Attending a Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, Thailand is a rite of passage. The events have reached legendary status and the attention is well-deserved. Full Moon parties started out in the 80s as a group of friends celebrating on a beach. Well, let me tell you, it is far from that now. It has morphed into 20,000 – 50,000 people crammed on the sand in fluorescent clothing drinking buckets of questionable alcohol. So why is this a rite of passage? Well, because it is one of the best parties you will ever go to, and is a night to remember forever (for good and not-so-good reasons).
In 2016 I attended the Koh Phangan Countdown Full Moon Party on New Years Eve. It is the biggest Full Moon Party as people drink to celebrate (or forget) the previous year. But it doesn't have to be a full moon or the new year to celebrate; many Thai islands have Jungle and Half Moon Parties as well. There are plenty of parties to satisfy but a Full Moon takes the cake.
The Full Moon Party crowd along the beach
The Practical Stuff
For the Full Moon Party I stayed on Koh Samui instead of Koh Phangan itself. The relaxed atmosphere and more enticing activities of Samui were more enticing for my longer-term stay than Phangan. And, of course, there would be hoards of party-goers on Phangan at that time of year which skyrocketed accommodation prices. There were mixed feelings about Samui -- overall for the 10 days I stayed there it was way better than Phangan, but if you are only going for the Full Moon Party then Phangan is a way easier option.
BANGKOK TO KOH PHANGAN
The options are fly/boat, bus/boat or train/boat. You can catch an overnight bus or train from Bangkok to a mainland port town like Chumphon, Surat Thani or Don Sak (you can read about the overnight train between Surat Thani and Bangkok here). From these ports ferries and catamarans leave to the islands. It is a lot easier to book a combined boat/bus or boat/train ticket before leaving Bangkok.
My boat and catamaran ticket with Lomprayah was around 1400 baht which was expensive and an overall dreadful experience (think sea sickness, delays, and cramped seats next to toilets). The best budget way seems to be a sleeper train to Surat Thani and then a ferry from Surat Thani, but if I had more cash I would definitely fly.
You can fly to Koh Samui and catch the boat over to Koh Phangan, it’s not terribly expensive but was out of my budget at the time. It is the most comfortable option.
READ MORE: 48 Hours In Bangkok - Itinerary
KOH SAMUI TO KOH PHANGAN
Getting from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan on a Full Moon or Countdown night is expensive and difficult. You must book your tickets a day or so in advance to avoid disappointment or a bad transfer time.
Ferries take about 55 minutes and are cramped but you will get there. There are also speedboat companies which charge around 1000 – 1400 baht for a return ticket but there have been collisions because lights aren't always used. There are also very dodgy looking wooden boats offering a ‘taxi boat’ service from Koh Phangan beach back to Samui. I saw them leaving from the beach and I wouldn’t get on them for anything.
I got a speedboat return ticket with Sub Somwang and it was an outrageously run company avoid it at all costs. I am not going to go into it but people were forced to wait in cramped conditions for hours whilst passing out from dehydration only to find out that they had not scheduled enough boats to get everyone home.
There were some other speedboat companies which looked better and actually had boats running, and this is probably the way to go from Koh Samui. Lamlahk and Sea Speedboats were the companies I saw on the night which had more reliable service than Sub Somwang.
Ferries and speed boats also operate from Koh Tao. Koh Tao is closest to the north of the island but the party is on the Southernmost tip, so an additional journey may be required.
Staying on Koh Phangan makes it a lot easier to enjoy the Full Moon Party. You will have the comfort of a bed to go back to, a free toilet to use, and no horrible boat transfer. If you book the accommodation in advance it requires a minimum stay of 5 – 7 nights over a Full Moon period. This means that it gets really pricey and you have to stay on the island for a week (not recommended).
I did not speak to anyone who had personally done this, but apparently you can try and arrive at the island and book accommodation when you get there to avoid the minimum stay policy. Bit risky though.
Or you could try staying on a different island like I did. This is great if you want a longer stay and to save money, but lacks convenience.
