3 Crazy Nights in Koh Phangan

Initially, I had planned to avoid Koh Phangan and the Full Moon party entirely. I thought, “It’s gonna be a shit show and I’m just too old for it.” Most of my friends from high school and college are waking up 5 days a week and taking their kids to school before work. And here I am loafing around the biggest party city in Thailand feeling like a poser, surrounded largely by recent college grads on the ultimate spring break. There were moments I felt like I was part of a magical escape and moments I felt like an ethnographer witnessing a hedonistic right of passage. But let me explain…

The Beauty of It

It’s true what I read in other travel blogs, the two nights leading up to the actual Full Moon party are really the best nights there. I was accompanied by two wonderful ladies I met in Koh Lanta – Ada, from New York, and Bailey, from Vancouver. Our first night in Koh Phangan we had a beautiful dinner at an ocean-side restaurant and later we went to “The Waterfall Party.” (Disclaimer: We never actually saw a waterfall there.) For 300B (about $9, one drink included) we entered into a lively dance party with lots of space all around to relax, watch fire dancers and talk with other travelers. Upon entering, we were greeted with artists armed with florescent paint, eager to make us their canvases. So we indulged and had flowers and peace signs designed on our arms and legs. We were together and happy and thoroughly enjoyed the moment. It was a great vibe.

Me and Ada at the Waterfall party
Me and Ada at the Waterfall party

Our second night (and I say night because little gets accomplished during the day besides sleeping), we went to “The Jungle Party.” And let me tell you, it’s aptly named. One main stage with an impressive DJ and dancers drew the masses, while a second stage and a Muay Thai boxing ring drew the secondary crowds. It was so alive. Intense. To that date, it was the largest party I’d ever been too. The ease at which people talk to each other is amazing. Everyone is your friend (especially guys from Chile and Argentina ;)) No one takes it personally (for the most part) if you have a brief conversation and part ways, wishing each other well. And yes, there are buckets. Literally, buckets filled with ice and alcohol that everyone walks around with. And I won’t sugarcoat, many people do drugs there, too, but not openly. (Anyone caught doing drugs in Thailand is thrown in prison.)

The largest restroom at the Jungle party was a field with scattered palm trees, where girls walk left, and boys go right. I had to shake my head at one point as I popped a squat and observed 3 other girls doing the same around me, and a few men in the distance with backs turned. I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously urinating in nature! Nor had I intended to… but so many inhibitions are abandoned when you’re in Koh Phangan, and this is the least of them.

Bailey, me and 2 guys from Chile
Bailey, me and 2 guys from Chile

What was so magical about it? The beating energy. The beautiful and varied faces from around the world. Liberated youth. Adventurer spirits. I enjoyed it immensely. At moments, I even surrendered to the excitement and felt like a kid again.

Abraham Lincoln once said “And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” And I think he was right.

The Beast

So the downside of Koh Phangan parties? It really is a jungle out there… as the evening progressed at the Jungle Party, some alcohol-emboldened men decide it is okay to grope and grab and women. It was easily avoided as long as you were with your friends, but as you can imagine in this environment some people will become disrespectful. Overall, though, this was the night not to miss in Koh Phangan. The Full Moon Party itself, which we went to on night three, was in my opinion just too much. Even the 7-Elevens and back alleys became part of the long, endless party. Conversations were irrelevant.

Let me paint it for you: Droves of shirtless, drunken men. Neon-painted faces smeared from the heat. Sweat. Urine. Sand. Empty buckets of cheap booze scattered around the beach.  Mosh pits. Broken glass. Stand after stand of fried food. Drunk dives in the ocean. Public make out sessions. Men openly pissing into the water. Shall I go on?

While on the one hand, I can say I went to the largest party in the world (so I’m told), and the sheer madness and masses made it a sight to behold, on the other hand, it was something of a train wreck. And I just don’t like watching train wrecks, but to each their own.

Would I go again? No. Am I glad I went? Yes.

4 thoughts on “3 Crazy Nights in Koh Phangan

  1. Wow, congrats for making it to the full moon party. It’s that party along with Ibiza that I feel I missed the boat on too. Glad it was such a great experience for you!

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