I went to the most insane beach party on the planet -- and felt totally out of my league

Thailand is known for lots of things — gorgeous beaches, spicy cuisine, elephants. But in the last few decades, it’s also become known for one of the biggest bacchanalia on the planet: the Full Moon Party.

The party takes place once a month on the island of Koh Phangan, an hour’s flight from Bangkok. As many as 30,000 people attend the rave, which goes past dawn. Most are tourists from Europe and the United States who have come specifically for the event.

The monthly influx has transformed once-sleepy Haad Rin beach into party central. The town’s streets are lined with drug stores, clinics, t-shirt shops, hostels, and massage parlors. It has also become more dangerous, with reports of date rape, drowning, and even deadly shootings.

I was in Thailand for the 2016 New Year’s Eve bash (technically not during the full moon, but still a major rager). It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience … mostly because I’d never do it again in my life. I’m 30, and I felt like the oldest, most sober, and least neon-covered person on the beach. It seemed like almost everyone was either in college or a recent grad.

But it was awesome to see, just once.

Just getting to Koh Phangan for the party is an adventure. Like many partygoers, we stayed on nearby Koh Samui and took a speedboat, which made the 25-minute ride on the choppy sea feel like a roller coaster.

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The boat docked on one side of a peninsula, and from there it was a five-minute walk to Haad Rin beach, home of the Full Moon Party.

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Well, it would have been a five-minute walk on any other night. But after paying the 100 baht ($2.75) entrance fee, it was a long slog through crowds of partiers prepping for the night.

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The walk involved obtaining the requisite party gear. EVERYONE wore neon, and most people seemed to have bought new tank tops for the occasion, guys and girls alike.

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It's actually a good idea to buy a cheap shirt for the night. That's because the hottest beach accessory is neon body paint, and it doesn't wash out of clothing.

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You could get a cool professional design from a local for under a buck.

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There were tons to choose from.

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Like this skeleton arm.

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Or this impressive, fire-breathing dragon.

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Others took a more frugal approach and painted their friends.

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One popular design: the flag of your home country.

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We also saw some sage wisdom. ('Drop beats, not bombs.' Who could argue with that?)

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Next up: more accessories, like necklaces and flower headbands. Neon only.

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The hand-painted fedoras were a bargain at less than $3.

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The final essential before heading down to the beach? A monster-sized bucket of booze. These plastic buckets were for sale everywhere.

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Pick a bottle of liquor and a mixer, and one of these guys would toss in some ice and a little bottle of Red Bull. The Red Bull was essential.

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We finally made it past the shops and down to the beach. The scene was insane, with thousands of people packed onto the sand and waves crashing behind. The beach was lined with nightclubs pumping all kinds of music -- trance, house, pop.

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Most of them had stages set up in the sand. They were PACKED with partiers.

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Everyone was drinking and dancing.

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All that neon glowed under the black lights.

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There was also a lot of fire.

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We saw fire limbo and fire jump rope.

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And, of course, fire dancers.

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There was plenty of food for sale.

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Good thing, since the party goes 'til 8 or 9 a.m.

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Not all of it looked appetizing.

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If you were ready to go, there were taxi boats to take you home.

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My one piece of advice? Wear closed-toe shoes. And stick with a buddy.

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