Koh Phangan is beautiful by day
When getting off the speedboat everyone was asked to pay 100 baht entry price and get a wristband. It seemed legit but the people who were staying on the island did not seem to have to pay for this. Unsure on the legitimacy of this but 100 baht is not much so just go with it.
Food can be pretty cheap if you look for it. There is decent-sized pad thai for 50 baht (~$2AUD). There are also loads of supermarkets around for a quick snack and kebab shops too (how perfect).
These cost money to enter but you don't really have a choice. If you are looking for a place to have a beer, also check if there is a free toilet because this will be cheaper than buying both separately.
The Mum and Dad Stuff
Drinks are cheap at the Full Moon Party with buckets setting you back 150 baht for a cheap one (~$6AUD). This is a lot of alcohol in buckets so drink carefully! If you get them with energy drink be especially careful because the energy drink could have ephedra in it. Ephedra masks the effects of alcohol until you have had way too much and are passed out/poisoned.
7/11 and FamilyMart shops also sell alcohol which will be about 48-60baht for a 500mL beer -- this is cheap and more reliable.
Buckets for sale near the beach (photo: Per Meistrup)
The Skipping Rope
The petrol-doused flaming skipping rope attracts drunken dumbasses like bugs to a light. This is literally the worst idea ever. It should not seem any smarter no matter how drunk you are. People routinely try and fail to jump the rope and end up with serious burns on their body from the flaming petrol. They are often too drunk to realise how bad the burn is and this opens you up for some serious infections. Just don’t do it. Believe it or not -- there are better ways to have fun at a Full Moon Party which do not involve flames and 3rd degree burns.
A couple of people having a crack at the flaming skipping rope (photo: Per Meistrup via Wikimedia Commons)
A beach full of carefree travellers under the influence? Sounds like a criminal’s dream. With theft and spiking all too common at these parties, you have to be vigilant. Bring minimal valuables to the party (if any at all), and just make sure you have enough money for cash/food. If you do decide to bring a camera, phone or wallet, make sure it is tucked away safely and you keep an eye on it.
Stay with friends and make sure to have a meeting spot in case you get lost. This party is massive and although the vibe is good, there are still some people out to take advantage. Stay safe, well-fed and hydrated. Keep an eye out for your mates to ensure that nothing bad happens.
Spiking also happens here, so ensure you buy drinks that are opened in front of you and keep your drink covered. Buckets are ripe for spiking as they are really open. Spiking will not only make you really sick but could also leave you more vulnerable to much worse crimes.
If you miss your speedboat (or like me, your company is sh*thouse and stops running boats) you may have to sleep on the beach and wait it out for a morning ferry. Do this with a friend because if you sleep by yourself someone might come by and pickpocket you, or worse.
The Fun Stuff
The vibe here is really good and I did not feel in danger at the party. Most people have made a lot of effort to come to this party, so everyone is invested in having a good time. Despite there inevitably being drugs and alcohol consumed, people were quite pleasant and I saw minimal violence. There was substantially less nastiness than we would see if similar circumstances were encountered at home. As long as you’re keen to have a dance and be surrounded by other party-goers you’ll have a great time.
Wow, there are so many varieties of people here! From lads holidays, to solo backpackers, and even families, there were plenty of people to meet and chats to be had. Don’t worry if you do not have a big crew to go with because it is incredibly easy to make friends.
If you are concerned about not having enough people to go with, staying at a hostel on Koh Phangan would be a great start or try a Couchsurfing Event.
Non-stop bangers. The music here is as you would expect: loud and worthy of a dance. There are plenty of bars playing different tunes along to beach so you can search out your favourite.
The fact that it is so bloody cheap
Aside from having to pay to get to the island, once you get there it was one of the cheapest places to party. Like it is an insane fun:cost party ratio. 100 baht to enter is cheaper than a lot of clubs, and the alcohol is ridiculous per drink. You can try and avoid the entry fee and BYO alcohol, but even if you don't do this, it will be a cheap night.
Reflections of the famous flaming sign (photo by Joe Stump via Flickr)
If you need more information...
There are so many fantastic guides out there. My personal favourites are:
If you've been to a Full Moon Party or have questions, please comment below! I would love to hear from you