Backpacking Southeast Asia on our career break we were hesitant whether we should make a little d-tour after Khao Sok National Park to attend the infamous Koh Phangan Full Moon Party. The event is SO prominent, it has made it on the list of the majority of backpacking itineraries in Southeast Asia (just google Banana Trail). On the one hand our crazy party days were way behind us, but on the other hand being in the region at the time of the legendary Full Moon Party seemed like a sign from above.
In hindsight, even if it was a sign, we suck at reading them correctly as the party left us feeling rather underwhelmed, terribly hungover and exhausted, albeit owning new flashy neon attire. You win some, you lose some. If you’re planning on partying in Thailand, read our Full Moon Party review to decide if it is something for you.
To Help You Navigate
What Is a Full Moon Party?
The Full Moon party is a massive all-night beach party held monthly on Koh Phangan – an island on the Gulf Coast of Thailand. As the name suggests, the party takes place monthly on the night of a full moon. It is said the original Full Moon Party was started as a small celebration by a hippie community (tourists) on the island’s Haad Rin beach back in the end 80s. Since then the Koh Phangan party has gained significant fame and popularity worldwide, especially after the release of the Leo’s starring movie the Beach. Nowadays the Full Moon Party attracts up to 30’000 international participants ready for some serious partying in Thailand.
What’s So Special About the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party?
Alright, so imagine this. A gorgeous soft sand beach, the sounds of waves, a bright big full moon shining above you, fun music and an excited international neon—painted crowd of all ages peacefully dancing all around. No rules, no bouncers, no police, but absolute freedom to indulge and to feel liberated. Even if you’re not into tripping on magic mushroom cocktails to the sounds of reggae, it still sounds like a unique travel experience.
That’s, at least, the image the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party has had over the years. Recently, however, Thai police who for decades had their eyes wide shut on the consumption and distribution of drugs on Koh Phangan and the neighbouring islands has decided the situation was getting out of control. Without going into any speculations about drug cartels, corrupt police and the reasoning behind the decision, let’s just say the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party and partying in Thailand in general might be undergoing some changes in the coming years.
Surviving Partying in Thailand
We had heard and read so many terrifying Koh Phangan Full Moon Party stories, at some point we weren’t sure if we were more excited or scared of going. The stories were anything from drinks getting spiked, people getting serious burns from fire rope skipping all the way to getting killed in overcrowded speedboats between the islands.
Preparing For the Full Moon Party
Although it felt a lot of these horrors could be avoided by not getting intoxicated to the point of losing common sense, the fact that even our experienced party-going friends from back home begged us to be extra careful only increased our apprehension. We felt that in order to fully enjoy the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party without putting ourselves in unnecessary danger we had to prepare more than for any other type of partying in Thailand. This meant:
- Arriving to Koh Phangan at least 1 night before the party and staying an extra night longer to avoid traveling on the day of the Full Moon Party (also helps with finding cheaper accommodation)
- Staying within a walking distance from Haad Rin beach (the Full Moon Party beach), yet far enough to be able to catch some sleep
- Eating a proper dinner before going to the Full Moon Party and drinking enough water throughout the night (stick to 1 shared bucket – 1 bottle of water ratio)
- Wearing closed shoes to avoid broken glass bottles and needles
- Wearing a fanny pack to have everything essential close (and leaving most of our valuables back in the hotel)
- Having a copy of the passport in case of an emergency
Survival Rules During the Party
Besides these six precautions, traveling as a couple we have also agreed on the following rules to follow during the party (applicable to any partying in Thailand, to be fair):
- No drugs under any circumstances
- Not leaving our drinks unattended
- Not accepting free drinks from strangers
- Not buying the cheapest drinks possible
- Always sticking with each other
- No fire rope skipping
- Leaving immediately after either of us feels uncomfortable
Yeah, and that’s exactly how you want to start a “no rules” party – by defining strict rules. We found ourselves in this weird conundrum where we really wanted to be a part of a wild party yet not willing to take any risks. No matter how curious we felt about joining this once hippy party on a Thai island beach, we didn’t want to get f*@!#cked in any literal or figurative way possible.
