The Full Moon Party in Thailand is on every backpacker and travellers to do list especially those doing the South East Asia loop. I recently attended the Full Moon Party solo and below is an overview of my experience both the highs and lows with some tips for those who wish to attend in the future.
What is the full moon party?
Once a month on the night of the full moon (or thereabouts) the notorious Full Moon Party is held on the Island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf Of Thailand. The party takes place on Haad Rin beach and is attended by around 20,000 people (mainly backpackers). It is customary to wear fluro clothing and body paint and majority of the crowd over indulge in ‘buckets’ of alcohol, small sand buckets that include a 300ml bottle of alcohol, a mixer and quite often a Thai version of red bull (extra strong). The party gets started early evening and goes into the early hours of the next morning.
Where to Stay – My Experience
There was a good vibe in the air when I arrived at Koh Phangan, a buzz of excitement a few days prior to the big event. I stayed at a place called Our House hostel a conveniently located backpackers right amongst the action and steps away from the beach in a room with 36 people. As a solo traveller my logic was I would easily be able to make friends staying with that many people.
I booked my accommodation in advance through booking.com although you could book it on arrival if you wanted to. I like to be organised, particularly when travelling alone so I always book prior to my arrival. For convenience stay in Haad Rin beach, you can walk everywhere and you’ll be right amongst the action. This does mean it is rather noisy at night, for me it was part of the experience but if you want to stay somewhere quiet I would suggest staying in another part of the island and getting a taxi to and from Haad Rin beach.
I would advise going a few days before the night of the full moon party. There are other parties on such as the Jungle Party (often rated better than the Full Moon Party) pool parties and other pre full moon party activities going on all over the island. Although my advice is to be careful not to burn out before the actual Full Moon Party!
My downfall – The simple mistake that ruined my night
I attended the party in bright colours and covered in paint with some friends that I had met during my travels, all set to dance the night away. Within half an hour of being there my iPhone 6 was stolen from the small bag I was wearing over my shoulder.
This cast a massive shadow over the rest of my night and it wasn’t long before I sulked back to my room. As a solo traveller your phone is your lifeline, it keeps you safe and connected to the world, while also being on hand to capture the best moments of your trip. Losing your phone in todays modern world is a complete inconvenience, not to mention expensive to replace.
How I got my iPhone back – A series of fortunate events
When I woke up the next morning, I was a mixture of sad at having lost my phone and angry at myself for taking it with me. I had been warned several times not to take valuable items but I thought it would be safe in my bag and I could use it to take photos. I was so very wrong.
I spent an hour or so pondering over what my next move should be. I still had my laptop so I browsed over my travel insurance, thought about buying another one, tried to locate it on find my iPhone but had no luck.
Half a day later, I decided to look on the bright side and consider it an unfortunate but survivable situation. It could always be worse.
As I was arranging my onwards travel plans for the following day. I decided to check “find my iPhone” once more and strangely enough my iPhones location was shown. It was still on the island.
I stormed into the police station (got in trouble for not taking my shoes off) and tried to explain to the non english speaking Thai police officer that someone had my phone and I was tracking it on my laptop. He muttered a few words I did not understand and summoned for me to follow him and get on the back of his scooter.
The officer took me to the pier about 1km away and led me to a big group of Thai men surrounding a table of iphones. I couldn’t believe it and had a lot of questions running through my mind where? how? who are these people? I saw my phone sitting on the table and a wave of relief washed over me. I was so very lucky.
I still didn’t know who these people were but one gentleman explained to me that they worked for the police and I would get my phone back after I signed some documents at the police station. Not sure what to believe I refused to leave without my phone so sat at the table not letting it out of my sight for 2 hours while they tried to locate the owners of all the other phones, until they were ready to go to the police station.
As a solo traveller I am very weary of being ripped off and being put in vulnerable situations. My gut instinct was this was ok but I still wasn’t convinced there wasn’t some scheme going on. I thought I may have to pay to get my iphone back. Slowly as I waited other backpackers arrived to collect there phones and joined me waiting patiently and also being skeptical of the situation.
These men who claimed they worked for the police informed us that they had caught a group of lady boys (men disguised as woman, common in Thailand) with 20 iPhones on them after leaving the Full Moon Party last night.
Eventually we were taken to the police station where we signed forms, made statements, and waited another 6 hours for the police to process everything. The process took a long time, but the police explained to us that these ‘gangs of lady boys’ target tourists for there valuables every month and they have been trying to put a stop to it.
The group of culprits who took the phones were at the police station sitting opposite us, which was strange in itself. They (not surprisingly) looked very unhappy and I have heard before that Thailand has harsh penalties for crimes. I am not sure what their final punishment was but there was speculation that they would go to court and be liable for 6-7 years in prison.
After a long day we finally got our phones back, relieved we didn’t have to pay anything and the police took us home. I was impressed with the Thai police about how serious they took the situation and grateful of the job they did. I have heard stories about corrupt police in Thailand but this experience taught me that sometimes you can relinquish your trust and have a little faith.
10 Things you should know about the Full Moon Party – What I learnt
- Lady boys may try and steal your phone and you won’t even notice. Even if you think its secure in your bag with the zip shut, you are wrong. Do not take your phone or anything valuable.
- When you order a bucket of alcohol, watch the bar tenders mix it as often this is when your drink may be spiked. Although this didn’t happen to me, I was warned it was a common occurrence.
- Drugs are everywhere. So are undercover cops. Do not go near or accept any drugs, it is likely to be a set up.
- Get a room with air conditioning. A must for your survival. Believe me there is only so long you want to spend in 35+ degree heat
- Leave the next day. As soon as the party ends the place is a mess and everyone disappears. All that’s left is rubbish from the night before and trust me you will not want to be there anymore
- Buy your drinks form the 7/11 and take them with you to the party. There are no restrictions on bringing alcohol in and you can buy it from anywhere on the island and take it to the party with you. This is good advice if you are on a tight backpacking budget.
- Don’t attempt to skip on the flaming rope. There is a skipping rope on fire in the middle of the party, that may seem like a good idea to try after consuming a couple of alcoholic buckets but the burns I saw on some people were going to be very painful the next day.
- If you are careful with your safety it’s likely to be the best night of your life. The vibe is great and the location is amazing. Majority of people are there to have fun and you can dance your way into the early hours of the morning.
- You must have a ham and cheese toastie from the 7/11. They cost 28 baht which is the equivalent of about $1. They are literally the best, everyone raves about them.
- Going solo is not a problem, the amount of people I met that were solo was unreal. Everyone is friendly and before you know it you’ll have a big group of people to hang out with.
A positive experience
Travel always has it’s ups and downs and I wish I had listened to the numerous people that told me not to take anything valuable to the Full Moon Party. Although this cast a shadow over my night, overall my experience was more than positive. I would highly recommend the Full Moon Party to all young travellers, it will be a memorable experience.