The Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Sunrise Beach strongly divides locals, other Thais and foreign visitors to Koh Phangan. Those Thais whose businesses benefit from the party tend to tolerate the noise as it brings financial reward. The taxi drivers make good money. The bar owners along the beach totally depend on the party to pay the high rents. The locals who don’t benefit either directly or indirectly from the party tend to stay well away. The foreigners either hate it or love it. The haters often refer to those seeking all-night techno, trance and buckets as ‘fool mooners’.
The Full Moon Party started out in 1987 as a small birthday bash on the beach. It was organized by Paradise Bungalows. The bungalow place is still there along with a rock to commemorate the central role Paradise Bungalows had in starting the parties. It seems unlikely that there weren’t any beach parties in Haad Rin prior to the one legendary party that initiated the whole idea. I guess more credit should be given to the person who had the idea to market the idea of the ‘Full Moon Party’ – a monthly night of carnival and mayhem.
The early parties were much smaller affairs than they are today: just a few hundred hippies mostly sitting around smoking weed; something like in Goa where the whole party on the beach and trance music thing really started.
The early parties soon caught the attention of the press both local and foreign. This caused a massive clamping down on the open smoking of weed. It also helped to publicize the party – the notoriety of the party drew in the punters.
With time the commercial importance of the Full Moon Party became apparent. 20,000 tourists spending money couldn’t be ignored. The result was that most of the cheap bungalow places on the beach were pulled down and replaced with bars sporting large sound systems. Haad Rin expanded its room capacity; and of course peak prices were introduced along with a minimum stay requirement.
The latest step in maximizing the profits from the party was in 2011 when they started charging anyone who arrived by land or sea in Haad Rin on the night of the party 100 Thai Baht. The ‘organizers’ (there are no organizers) claim it is for security, cleaning etc. In Thailand these are dubious claims. No doubt the admission price will soon be 150 Thai Baht. Maybe they will blame the price increase on the price of petrol.
On the plus side, the Full Moon Party is quite a spectacle. The beach is packed with young Thais and ‘farangs’ many of whom are covered in fluorescent paint. The bars are packed with people dancing. Many are dancing on the beach, in the sea and on tables. Others are passed out some in the safety zone, others not. The town is heaving with people. Everywhere you turn there is a stall selling bucket sets of gin, vodka or Thai whisky.
Each bar has its own sound. There is psy-trance, house, drum and bass, chart and RnB. To find out which bar plays which music check out this list of bars at the Full Moon Party.
There are always fire dancers, fire limbo competitions and long ropes on fire which the daring attempt to skip over. Many have minor burns that they only discover the following day – hence the recent proliferation of medical clinics in Haad Rin.
People go to the Full Moon Party because they love the music. Others go to pull girls. Others go to pick the pockets of the passed out. Others go just to see the spectacle. Others go, I suspect, because it is one of those ‘must do’ or bucket list things when visiting Thailand.
The Full Moon Party has brought prosperity for a few on the island. It is made Koh Phangan a famous or infamous place. It has also caused a rash of imitators. Around the nearby village of Bantai they have the Jungle Experience, the Black Moon Party, the Shiva Moon Party and the Half Moon Party. The local residents are feed up with the noise that these parties generate. Despite their protests the police seem reluctant to kill these geese that lay golden eggs. Haad Rin now also has Love:Is a new beach party. In Thailand a good business idea can never be copied too many times.
For those not keen on the party atmosphere, trance music and the concomitant illegality most of the beaches in Koh Phangan are free of the FMP bug. Than Sadet, Haad Khom, Thong Nai Pan Noi, Wok Tum, Srithanu don’t hold ‘warm up’ parties. These beaches attract hippies and those people who used to be hippies but now have money. They want peace, sand, warm seas and that Robinson Crusoe sense of being stranded far from the concerns of the world and the big raves in Haad Rin and Bantai.
To get an idea of what the Full Moon Party is like check out the Youtube clip above. It must be stressed, which the fool in the video didn’t, that the full moon doesn’t happen to fall on the last night of the year. They also have a party at Christmas. It just makes more commercial sense to hold parties at these times – nobody will notice that the moon is far from full.