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 parties on the planet: the Full Moon Party.
It takes place once a month (and on major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s) on the island of Ko Pha Ngan, 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 US 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 during the 2016 New Year’s Eve bash, and my husband and I decided we couldn’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it really was once-in-a-lifetime, because I’d never do it again. At 30, I felt like the oldest, most sober, and least neon person on the beach. But it was awesome to see, just once.
Just getting to Ko Pha Ngan for the party is an adventure. Like many partygoers, we stayed on nearby Ko Samui and took a speedboat, which made the 25-minute ride on the choppy sea feel like a roller coaster.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The final essential before heading down to the beach? A monster-sized bucket of booze. These plastic buckets were for sale everywhere.
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, which was essential.
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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