The Full Moon Party Outfit
Since we never planned on crazy partying in Thailand nor any other Southeast Asian country during our backpacking trip, we didn’t have any “cool” clothes to wear as our Full Moon Party outfits. Full Moon Party dress code dictates neon inspired beachwear with body paint and any glowing accessories you may find. Luckily there is an endless supply of neon-coloured t-shirts, shirts, tops, dresses and all sorts of accessories you may need to pimp your Full Moon Party outfit.
Living out of a backpack for almost a year we were reluctant to buy rather overpriced extra clothes with limited practical usage. But hey – when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If we’d already travelled to join the legendary Koh Phangan party, we might as well do it in style. Or, at least, in line with the Full Moon Party dress code.
The Full Moon Party Paint
On the way to the Haad Rin beach there are multiple stands where for a mere 40 TBH (1€ / 1.2$) you can use the neon Full Moon Party paint to draw whatever you want to (or can). If you feel like your artistic skills will only do harm to your otherwise impeccable Full Moon Party outfit, there are street artists who’d be happy to help for a couple of extra dollars. Bottomline, no need to worry about showing up to the party without the iconic neon Full Moon Party paint.
The Full Moon Party Beach
The Koh Phangan Full Moon party takes place on the Haad Rin beach which transforms into an open-air beach music festival on a monthly basis. Cafes and bars set up their DJ stands and huge loudspeakers blasting psychedelic trance, house, dance, reggae and hip-hop. As we got to the party around 21:30 though, the Full Moon Party beach was still rather empty. We enjoyed a stroll along the sea, observing other partygoers and being excited in the anticipation of the Full Moon Party madness. When do things start to get out of control?
Every couple of meters there is a stand selling the iconic Full Moon Party buckets – essentially a child’s sandbox bucket used for mixing strong (often local & cheap) alcohol such as vodka, rum and whiskey with mixers like coke, sprite or Thai red bull. The latter is an unavoidable component of partying in Thailand and an absolute killer since it is significantly stronger than anything we’re used to in the West. If you decide to go for the Thai red bull as a mixer, beware of the consequences of mixing strong alcohol with energy drinks! Sadly, this one does come from painful personal experiences.
Full Moon Party buckets are meant for sharing, so we got ourselves one to drink as we made our way along the Haad Rin beach. We stopped and danced at a couple of stands, having happy small talk conversations with strangers and posing for pictures in the neon lights showing off our Full Moon Party paint mastery. It was fun.
Maybe it was the Thai Red Bull, maybe the exaggerated eagerness of partygoers, the lack of drinking experience, the exciting partying in Thailand or the full moon itself, but the party crowd’s drunkenness increased with a lightning-like speed. By the time we got to the other side of the beach besides having to manoeuvre the unpredictable party people moving trajectories, we could no longer walk on the shore as it turned into a massive public toilet for the men attending. Disgusting? You bet.
The Full Moon Party Fire Rope Skipping
We finally got to the most entertaining part of the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party – watching the intoxicated and therefore overly self-confident people have a go at the fire rope skipping. It was like watching a live version of a fail compilation on YouTube, something which could be called “The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Fails – Bruises as Souvenirs from Partying in Thailand”.
And this is when things start to get out of control.
Not really. Although there were a lot of failed rope skipping, jumping, crawling attempts, the men turning the rope are very experienced and adjusted the speed and the height of the rope for each contestant. Fire extinguishers stood on each side, ready to be engaged whenever necessary. Reassured by what we saw, later we daringly broke one of our Koh Phangan Full Moon Party rules and participated in the fire limbo dance, albeit not extremely successfully. It appears gravity works differently during the full moon 😉.
The Happy End?
To our big surprise, we stayed up the whole night and watched the sun rise illuminating the Full Moon Party aftertaste – empty buckets, bottles, cigarette butts everywhere, people taking a rest on the beach and the staff already starting the clean-up. They know the gist, they do it every month.
