Full Moon Party: The Ultimate Guide

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When my friends and I planned our trip to South-East Asia a few years ago we had only a handful of things that we knew we wanted to do beforehand (as we knew very little about the area).

The main thing on everyone’s list was: Go to a Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand.

But what is the Full Moon Party, how do you get there, where do you stay and why is it so darn popular?

What is the Full Moon Party?
The Full Moon Party is an event that takes place once a month on the night of the full moon.

No-one seems to quite know when or how it was started, but it’s estimated that some time in the late 80’s a group of party-loving backpackers threw a party on Haad Rin beach on the day (and night) of the full moon.

Full Moon PartyThe party was such a success that they decided to come back the next year and do it again. Subsequent successes lead to the party being held every month, and as the stories of it grew people started coming from far and wide to join in on the action.

Thanks to films such as ‘The Beach’, the party is now known the world over, and although it has become significantly more commercial in the past decade, the spirit of it remains.

The Full Moon Party takes place on Sunrise beach in Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. There are several bars all along the beach that play loud dance/rave/trance music all night long, and you can buy drinks there (or from one of the many stalls) and take them onto the beach to enjoy.

There are often lots of local fire-dancers who twirl flaming sticks around or perform Poi, and you’ll see lots of people’s bodies painted with glow-in-the-dark paint.

Due to the success of the Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has become a non-stop party island, with parties (such as the Half Moon and Black Moon parties) going on almost every night.

When Does the Party Take Place?
As I mentioned earlier, the party takes place one a month to line up with the full moon.

For a full schedule of dates, check out this website.

Getting There

The only way to get to Koh Phangan (the island where the party is held) is by ferry, as there is no airport on the island.

You can get a ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland (which costs around 600 Baht for a return ticket) or you can stop off at the island of Ko Samui on the way and go from there.

You can get an overnight bus straight to Surat Thani from Bangkok. This seems to be the cheapest way of doing things for travelers coming in from the North.

Alternatively, the nearest airport is on Ko Samui (although Surat Thani also has an airport), so you can fly into there and take a short ferry ride across to Koh Phangan.

Most ferries will drop you off at Thong Sala, so to get to Haad Rin (where the party is taking place) you’ll need to get a taxi.

These ferries will be ridiculously busy on the day of the party, so try to arrive a couple of days in advance (at least) if possible).

Crowd

Where to Stay

Due to the demand and the size of the party, there’s now accommodation over almost the entire island. That being said, unless you’re staying in Haad Rin you’ll have to get a taxi in to get to the party.

To get a place in Haad Rin, you’ll need to either book in advance of show up AT LEAST 4-5 days before the party.

It amazes me how many people seem to think they can turn up on the day, walk into the first guesthouse and find a room.

Getting there a few days early allows you soak up the atmosphere and to avoid disappointment.

Haad Rin is a great and convenient place to stay, but staying in a guesthouse right on the beach can be a bit of a pain when you’re trying to sleep at 10am and the music’s still blaring.

If you fancy staying somewhere a bit more secluded that’s a bit quieter during the day (but still close to the action), I recommend staying at Ban Tai beach.

The Day of the Party

As the day of the full moon approaches, the amount of people on the island will increase dramatically, as people will flood from all over South-East Asia to be there.

Because the party goes on till well past sunrise (I left at 9:30am and there was still a large crowd), most people don’t head down to Haad Rin beach until 9pm at the earliest, with the party usually peaking between 12pm and 2am.

Money Saving Tips
Although Thailand is cheap at the worst of times (for Western travelers at least), if you really want to save money than there are a couple of things you can do.

First of all, buy your buckets away from the beach and your beer at 7/11 and bring it down to the beach, as it’ll be cheaper than buying it directly on the beach.

Secondly, if you’re not staying on Haad Rin beach but on one of the neighboring beaches (such as Ban Tai) you’ll need to get a taxi to and from the party. There are many motorbike taxis (where you sit on the back) that are quick and easy, but it’s often cheaper to wait for the shuttle bus (i.e. a truck) and share the fare with several people.

Thai Buckets
You might’ve heard a lot about the buckets you can get at a full moon party. So what actually are they?

Remember those little buckets you used to make sand castles with when you were a kid? Take one of those, fill it with a small bottle of whiskey, some (extremely strong) Thai RedBull energy drink, a can of Coke and throw in a bunch of straws to drink out of. Easy does it now…

Buckets

How to Survive the Full Moon Party

Stay Hydrated
The key to surviving the full moon party (and enjoying it) is to stay hydrated and pace yourself.

It’s going to be a long, hot night of dancing and shenanigans, so make sure to drink plenty of water before you get there and make a conscious effort to drink a little throughout the party.

Avoiding Theft
As expected with such a large event, the local thieves and pickpockets will be out in force during the full moon party. To counter this, bring only what you don’t mind losing.

When I went to the full moon party all I brought with me was an old wallet with enough money for the night (and a taxi back in the morning) and my room key. All I wore was a pair of shorts. I didn’t take flip-flops/sandals or a t-shirt as I knew I’d take them off at some point in the night and probably never see them again.

Drugs
As with most parties/raves of this nature, there’s likely to be a lot of drugs floating around in one way or another.

Being caught with drugs in Thailand is a pretty serious offence and can lead to you doing time in a Thai prison (or having to pay upwards of $1000 for your freedom). Just because you’re on an island out in the middle of nowhere doesn’t change this.

In addition to this, many of the local drug dealers will actually be undercover police officers in disguise, just waiting to catch out that silly foreigner who decided to buy drugs from them.

Handling the Buckets
I briefly mentioned earlier about the buckets that are sold during the full moon party. Drinking these buckets can be fun (and is a pretty cheap way of drinking as they generally cost between 200-400 Baht), but due to their potency they’re best shared with others and drunk in moderation.

There’s a lot of whiskey in these buckets, and the RedBull sold in Thailand is A LOT stronger than the RedBull sold in the rest of the world (so much stronger that it’s actually illegal in most places), so if you want to see the sunrise it’s advisable that you don’t drink any buckets before midnight.

Beware the Jump Rope
One of the more spectacular sights at the full moon party is the flaming jump rope that you’ll often see at some point during the night.

This is basically a giant jump rope soaked in gasoline and lit on fire. Two guys will spin it round and anyone is free to jump in and try their luck skipping.

Although it looks like fun, this is actually pretty dangerous and it’s not uncommon to see people getting tangled up in the rope and burnt pretty badly. Alcohol and fire don’t mix kids!

Thailand Jump Rope

Stay Out of the Sea
There are horror stories every year of people drowning in the sea during the full moon party, as they underestimated the current and the strength of the waves.

In addition to this, as there are very few toilets on the beach and thousands of people, a lot of people like to use the sea as their own personal lavatory during the party. Do you really want to be swimming about in the contents of someone’s bladder?

Going for a dip in the sea might seem like fun and a good way to cool off at the time, but its best avoided.

Although it might sound like there are a lot of dangers to attending the Full Moon Party, as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t do anything stupid you should have no problems at all.

Most people have just come to have a good time, and it’s extremely rare that you’ll see any fights/problems.

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