You get off a boat onto an island that the average person couldn’t find on a map. No one knows you, you have no peers, no past, no reputation to maintain, and if there is any one place in the world where you will not be judged — this is it. You can basically ditch every social protocol that you have ever been constricted to as soon as your feet hit the perfect sand.
You are practically rich by local standards. If you want power, you can have power. If you want to be a hippie for the first time in your life, a tyrant, a sexual tyrannosaurus, all can be accommodated.
There are basically very few rules in this hedonistic paradise. Dancing until sunrise. Sex (in the water and on the beach). Drugs. You can be as primal as you want, and you’ll have lots of company.
An island like this is basically a real test of character. No one knows your name here and what happens on the island, will not only stay on the island but will probably happen again and again and again. Some people fail that test miserably; you can spot them passed out face down in the sand wearing nothing but body paint. Others dance as close to the sticky web of doing things they have to live with later and don’t get caught.
One such island exists…
Koh Phangan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, has a reputation as being the vortex of anything and everything that is a party in all of Asia.
Say the name of the island to anyone that knows and experienced backpackers will either denounce it as being a tourist party craphole to be avoided at all costs, or their pupils will dilate and they will loose their train of thought for a few minutes as they have exhilarating flashbacks.
This island is home of the infamous “Full Moon Party” which has become a must-do for most people visiting Thailand. In my opinion, it’s better to come to the island before the massive party, then run like hell before it starts! Putting 15,000 drunk, horny, and drugged people on one beach seems like a good idea on paper, but with all the hype-up and commercialism now, it honestly isn’t as fun as the regular beach parties in my opinion.
Sure, I could tell you that Koh Phangan is actually a very large and beautiful island full of private beaches and bays, that the party area is restricted to one very small peninsular beach called Haad Rin, and that the excellent beaches alone are a good enough reason for me to come here…
I came for the party.
Or I should say, the buckets. Thai Redbull drinks here are served in famous plastic “buckets” that make it taste so much better. If you aren’t familiar with Thai Redbull (illegal in the U.S. and Europe) give one a shot (assuming you don’t have a heart condition). Thai Redbull sold in little glass bottles contains a tasty amphetamine that ours in the cans are missing.
After getting rained on one too many times in Chiang Mai, I finally took an overnight bus back to Bangkok, stayed up all day to avoid paying for a guesthouse, then an overnight train and boat to the island. As tired as I was, simply getting off the truck in Haad Rin was enough to jolt me back to my senses before I even had a chance to get my first Redbull.
I was here in 2006 and had great memories (with what’s left of the brain cells they were printed on anyway) so I decided to spend my last week in Thailand here. I wasn’t worried, I’ve already passed the burn-out test back then, plus there were lots of familiar faces to help keep an eye on me this time anyway. Canadian Lindsay and Kathy, two of the greatest people I met in the Perhentian Islands are already here plus a handful of other fun people are on their way.
This trip has been the most interesting ever for running into the same people again and again, which is a huge morale boost when you are living such a transient life. When you spend time with someone on accident in a second country or place, you realize that you really aren’t alone in the field and they become close friends. In a third meeting, they become like family! Things definitely move faster on the road.
Koh Phangan has changed some since my last visit. Prices are definitely higher and more fixed. A simple pad thai can cost you US $2 here. The taxi boat mafia has come together with fixed prices, no more negotiating. Even though this was the “low season,” around 1,000+ people partying on the beach every night is more than enough for me. There have been blue skies despite this being monsoon season!
The internet is criminally expensive here, so assuming I survive the nightly madness, I will make an update when I get back to Bangkok next week.
Luckily, I am missing the Full Moon Party this time, but I will be here for one of the “black moon” raves which are held in the jungle. I’d like to say that I will skip it, but put “moon,” “rave,” and “jungle” into the same sentence and my pupils dilate as mentioned before.
If you don’t hear from me in about a week…contact the authorities.