Haad Rin is no paradise. It’s a party town. This should not be forgotten. Haad Rin is a place you go to have mushroom shakes, get drunk, and dance on a beach while covered in fluorescent paint.
That’s the reason you go to the Full Moon Party. Not to relax or stay in Haad Rin. But does this make its flaws forgivable? Hell no. If I returned, I wouldn’t stay there again.
Thank god Koh Tao is nearby.