I visited Thailand in March/April 2013 with 5 friends (although we met others along the way). Below is an account of my time in Koh Pha Ngan.
Koh Pha Ngan which means Island of the Sand Bars is one of the three main islands in the Gulf of Thailand. With a history of coconuts and mining, a rise in references in popular culture (including the famous Thai novel ‘The Beach by Alex Garland) means the island is one of THE places to party on this beautiful earth.
The world famous Full Moon Party was the epicentre of our trip and our itinerary focused around the dates of the event. Every month, as the full moon approaches the young travelers of SE Asia descend on a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand for one hell of a party.
We arrived on Koh Pha Ngan from the larger of the three islands Koh Samui. After 9 days of solid partying (since arriving in Bangkok) we knew we had only one option but to up the ante for this of all islands. The main party spot is focused around the Haad Rin Nok Beaches (Sunset and Sunrise) but we decided to stay 10 minutes north in Ban Thai.
Ban Thai beach is situated on one of the sand bars that give the islands their name. This meant one could walk out for 200-300m into the sea without the water coming past your knee’s. It made it A perfect spot to frolic in the cool water during the day and windsurf during the cooler evenings. We stayed at the Island Beach Resort (now called Pha Ngan Beach Resort) which worked out at £7.50 per person (2 people sharing). With views like this (see below) from the balcony of the hut. It was worth every penny.
We had 4 days on the island due to our strict timetable, with a day scheduled for rest and recuperation after the big party (Day 3) it meant we only had 3 days to experience the islands party nature.
With an influx of party go’ers descending on the island, full moon is not the only party of the week. There are many other parties from smaller beach parties aswell as a Jungle Rave and a number of pool parties. The most famous of the latter is situated at the Coral Bungalow Hotel in Haad Rin.
The party is not one I would particularly recommend, it was seedy and dirty and god knows what went on in the pool, but the night was made by the 6 of us, messing around with shoulder wrestling which soon got many over visitors involved. As nights in Thailand go, I didn’t see the sun-rise, I think we all had one eye on the big one 48 hours later.
The next day, after a arduous day of sunbathing, drinking and doing nothing we went back into Haad Rin to scope out the town for the next day. We went for dinner in a bar overlooking the main Sunset beach and watched the great structures begin to go up for the next day. The bar we went to, we decided would be our ‘base’ for the next day when the masses came down on us. Did it work? Did it F”””, but it was a nice plan nevertheless.
Full Moon Party
The day had arrived, we were also joined by Neil’s brother Phil who lives in Hong Kong. Phil was not on a travelers budget and was staying in a 5* hotel closer to Haad Rin. Pre-drinks were therefore at his hotel bar as a birthday gift to Neil (Thanks Phil). After 8 days of drinking Chang and buckets it was nice to start with slightly more civilized bottled beer. However, we soon drank the bar dry (yes, 9 of us in 3 hours) and it was time to head to Haad Rin.
The party costs 100baht (about 3 quid) to enter, although we stumbled (by accident honest) through a shop through the barrier as we started to look for drinks to carry on the party.
For those who don’t know, the Full Moon is all about dressing down, glow-painting up and dancing til the sun comes up. Therefore we needed to get our paint on.
I have been to parties around the world, from super clubs in Manchester with 2000 people but nothing could prepare myself from walking on that beach. Approximately 20,000 people were estimated to be on that beach, a quiet full moon but it was absolutely heaving. Scaffold Dance Towers dominated the beach, some 3 stories high with no barriers. This isn’t the Health and Safety obsessed UK and it is amazing more don’t get hurt falling off these structures.
Our plan to stick together lasted about 5 minutes. We got split in 2, then split again until I was on my own after walking 5 yards to get a drink. Neil told me of his utter joy of bumping into Liam after 2 hours of walking/partying solo.
There is lots to keep you entertained if you do find yourself riding solo. Each bar has fire dancing, fire skipping ropes and fire rings to jump through for a free shot. I didn’t do any Mum, promise….. On one side of the beach is a bar nicknamed Mushroom Mountain and I went up the hill to take a peek at the beach in its entirety. Here I bumped into an old school friend from Timperley. Of all the places at all the times.
The buckets flowed, the night whizzed by and the sun began to rise. I waited for the sun to rise without reasonable doubt before heading back. I was done (after 14 hours of drinking) and no amounts of Red Bull, even Thai special could have kept me up longer. There are after parties on the other beach (Sunrise Beach) but I can’t party that hard haha.
Did I enjoy Full Moon? Yes, It is a once in a lifetime spectacle to fully immerse yourself into. Would I go Again? Maybe, If I did I wouldn’t have hit pre-drinks as hard and I would physically tie myself to my friends.
The next day, ruined we took our first (and only) day off the booze of the entire holiday. The next day, we left early and headed west to Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.
Koh Pha Ngan is an island we didn’t truly explore and I am sure it had so much more to offer than Haad Rin. But time was short and ‘nicer locations awaited us’