The week leading up to the Full Moon Party began with a jungle trek the day after my scooter accident. Heading out with Yingying she suggested we climb Khao Ra, the highest peak on Koh Phangan.
We rode up to the parking area and from where we left the bike we hiked up through dense jungle. Ever on the lookout for cobra snakes, the largest and most aggressive of the venomous snakes on the planet, we clambered up the small, muddy trail. I looked twice before placing my hand on tree trunks and branches. Last thing I need to add to my injuries is a well-placed bite from a jungle inhabitant.
With the dense trees shading from the intense heat the sun beat down on us, there was no hiding from the humidity. Two hours later, reaching the top, I had to peel off my drenched T-shirt and lay it on a rock to dry as we sat and took in the view of dense jungles, coconut plantations and the sandy beaches that tickled the lapping turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand.
I left a note in the jar in the tree that was full of notes from previous hikers and took in the dizzying height of 627 meters above sea level. Although slightly limited by my injuries I managed to make it up and back down, losing only sweat.
I was still astounded that there was no pain.
That night Yingying went to work at the Jungle Experience, an outdoor festive scene of electronic music. She put my name on the guest list and I headed over with Jim, an American staying at the Morning Star resort. The girl in charge of the list happened to be the administrative nurse from the hospital.
She waved me in and after Jim paid his entry fee, we headed over to the bar. I got a pineapple juice as I didn’t wanna fuck around with alcohol whilst on anti-biotics. Jim got himself a bucket and we hit the dance floor.
I stuck around until about 02:30, the music becoming a little too repetitive for my eardrums. Making sure Jim was doing alright on his second bucket I headed back to the resort on Ying’s bike.
We chilled out the next day. Issac, a mate from home had arrived and we met up in the afternoon for a late lunch (or early dinner). That night we headed out to the Voo Doo party, another outdoor festive scene of electronic music.
It was here that Issac flicked something off his leg. Yingying, seeing what it was, jumped between us, pushing us back. Someone next to us stepped on it and Issac finished it off. Just before burying it in the sand I took a closer look at the 6-inch centipede.
Slightly shaken but not stirred, we grabbed a bite to eat. Issac sneezed next to a dog, making it jump in fright which in turn had me rolling with uncontrollable laughter until tears were streaming down my face.
The next night we chilled out at the Am-Star-dam Bar in Wok Tum. It was the place to smoke some high-end herb (200 baht) and have the finest, purist, cleanest and strongest mushroom shake (700 Baht) on the island. Although that night it was only Issac, Yingying and myself, we decided we’d just stick to the smoking and save the ‘shroom shake for the Full Moon Party.
The sunset was an endless colour of orange and pink over the waters, the distant islands of Koh Tao and other small rock formations protruding from the water were thrown into a shadowy darkness as the sunset took over the show.
Staring at the darkening sky, Venus came out to play.
“Oh, hello,” I said.
It had been quite a while since I’d seen her. There had been too much light pollution on Samui and mainland Thailand to see stars in the evening but here at Am-Star-dam Bar I was contempt and happy to just exist on a cushion, leaning back and enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of nature.
On Saturday we prepared for the Full Moon Party. Nina, my couchsurfer host from Bangkok made a surprise trip down to Koh Phangan. I found her at the Delight Resort with six other couchsurfers. We hit the beach where I watched the Full Moon Party Beach Soccer tournament.
The teams were made up from backpackers staying in the hostels. A majorly Israeli team (there was one French guy) won an intense final that had the ref pull out a yellow card as tensions mounted. The final score: 1-0.
Later that evening I suggested we start the night off at Am-Star-dam Bar with a few joints and a mushroom shake. There were 11 of us, all couchsurfers (besides Issac). We split one shake between the five people that were keen to try it.
As the sun set and the full moon rose up high, so did we. We floated over to the balcony and stared up at the moon with its four rings of aura and a large cloud ring surrounding it – a phenomenon I have yet to find the name and cause of.
At about 22:30 we headed down to the beach in two taxies and two motorbikes. Yingying took us through a way where we didn’t have to pay the hundred Baht entry fee. We hit the Drop In bar at the far south side of the beach where the tunes were mashups of rock songs mixed in with some beats. It was a delightful change to the electronic dullness I find droning and repetitive.
“Is it me or did we already hear this song about 7 times?” I asked Jeff, an American teaching English up in the north of Thailand.
“Yeah,” he grinned.
“Let’s go check out the rest of the beach,” I suggested.
Yingying stayed with Dan and Lucy while Issac, Jeff, Nina, Charlotte and myself walked around the beach, stepping between drunken bodies, the thud of stampeding feet to the music of some hardcore psy-trance assisted revelers in digging a trench to the beat.
We paused at Tommy Resort where the music was lighter and had us dancing for a bit before we decided to chill at the Reggae Bar. I hadn’t seen anyone I knew and was hoping to find Baz and Jim. As we began to move on, I saw that our group had stopped. I looked to where everyone was looking and saw that a couple were having sex on the beach, right in front of everyone without a care in the world.
