I’ve heard many exciting stories about the huge party that happens on the island of Koh Phangan. On one special day of every month, the party people gather on the island to dance the night away. They come from near and afar, with only one thing on their minds– to get drunk and go crazy.
The Koh Phangan Full Moon party is held before or after every full moon on Haad Rin beach, located on the southern tip of the island. It all started with a small party amongst a few travelers to celebrate the full moon… which by word of mouth, eventually turned into a crazy monthly event. Now, the island is filled with thousands of visitors on that one day of the month. They crowd around the main stretch of beach, lined with bars, pubs and clubs decorated with lights and fire, and blaring loud music all throughout the night.
It was my first time experiencing the Full Moon party, and I have to say, it is a haven for those looking to have a good time… and everything that comes with it. Here’s an account of how I spend my time at the party, and Koh Phangan.
There is only one way to get to Koh Phangan; and that is by boat. There are no airports on the island– the nearest ones are Surat Thani on the mainland and Koh Samui. I was flying from Kuala Lumpur, so I went with the cheapest option and flew into Surat Thani on Air Asia. There is only one AA flight a day between the two cities– but thankfully I was able to make an immediate connection to Koh Phangan on the same day. Unfortunately though, the transfer takes more than half a day.
I arrived at Surat Thani airport at noon, took an hour bus ride to the Donsak Pier for my ferry ride (Lomprayah) at 2.30pm. The ferry didn’t leave on time– and made a pit stop at Koh Samui, so by the time I arrived in Koh Phangan, it was 6pm and almost dark. I was dead tired… but that didn’t stop me from wanting to explore the island! I was in for a 4 days 3 nights stay– arriving a day before the Full Moon party and leaving 2 days after.
I stayed at the Blue Marine Resort– a simple (and cheap) chalet resort on the other side of Haad Rin. Simple and basic rooms, small bathroom with a weak shower, problematic wi-fi… but decent enough for the price, and the awesome location. I wanted to stay slightly away from the noise and the ‘happy’ people, but close enough to be able to walk to where the action is.
This resort was perfect! It also faces a beach (Sunset Beach)… a small one, but great to relax and soak in the sun.
The town of Haad Rin is small and filled with backpacker resorts, small restaurants and souvenir shops. It is possible to walk the entire town, but you’ll see lots of tourists riding around in motorbikes and scooters. The town is messy and cluttered, and even more so during the late evenings and nights when its brimming with party-goes– all singing, and shouting, and dancing, and ready to have the time of their lives. So if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, or luxury and beauty; Haad Rin is not it.
However, the early mornings are a complete opposite to how it is at night. Most people are still sleeping and the place can get pretty quiet. On my first morning on the island, I made a visit to the main beach (Sunrise Beach). It was practically empty, and would be perfect for some sun time– except that it just felt a little too… open. No palm trees for some shade, and no privacy due to the many backpacker joints and restaurants lining it. It also didn’t help that there were rubbish still lying around from the previous night’s partying.
I retreated back to my resort and its Sunset Beach, and spent the rest of the day there to gather my energy for the big party that night.
The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party
The Full Moon party starts as soon as it turns dark. Some people may have been drinking since the afternoon, and for others, the party already started a few days prior. However, the best way to ensure that you have a good time and enjoy yourself is by taking it easy. You don’t wanna pass out too early and miss the rest of the night! So take your time; watch the sunset, have a good dinner and some pre-drinks before the party– and only head to the beach at about 9-10pm. That’s what I did.
By the time I arrived on the beach, the party was well underway. I just walked up and joined in the fun… with my flower band, fluorescent body paint, shimmering shirt and all. Alcohol is served in a bucket (a small one, the kind that kids build sandcastles with); locals call it the ‘Monkey Juice’– and it’s all about sharing and passing it around. Just be careful… that stuff gets people dead drunk!
I had a fantastic night bar hopping, dancing to different music from RnB to trance, and house and reggae, and of course, keeping my drinks in check. I met lots of new friends from around the world, partied with some guys in Power Rangers costumes and a girl in a sexy maid one, and even had a heart to heart conversation with a guy from Peru, who probably won’t even remember he told me his deepest darkest secret come morning.
Some people came alone, some with a large group of friends, but it didn’t really matter because everyone just partied together!
Towards the end of the night (which was almost dawn), the only people left on the beach were the ones who still wanted to party, those who wanted to watch the sunrise, and the few unfortunate ones who were too drunk to realize what was happening.
In anticipation of those that have little control over their alcohol, the authorities provide a “sleep area” for them to rest and sober down. Unfortunately, as I walked along the beach, I passed by people who were knocked out cold and lying in the weirdest positions. I even tried helping a lady who was sprawled on the beach; I tried to lift her but couldn’t, so I had to cover her up with a sarong. She was alright.
To avoid being a party casualty and ensure that you still remember your experience; Skyscanner has a cool article on how to survive the Full Moon Party.
The Day After
The next day, after sleeping in for most of the morning, I decided to join a new group of friends (I met them at the Full Moon party) for an exploration of the island. We hopped on a motorbike in search of gorgeous waterfalls and secluded beaches.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find any impressive ones. We had a map with us, but despite that, still managed to get lost. After a couple of hours of going uphill and downhill and into some muddy unpaved roads; we had to be satisfied with a tiny waterfall, and a small cove (it wasn’t secluded cause there were chalets around).
Still, the bike ride was fun! I later found out that because of the bad quality of bikes for rent, it was actually pretty dangerous to ride around the island. There have been several tourist fatalities reported, so if you’re thinking of going exploring too; take precautions, and make sure you wear a helmet.
The Night After
The party doesn’t stop after the Full Moon night. The crowd is significantly less (without the extra people coming in from Koh Samui and Koh Tao), but there are still lots of lights, fire, music and plenty of monkey juice to go around.
Most of the bars entertain the crowd with fun group games– balloon fights, arm-wrestling, drinking games and even doing the limbo under a stick with fire! I wanted a less exciting night after the previous one; so I had a chilled-out time just watching the crazy party people go wild and taking light sips from my little bucket.
Leaving Koh Phangan
I took the Lomprayah ferry back to Donsak Pier the next day. It was drizzling, so the journey was pretty rough. Upon arriving at the pier, I was immediately ushered into a van that took me to the Phantip Tour office (for Lomprayah) in Surat Thani. I had to stay a night in the town, as my Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur didn’t go with the timing of the ferry.
Upon arriving in town, I was almost cheated by one of the songthaew drivers– he pretended to be from the company and wanted to take me on his songthaew for an exorbitant price. I refused, and later found out that a trip anywhere around town would only cost B10 = 30 cents (US$).
Surat Thani is a small town– there is nothing to do here, as it is only a pit stop on the way to the islands of Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
I stayed in Tapee Hotel, which is a low-budget hotel near the pier. There is nothing around the area, so it is dead quiet and pretty scary at night. To avoid walking along the dark lanes, I took a songthaew to the pier for dinner. The overnight boats leave to the islands from here, so there were people around and small food stalls dotted along it. After dinner, I took another songthaew ride around town, and found out that it is dead quiet… everywhere!
The next day, I couldn’t wait to get out of Surat Thani, and head home.
After the Party
The Koh Phangan Full Moon party is one of the most famous and biggest parties in the South-east Asia region. I had an awesome time; it was interesting, eye-opening and definitely a great experience.
I have friends from Malaysia who religiously come every year and only have good things to say and exciting stories to tell. But for me, will I come back? Maybe… because one, I don’t like the long journey and the stay in Surat Thani just to get to the island; and two, there are just so many other parties and festivals to go to!