… on Koh Phangan and the Full Moon Party
Location: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Music: RJD2 – Ghostwriter
As soon as we touched down in the beautiful southern islands of the Gulf of Thailand, the stress created from the past five days in Bangkok immediately lifted. One of my favorite spots in the world has always been the Caribbean for its white-sand beaches and crystal clear, warm water. I knew that was exactly what I came here looking for, and I wouldn’t stop until I found my paradise.
My first stop was the large, touristy island of Koh Samui. I didn’t have any other choice, as it’s the only island in the chain that can support an airport. They say it’s the ‘Phuket’ of the east — and for good reason; the “best” beach on the island was packed with resorts and Aussies dressed in banana hammocks dancing wildly to blaring techno music. Luckily for me, I had booked the perfect resort for Koh Samui, The Jungle Club. Nestled in the mountains overlooking Samui, the only way to access the resort is by calling ahead and having one of their 4×4 vehicles pick you up at the bottom of the hill. From there it’s a short, exciting ride to the top, and beautiful views, above-average food, and good people await. I had arranged a ride from the airport, but apparently someone else swiped it; so I was greeted by the news that I would be upgraded to the deluxe sweet, a $40/night room for the price of $10. I was ecstatic as I was nervous about the rustic quality of the bamboo huts that outlined the resort’s grounds. Needless to say, most of my time was spent perched high above the chaos, enjoying the views and swimming in the infiniti pool.
A quick, 20-minute jaunt on the Lompriyah high-speed ferry and I had arrived on the smaller, less hectic island of Koh Phangan. Koh Phangan is the next island in line in a chain that ends with Koh Tao in the north (which I hear is excellent for diving). Phangan also plays host to the famous monthly Full Moon Party that apparently started with a group of Thai friends on what used to be a secluded beach. Now, although nobody directly owns the rights to the party, it is a large commercial undertaking and a huge source of revenue for the islanders. I arrived a week early to claim my spot on what would soon become a popular destination.
Using agoda.com, which is great for booking accommodations in Asia, I found a small place nestled on the western side of the island, far away from the parties in Haad Rin. Suitably named Nice Sea Resort, I was welcomed into a family-run affair that consisted of two rows of bungalows, of different quality, facing each other. Nice Sea Resort also sports a private beach, a welcome luxury after coming from the bro-infested Koh Samui. Paradise found.
I would love to say that I got a lot accomplished now that I had the life I was looking for, but most of my days consisted of lounging on the beach, reading in my hammock, or swimming in the beautiful tropical waters. Mr. Nice, a younger, English-speaking Thai, took on most of the managerial duties, while his mother and grandmother manned the kitchen. Grandma Nice made the most amazing strawberry smoothies for me every morning and also a mean Pad Thai. In the two-and-a-half weeks (yeah, it was hard to leave) that I stayed there, I watched a lot of people come and go, developed some good friendships, ate some amazing food, and did a ton of reading. Towards the end of my stay, it was time for the reason I was there — to experience the Full Moon Party.
As more partiers trickled onto the island, the stage was set for the monthly full night of ectasy on the southern-most tip of Phangan, Haad Rin. I went with six others from Nice Sea, and it was a long, 40-minute ride in the back of an open-air taxi down to the beach. It began with the ritual of covering ourselves with pyschadelic Day-Glo paint. Two French girls I had met decided to paint a face on the back of my head, who they affectionately named Francais. Everyone bought literal buckets of hard liquor, while I opted for a beer. I had heard stories of what to expect — namely, a load of drunken gap-year teenagers free from supervision, urinating in the water, passed out on the beach, while others danced to crappy techno beats — so I was prepared for the worst. It turned out to be a pretty accurate depiction.
Don’t get me wrong; I truly enjoyed partying with my new friends, and the atmosphere was incredible. But after six hours of pounding bass, drunk Aussies tripping into you, everyone just relieving themselves in the water, and other debauchery, I felt out of place at my age. I travel to experience new and unique cultures and to see beautiful locales, but I felt like all that was being violated for the sake of some foreign coinage. It’s like going to the strip club with your friends, only to be disappointed at the beauty that’s being desecrated for the highest bidder. So, as one of the French girls pulled my arm to stay, I insisted that, at four in the morning, I had seen enough; and there was no way I would make it to sunrise with my sanity intact.
So, I retreated back to the safety of Nice Sea Resort, to the quiet and untouched beauty of my own little slice of paradise. After all, once you’ve found everything you ever wanted, what’s the point in continuing the search?