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A few young travelers (up to 20,000) gather every month on a beach on a remote Thai island (Koh Pha-Ngan) and dance the night away in front of a strip of bars and clubs pumping out dance music, while getting wasted on weed, Yaba, mushrooms, XTC or bucket drinks until the sun comes up. The Full Moon Party. Hundreds of thousands of participants over the past 25 years think it’s the best party they’ve ever been to, making it an essential stop on the gap year/banana pancake/backpacker trail.
There is a serious criminal element present, and it’s not uncommon for people’s hotel/hostel rooms to be ransacked while they’re at an all-night party. Management is suitably shocked and alarmed about it, but it keeps happening month after month at some accommodations.
Drug gangs operate at the party and often they can be in cahoots with corrupt police. You buy some cheap weed, get “arrested”, pay 150,000 baht to avoid prosecution, and the same bag of weed is sold to the next sucker.
Yaba (amphetamines) and XTC are highly illegal in Thailand. Buying them from a stranger at the party exposes you to a shakedown, or if the police are genuine, a nasty journey through the Thai legal system.
If you stick to the legal stuff, alcohol, it’s very easy to overdo it because the drinks come in buckets!
It’s literally a bucket (like the ones kids take to the beach) filled with ice, M150 (a Thai version of Red Bull which is heavy on the ephedrine), a can of soda, a 300 ml bottle of liquor and 3 or 4 straws. Total cost: 200 baht/$US6 (and that’s expensive for Thailand). Because they’re cheap the tendency is to buy too many of them. If you’re sharing, it can be hard to keep track of just how much alcohol you’ve had.
If you decide to party hard regardless, fair enough, we’re here for a good time not a long time. Unfortunately, lots of people leave the party early having had a bad time.
The day after the party you’ll see people with bandaged hands, legs and feet. They’ve either cut themselves on broken glass that litters the beach (tip: wear closed-in shoes – not flip flops), or they’ve had an encounter with the flaming skipping rope or limbo stick. The idea is to get as many people as possible jumping the rope, and spin it so fast the flames go out. It doesn’t always work out and injuries from a kerosene-soaked flaming rope can be pretty nasty.
Lots of people want to capture this great party in pictures or video and there are thousands of clips on YouTube. But hang on tight to your phone or camera as valuable electronics have a habit of “disappearing”. Gang members come for the party, follow drunk revellers around and wait for an opportunity to take phones or cameras.
Only take enough cash for the evening and it’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport details just in case you need ID. But leave the valuable and important stuff locked up back at the hotel (and ask them for a receipt when they put it in their safe).
Plan your escape carefully.
Don’t take your moped. Even if you think you're okay to ride, others might be. There are plenty of taxis operating all night.
Speaking of mopeds and motorscooters, do you need a license to ride in Thailand and what happens if you don't have one?
If you’ve caught a speedboat to the island for the day and want to get back to Koh Samui, take it easy. Stephen Ryder from ensureasia.com (he deals with ex-pats living in Thailand) says the speedboats don't have a great safety record, and the crew has often been drinking as hard as the party-goers.
Sometimes after a really busy party, there’s a rush of people who have peaked too early and have had enough by about 3 or 4 in the morning. You can get scores of people all vying for the half dozen places on each boat that arrives. The boats get rushed when they beach, so the next time they hang back a little. After a while, you have a mob of drunk, desperate people wading/swimming out to boats. The skippers get worried they’ll be swamped as people clamber aboard, so they grab a few passengers and push the rest back into the water then roar off with throttles wide open.
It might be better to wait for the first scheduled ferry service at 7am.
Always take care of each other. Just because this is a beach party a long way from home it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.
Most people walk away from the Full Moon Party having had a thoroughly good time, if they skip the skipping rope, drink responsibly and leave valuables at home. Follow these rules and you’ll be around to come back to the best beach party in the world again and again.
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Thailand's nightlife is legendary. But it's not always safe or kind to travelers. Find out how to stay safe with these tips.
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.Get a quote