“Strange huh,” I said to Jeff. “We’re animals yet when it comes to sex the majority of us prefer privacy whereas in the animal kingdom, which we are a part of, they have no qualms about shtooping in front of everyone.”
Jeff nodded as we stood hypnotised, like deer in headlights, by the natural human act happening in the sand. Although it wasn’t the most erotic of sex acts I have come across it was hard to tear away.
“Alright, let’s go,” I managed to hustle the group and we continued on.
We climbed up to the Dragon Fly Bar to see if we could purchase some herb. As we climbed down the stairs to leave the place, I heard a familiar wolf whistle. I turned around and saw, “Baz!”
I clambered back up and hugged his fluoro painted mass. After a quick catch up I had to move on. I found Jeff and the gang on the beach and we headed back to smoke at the Reggae Bar.
Nothing like a joint made mostly of tobacco to burn your throat. After choking on it, we threw most of it away.
We headed back to Drop In to find Yingying but she was gone. A decision was made to move further up the beach and there I found Yingying and Dan the Pirate dressed as Jesus playing with a crystal ball.
And no, it wasn’t the mushrooms.
The goal was to stay up until sunrise which was still about 4 hours away. So we danced about. I politely declined offers of bucket drinks form passers by.
Who looked at a bucket and thought, Now that’s a cup I can drink from!
The effects of the bucket were all around us. Besides the environmental impact it was the people who were asleep in drunk yoga poses, swaying and walking diagonally that had me see why it would be better to not drink the stuff.
The Full Moon Party has been around for almost 30 years, started by a group of backpackers to celebrate the rising of the full moon. It took off from there and since has become one of the biggest parties on the planet with a stack of pre and after parties to coincide with it.
And 30 years on, it still isn’t owned by anyone or any organisation. Each beach bar supplies its own DJ and sound systems. Some have stages, decorations. Almost all line the beach with bucket stands with the vendor trying to entice you to buy a bucket. There are fluoro painting corners where you can choose a design and the painters paint it on you.
“500 Baht,” said the girl after I showed her a design I had come up with.
I smiled. “How about I pay for the paint and do it myself?”
“Khap-un-khap,” I grinned and passed.
Issac had retired and Nina had disappeared so we headed back down to chill out at the Reggae Bar where we watched the sunrise.
At about 7 am we retired from the party that was set to go until noon. It had me wondering if the marine life was affected by the sound of the party disrupting their nightly patterns. Party-goers used the sea as a very large depository for bodily fluids of all kinds from the standard one’s and two’s to the projectile vomiting and sexually induced liquids.
I had 3 hours to sleep before my audition at The Outlaw Saloon where I could get paid to play and help cover the damages for the bike.
I reached the saloon blurry eyed but ready as I jammed for Soren, the Danish owner.
“Can you play Sunday?” he asked.
“Whenever you need,” I answered.
“OK, we call you.”
Doing the rounds on the island I’m now booked in at The Outlaw Saloon and possibly The Harp, an Irish bar opposite the pier in Thong Sala.
“Can you play Irish music?” asked Carl, the manager in a thick Irish accent.
“I can do a couple of U2 songs,” I grinned as he laughed.
“I’ll come see ya at the Saloon and let you know. I’ve just lost a musician today so you may just be heaven sent.”
I just wish my voice was.
That night I was summoned at the last minute to play at The Outlaw Saloon. Dan the Pirate came round to support my 2-hour set. It was my first ever paid gig. It felt strange to call myself a musician as I have never regarded myself one. Just the average Joe who plays average guitar and claims to sing while everyone begs me to shut up.
Still, it was fun and a local girl even bought me a beer as she was enjoying the show.
After my ground-breaking performance, Dan and I invited two Russian girls we met at the bar to join us at the Oasis Aqua Bar for a party. You know it’s a good party when the Russians get too drunk to dance and retire early. But you know it’s an even better party when the police come and take the DJ away in handcuffs for not having the right work permit, shutting Oasis down at 1 in the AM.
The police aren’t just the law enforcers on Koh Phangan. They are also the bribe-driven enforcers that, as a club owner, you must pay them for ‘protection’.
Koh Phangan has a weird vibe to it. I can’t place my finger on it but I definitely felt better energy on Samui where I hope to return for some work at Vikasa to help pay off my dues.
The Dos and Don’ts of the Full Moon Party
Do enjoy yourself
Do go with the flow
Do everything safely with a trusting circle of friends
Do get painted
Do take a pair of sunnies. The morning sun can be very harsh after a night of partying
Don’t accept drugs from anyone. Either have your own and go somewhere like the Am-star-dam Bar to enjoy the cleanest and strongest mushroom shakes. You never know whose an undercover cop looking for a bribe or what they actually put in the drug.
Don’t go swimming under the influence. The water is as unpredictable as the party itself.
Don’t take any possessions you don’t want to lose. I.e cameras, phones, credit cards, passports. Just take money and nothing else.
Don’t drive after the party. There are enough idiots who do this and you don’t need to be part of any island statistics.