I hope you’ve arrived at this article because, like me, you were wondering if you’re too old for the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan? If not, I’ll direct you over to some of our other more appropriate Thailand content: feel free to browse away.
Now, if you ARE at the right place, you’re in for a spoiler. Because if you’re asking the question, generally the answer is a resounding yes.
Background to the Full Moon Party
In case you didn’t know, the Full Moon Party is a monthly beach ‘festival’ celebrating the arrival of the full moon. Hosted on Haad Rin beach on Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand over the years it has become synonymous with travellers and gap year students who want a night they’ll never forget. Essentially a night of debauchery, bad decisions and, supposedly, good music.
Now, to set the scene. We are a mid-thirties couple (35 and 37 at time of writing, to be exact), but consider ourselves to be relatively young at heart. We were also joined by our good friend, Matt; a man who regularly parties all night long at events like the Cologne Carnival, known for it’s crazy antics and depravity.
We had all set out to enjoy the party especially since I had come to the party half a lifetime ago, when I was a tender (slightly starry-eyed) 19 years old. But, even armed with good intentions and a healthy budget to buy ‘buckets’ of vodka and Red Bull, we left the party with a sense that something was missing from the much hyped ‘must go to’ island party experience.
Let’s start with the simple stuff.
Well, if you want to dance all night long to thumping electronic or dance music, there are a few good options. We are by no means out of step with dance music – just recently we had an amazing time at Croatia’s famed Ultra festival – but the sound systems really aren’t up to scratch since they are re-purposed from the existing beach bars.
If, like us, you are more into 80’s and 90’s music there is really one bar playing this kind of music which – arguably – was a great place to be when they were belting out YMCA. Otherwise, in reality, it’s mainly the beach bars overflowing onto the sand: sound quality is poor and music is geared to very modern taste.
Here we were pleasantly surprised. As in previous years, the party focuses on selling ‘buckets’ which are just that: buckets which usually combine a bottle of alcohol with some mixers. Think vodka red bull or whisky and Coca Cola. There were many options on sale, plus non-alcoholic options and loads of water at affordable prices.
However, you must watch your bucket at all times. We were warned by a local that many of these are spiked: make sure you see the cans or bottles being opened, and keep your bucket in view.
As above, the party really uses the existing infrastructure of the beach bars which cater to a small percentage of those that turn out for Full Moon.
For drinks this is well-catered to: temporary bars pop up across the sand as you can stumble between these makeshift stands, downing buckets as you go. However, if you’re keen to use the bathroom and are unfortunately still slightly sober, this becomes a challenge. Bathroom operators charge between 20 and 40 baht (50p – 1 GBP) for the luxury of a dirty stall with no toilet paper and a queue of anxious party-goers behind you. Hence many revellers – including women – turn to relieving themselves in the ocean.
Well, of course there is drinking and dancing: it’s a party after all. However, if you’re looking to singe some hairs, look no further than the mass of people surrounding an enormous burning skipping rope at one end of the beach, trying to jump the rope . It’s actually quite a fun spectacle to watch. But gone are the days that I’m too inebriated to think ‘that looks like a good idea’… although there are many who are that tipsy. A few that end up in the sea nursing the burns and I’m sure a few more who wake up wishing they hadn’t.
This article hasn’t been a ringing endorsement of the Full Moon Party so I guess you’re not surprised that, overall, we disliked it. It felt dirty, it felt dated and we felt old.
Watching one party-goer crawling on the floor, desperately trying to cover his pile of sick with a handful of sand reminded me of why I stopped binge drinking a while ago. It’s not that I don’t have a few too many on occasions. It’s just I’ve learned through much trial and error how to stop before I get to that point.
So, I hope this article has helped to answer your question. And, if you do decide to make the pilgrimage out to Haad Rin, make sure you go late (11pm or later). Because, like us, that’s probably the only way you’ll make it to sunrise the next morning.