Although we felt like we were smart about eating, drinking and staying hydrated, the hangover the following day was merciless. The combination of cheap alcohol with carbonated mixers (and yes, one Thai Red Bull) were not agreeing with us. It was a classic “I’m too old for this” moment. Naturally, we spent most of the day in bed only getting out for some fatty food and huge amounts of water. Ouch. I guess we’re not going to explore the rest of the island.
Our Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Conclusion
The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party was fun, but nothing we would go out of our ways to attend again. We didn’t see any of the madness, wilderness nor uniqueness we had expected to see as the Full Moon Party’s main characteristics (maybe because we live in Berlin & Prague and have a pretty solid party scene? :D). It is a fun beach party, and that’s it.
Ok, final verdict – worth it or not? Drrrrrrrum roll, please. Ba dum tss. Ehm, maybe not in the shoulder season (assuming it is more fun in the high season). Although the party was still a unique travel experience and something new we got to be a part of, for us it was not worth spending three days (and a lot of extra cash) on it. No matter how cool our flashy neon t-shirts were.
If we were to ever attend the party again however, we’d gather a big group of friends or fellow travellers to go with. Partying in Thailand or anywhere else in the world is much more fun in a bigger group.
Our Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Expenses
Here below are a couple examples of our Koh Phangan Full Moon Party expenses (for two when explicitly mentioned so). Exchange rates as of the moment of traveling (October 2018).
|Transfer Khao Sok to Koh Phangan (minivan + ferry)||650||17.10||20.17|
|Shared taxi from the pier to the hotel||150||3.95||4.65|
|AirAsia flights Surat Thani (URT) - Bangkok (DMK)||2'216.5||58.30||68.78|
|3 nights accommodation at Thai Dee Garden Resort (dbl room)||2'610||68.65||80.99|
|Big fat dinner for 2 before the party||600||15.78||18.62|
|Full Moon Party outfit (2 t-shirts, flower crown)||650||17.10||20.17|
|Full Moon Party paint||40||1.05||1.24|
|Full Moon Party entrance tickets (2)||100||2.63||3.10|
|Cocktail bucket||200-350||5.26 - 9.21||6.21 - 10.86|
Where to Stay During the Full Moon Party
The Koh Phangan Full Moon Party is on the opposite side of the island from the pier. You want to stay close to the Haad Rin beach (and the party) and avoid having to take a taxi in the middle of the night with a lot of drunk people on the streets. At the same time, you don’t want to stay too close as the Full Moon Party and its attendants tend to get loud (surprise surprise!). We have found that being within a 10-15 min walk from the epicentre of happening is the sweet spot.
Accommodation prices tend to (at least) double for the night of the Full Moon Party. Getting there earlier and booking a room for more than a night helps score a more affordable accommodation. We had booked ours a day before going, but we heard you could also try getting a negotiated walk-in rate. If you prefer planning in advance, we can highly recommend Thai Dee Garden Resort.
How to Get to Koh Phangan
Easy. Ferry services connect Koh Phangan with most neighbouring islands and the mainland. Once on the island, grab a shared or private taxi to get you to wherever you need to go. From the pier to the Haad Rin beach we paid 300 TBH (7.9 € / 9.3$) for a shared taxi for both of us. See budget for more information about our Full Moon Party expenses.
Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Dates 2019
- Friday, April 19th
- Sunday, May 19th
- Monday, June 17th
- Thursday, July 18th
- Thursday, August 15th
- Friday, September 13th
- Monday, October 14th
- Monday, November 11th
- Wednesday, December 11th
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Oh that poor Pink Panther just living it up a little too hard! Love it!
Yeah, he really overestimated his powers 😀 It took him some time, but he eventually fully recovered and learned his lesson 😀 😀 😀
This is nostalgic for me as the last time I was at the full moon party was in 2002 at age 21! It was pretty crazy back then already, but it looks as though it’s even more so now (there was no fire skipping, that’s for sure!). Cool to take a trip down memory lane… ; )
Dani, I think you’ve nailed the age at which to attend the party 😉 whereas we may have waited a bit too long 😀 hehe sounds like you’d really enjoyed it back in 2002 🙂