The Full Moon Party.
These words have a mythical quality.
Part magic, part hedonism; the Full Moon Party attracts people from all over the world.
The premise is simple. Thousands of people partying on a moonlit tropical-beach in Thailand.
It sounds like it should be fun.
However, looking back on my time in Asia, the Full Moon Party is a footnote. I enjoyed it, but like a rite of passage, it was experienced and then not spoken about in the aftermath.
Expectations were high. But beneath all the hype, was the Full Moon Party an essential experience?
Much of the Full Moon Party’s mystique comes from its uncertain origins.
It’s rumoured to have started when a small bunch of friends had an impromptu party on Koh Phangan in the late ’80s. The island lacked electricity and so the full moon provided the light. People bathed in the warm ocean, in awe of the bio-luminescence.
The party became a repeat event and slowly spread through word-of-mouth, morphing into the beast it is today. From inauspicious beginnings it has transformed into one of the biggest parties in the world.
The Full Moon Party’s popularity is testament to the event’s appeal. But it has taken a toll.
The Full Moon Party feels tired. Ravaged by age, it lacks direction or a purpose. It’s better to think of it as a bunch of parties happening simultaneously, rather than a unified event. The bars lining the beach are run down relics of a long gone commercial boom. There is no rustic charm to them; they seem like cash-cows for foreign investors.
Every bar competes for your eardrums, blasting music at deafness-inducing volumes. It makes the runway at Suvarnabhumi airport seem peaceful. This is not a huge problem, since everyone wants to be on the beach anyway.
However, it makes it hard to escape the generic pop and trance that’s played. It was disappointing that there wasn’t more adventurous music. How about some trap, glitch or other experimental electronic music? Some 90s/00s hip hop would’ve been appreciated; instead it was all auto tune.
This lack of imagination was best symbolised by one bar which played the same playlist every night. Perhaps it was appropriate considering the mass-produced partying on offer.
The Full Moon Party
It sounds like I’m being overly negative, but it’s important to realise that the Full Moon Party is only what you make of it. It’s not a magical event where all you have to do is turn up and wait for the fun to happen.
No special transformation occurs solely because there are 30,000 people on the beach. In fact, being in a crowd on a beach in Thailand is very similar to being in a crowd back home. The people are no friendlier or worse. Free love doesn’t reign.
Nor was the party as unhinged as I anticipated. There were some incidents, such as a house catching fire and a stage collapsing, but it was not the madhouse I expected. It seems that the party’s spirit has been diluted.
Many types of people go to the Full Moon Party. It’s true that there are some idiots. Shirtless gym-heads with fake tans and steroid dependencies. Plastic bimbos ruining the reputation of all English-speakers. If it’s any consolation, these people are often the ones getting hit by the flaming-skipping ropes.
And not everyone is like this. The Full Moon Party is really a place for people who don’t want to grow up. Koh Phangan becomes an island of children, be they gap-yearers from Europe or sixty-year old Americans. This is even true in a literal sense – I saw children dancing next to guys tripping on mushrooms. How many kids can say they have been to the Full Moon Party?
I met a varied cast of characters. There was a middle-aged American guy who lived and breathed for Koh Phangan. A hysterical Swede tried to kiss me and my friends while his girlfriend stood and watched. There was an Australian meathead who talked non-stop about how his friends were probably going to end up in jail for buying drugs, which was ironic because he was rushing on speed. There were Puerto Ricans, Koreans, Austrians and Israelis. All nationalities.
At one point I even saw my sister.
Jigsaw falling into place
In many ways, the Full Moon Party is overrated. This had been my impression at least.
Round midnight I took a break from the party and wandered over to Mellow Mountain, a bar overlooking Sunrise Beach. As I walked up the stairs, people streamed down in the opposite direction, covered in fluorescent bodypaint and holding glow-sticks. I got a beer and sat down at the edge of the bar, my legs dangling over the cliff face.
I looked at the water twenty metres below my feet. Lights glittered on the opposite side of the bay, reflecting on the silver ocean. The solitary lamps on long-tail boats sped off into the night, taking their cargo of partygoers on illicit quests to a nearby bay. My eyes followed the waves rolling into the beach. Revelers swam in the shallows, blissfully unaware of the chaos around them.
Flames erupted from the hands of the fire-jugglers. Sparks spewed from the mouths of strange contraptions. Fireworks burst, cutting through the electric atmosphere created by the souls on the white sand.
And stretched along the beach was a teeming mass of people; a single organism moving in unison with the thumping bass-line. UV lights illuminated the yellow, pink and blue bodypaint, making a rainbow of dancing colour. Like a psychedelic dream, the crowd grew bigger as more people joined the rhythm.
I grinned. This was what the Full Moon Party is about. This spectacle was worth all the disappointments. A unique image marked indelibly on my memory.
And I was glad to be there.
Do you want to go to the Full Moon Party? What’s been your best overseas partying experience? Leave a comment below