Finding the moonlight

by Chantelle Pang (France)

A leap into the unknown Thailand


“First door on your right. Whatever is left, you can have it.” With a nod and a mumbled ‘thank you’, we dutifully headed straight to the dilapidated hatch where the doorman pointed towards, a holdall strewn over my shoulder and a fanny pack hanging from my neck. My travel companion, standing at a lofty 6ft6, stooped under the low door frame, careful not to bang his head in it. The peeling bark on the door did little to brace us for the horrors within. If the room was an assault on the senses, it was certainly the smell that hit the hardest. The smell, a perfect blend of alcohol, weed and piss; two barely cool fans scarcely clinging onto the sunken plaster of the ceiling. After travelling for almost 24 hours on coaches and ferries, we were exhausted, too weak and past caring to complain about our surroundings. We were just grateful for a mattress on which to lay our weary bodies. We dropped our bags onto the lower bunks and moved cautiously towards the ‘toilet’ sign at the back of the room. Wary of what may lie within, we nudged the toilet door open. A flock of flies swarmed towards us and in doing so revealed a pile of human faeces taking pride of place in the centre of the only bathroom we had for the next three days. Famished, we routinely buckled our fanny packs around our waists and summoned hats and sunglasses to our heads and eyes. With all four limbs covered in tiger balm and insect repellent, we hastily left the hostel in search of food. It was the day before the Full Moon Party. Backpackers and gap year students heaved their rucksacks along the road, heading towards their respective hostels; vendors and shopkeepers shouting loudly in hope to attract vulnerable customers to their makeshift little stalls; locals sitting outside or leaning against their doors, staring idly at this seasonal chaos that they have grown accustomed to. Our only solace was our 30p Pad Thai that would greet us again the next day. But for now, we were just grateful to be fed. After lunch, we reluctantly trudged back to the hostel to unpack before setting off aimlessly to wander around the island, curious about the famous party starting in less than 36 hours. ~ We woke up to the buzzing sounds of the island. More cars, more tourists, more empty beer cans lying on the sidewalk. After grabbing ourselves some rambutans and fresh coconuts from the Big C supermarket across the street, we wandered to a secluded beach on the other side of the Koh Phangan, an idyllic retreat from the otherwise hectic island before the party. Waves gently settling onto the shore, couples walking hand-in-hand along the seafront, friends eagerly gathering around the picnic blankets, dogs happily running towards the Frisbees thrown carelessly by their owners. The rejuvenating smell of the sea and the tender breeze momentarily transported me far away from the overwhelmingly vibrant and crowded reality. 6 pm, we made our way back to the hostel, only to find ourselves in a completely transformed location. What used to be a simplistic reception with a few beat-up couches had now been replaced by several ping pong tables, with alcohol spilt over them and half-naked travellers with neon paint drawn all over their bodies. Our hostel was somehow less habitable now; it had become an epic nightclub. Staffs, also covered in glow-in-the-dark paints, were serving lethal jelly shots, water downed cocktails and those infamously vile buckets. These parties were legendary, or so we’d heard. We were ready to embrace the ‘night of our lives’, but right now we were more astounded and disorientated, almost fearful of what the next 12 hours were going to be like. We started chatting with two English girls, a couple of Australians and another English-speaking Thai worker. Quickly, we became acquainted with one another and before long our chauffeur arrived and we were jumping into an unstable tuk-tuk, already crammed with tipsy partygoers, bracing ourselves for one of the most unforgettable nights of all…