Full Moon Party Survival
On the island of Ko Phangan is the ultimate party that happens once a month: The Full Moon Party. Complete with drinks out of buckets, fiery jump-ropes and hoops and dancing far past dawn, this is the place to go for some western comfort after traveling in Southeast Asia.
There’s nothing Thai about the Full Moon Party. Most stories say the party originated with a group of backpackers in the mid to late 1980s. At that time, Ko Phangan wasn’t well known, but this party has since grown into one of the largest on the planet.
But if you go, there are a few things to know:
Days Before the Party
- Arrive at least three days early to find a place to stay in Haad Rin. Taking a songthaew from anywhere else on the island will cost you ฿100 ($3.23), and you’ll have to wait for at least eight people to be inside before the driver takes off. The driver will then most likely stop to pick more people up and put them on the roof of the vehicle. This seriously happens.
- If you want sleep, stay on Sunset Beach. I stayed just off of Sunrise Beach, which is where the Full Moon Party takes place. Every night on Ko Phangan, the music thumps, blares and will pierce your ears through ear plugs. Also, hostel and bungalow prices are cheaper on Sunset Beach. Don’t make my mistake of paying on average ฿420 ($13.55) for a dorm bed on Sunrise Beach. You can do much better if you’re on a budget.
- Enjoy the party at Coral Bungalows, three days before Full Moon. This is the ultimate pool party. Picture those high school movies you saw, but better. There are 100 people in a pool. Couples are making out, people are jumping in the pool (or getting pushed in), and you may see the occasional streaker. Watch your head though. With alcohol, people aren’t looking when they jump in the water. One of my friends suffered a concussion after a guy jumped in.
- If you’re on a budget, skip the Jungle Party. The entrance fee is ฿300 ($9.68), and it costs ฿100 to get to the festivities. While you do get two free beers, that still brings the cover charge to ฿150 ($4.84). You can find sound stages, fire spinners, etc. on Sunrise Beach.
- Book your ticket off the island after Full Moon. Everyone is leaving the same day, two days after the Full Moon Party. If you wait until the last minute, you could be waiting a while before you’re able to get to your next destination.
Day of the Party
- You’re drinking all night, so the same rules you’d follow back home apply. Eat big greasy meals all day, including right before drinking to soak up the alcohol. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself with water. You can buy big bottles at convenience stores for ฿30 ($0.97). That’s cheaper than on the beach. Wake up late the day of the Full Moon. There are parties that go until 6 p.m. the day after.
- Wear closed shoes. People leave beer bottles in the sand, and it’s too dark and crowded to pay attention to what’s on the ground. Avoid a tetanus shot. Leave the foot-flops in your room.
- Don’t swim in the ocean. It becomes the toilet during the party. The day after the party, I remember seeing the water washing into the sand was a healthy shade of yellow. You’ve been warned.
- Have a buddy system. If you’re with another person, always stick together. If you’re with a group, set a meeting point where you will go back to in case someone gets separated. Our group had to do this quite a few times over the course of the night.
- Fiery jump ropes are a bad decision. You can smell the gasoline the workers pour on the rope. Even if that doesn’t deter you from jumping, the workers aren’t nice. If you can jump rope well, I’ve seen the workers spin the rope to purposely get people to mess up. Contact with fire equals burns on skin. And there are lots of people who have to go to the doctor the next day.
- Avoid drugs. If you haven’t seen Locked Up Abroad, I recommend watching it. Spending time in a Thai jail cell or prison is not how I want to spend my vacation. Unless you can pay tens of thousands of baht on the spot, you’re probably spending at least a week in jail, according to shows I watched. Uniformed and undercover police officers are on the beach looking for violators, and drug dealers will turn you in, too.
- Start partying after midnight. If you start too early, you’re going to be pass out far before sunrise. There are dedicated sleeping areas on the beach, but I’m not sure how trustworthy they are.
- Buckets average between ฿150 – ฿180 ($4.84 – $5.81). What is a bucket? Remember the sand pail you used to play with as a kid. It’s that with either vodka/whiskey and Coke/Sprite/Red Bull. It comes with three to four straws. Share with your friends.
- Cover yourself with neon paint. What you choose to decorate yourself with is your decision. I find this is the cheaper (฿40, $1.29) and more artistically expressive option than buying a tank-top or T-shirt that reads “Full Moon Party.”
- An hour before sunrise, move to the shore. You’ll want a good spot to get a view of the sunrise. If you wait too late, the beach gets crowded.
- Bring only what you need: money for drinks and your hostel key. Anything else is unnecessary. There are thieves on the beach who will pickpocket or snatch bags from you.
After the Party
- You could theoretically party until 6 p.m. Find out who’s hosting the after-parties at your hostel. Sunrise Beach gets quiet by noon.
- Did you drink water? I hope so. Drink a small bottle before passing out as added insurance. You can also do your own hangover prevention methods.
- Shower before you go to bed. If your hostel was like mine, you’ll be charged a fine for staining the sheets with paint.
- If you wake up with a hangover, I strongly recommend not drinking again. This only delays a hangover from occurring. Your body is dehydrated. It needs water. Drink a sports drink that replenishes electrolytes.
Most of this is basic, common sense, but it’s unreal how most of these things are ignored during the Full Moon Party. More than likely, you’ll be fine. Go, enjoy and experience one of the most epic parties you’ll ever find in the world.