Surviving the full moon party
You’re senses are overwhelmed, reeling from the barrage of light and sound. The constant noise attacking your ears as the ground shakes underfoot. The acrid smell of smoke and burning fuel stings eyes. The sweat runs in rivers down your skin, saturating clothes. The wounded are all around. Someone limps past, face caked in blood and his leg wrapped in bandages. He’s young, doesn’t look a day over 18. You look down and see a body. It’s not moving. Suddenly a fireball erupts close by, rolling skywards with a muffled roar. You real from the blast of heat as it hits your face. For a moment the scene is bathed in that eerie orange glow.
Welcome to Hell.
Welcome to the Full Moon Party.
NOTE: The following article contains descriptions of drinking, partying and general debauchery. If this offends you please keep reading for an education.
“Like Apocalypse Now just without the war,” was how the guidebook described the Full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan. And they were right.
It’s hard to know where to start about our time on Ko Pha Ngan. Pool parties, beach parties, foam parties, bar parties, pre parties, after parties and even after after parties. But these are a side show to the main debauchery on Ko Pha Ngan. That of the famous full moon party. Fifteen thousand backpackers crammed onto a small beach packed with bars, DJ stages and fire shows. Add a large dose of pumping bass, glow paint and buckets and a dash of flashing lights, stupid outfits, fire-twirling shows and dance podiums. Mix it all up and you come out with chaos.
NOTE: For those who haven’t been to SE Asia and know what a “bucket” is they are a deadly device designed to disintegrate the minds and livers of western backpackers. You take one small plastic bucket, add a bunch of straws, a small amount of mixer (coke or sprite usually) and fill the rest with booze. Oh and often with the addition of Thai energy drinks. Thai energy drinks alone pack enough punch to send a herd of elephants to the moon.
We arrived tired after a full day of travelling. I was looking forward to catching up with my mate Erik. AKA Fake Swedish from the Famous 10. I found where he was staying and went into his dorm to find him completely dead to the world, in true Erik fashion. He is not the most active of human beings. As he was on the top bunk I tried tickling his feet, grabbing his toes and slapping his feet, to no avail. We returned an hour later to find the hostel in full party swing, Erik was out of bed, and somehow already rather drunk. The glow paint was out and people were getting quite colourful.
By the time we arrived on Ko Pha Ngan I’d had three late nights out in a row. I was miles behind on sleep and feeling rather tired. Actually tired isn’t quite the word. Manic exhaustion is a better description. There was only one way I would stay awake and last the duration, and that was at full speed. I fitted in quite well with the drinkers bouncing around like a crazy person, eyes the size of dinner plates. I had more than one person ask if I was on drugs. We then made our way to the first real party of the week. The pool party.
This may have been the best party of the week, and was a fantastic start to the week. It was a shame Soph and Megs missed it. It was really that movie-style crazed pool party. And it wasn’t long before everyone was in the pool, whiskey buckets in hand. All around people are bombing into the pool, sending shockwaves and splashes into the aforementioned buckets. I hate to think how much chlorine we ingested that night. Erik was in fine form, and it was great to catch up with him again and throw some mad dance shapes on the impromptu dance floors surrounding the pool. At one stage I was standing by the pool with Erik when out of nowhere I was attacked by a Finnish vampire and thrown into the pool, wallet and all. Luckily my cards all worked and all I lost was a spare camera memory card I had hidden in the wallet. In fact that was all I lost all week, quite a good effort given the amount of cameras, wallets and phones that disappear during the full moon week. I remember thinking at the end of the night when I was lying in the pool, pumping beats surging through the waves as people dived and bombed into the pool, a bucket in one arm and a sexy Scandinavian girl in the other that this first night might be hard to beat...
I woke, feeling surprisingly good; given this was day 4. My body had adjusted to the constant partying.
We were feeling active this morning so decided to hire a couple of motorbikes and see what the rest of Ko Pha Ngan has to offer. Somehow we managed to convince Erik to rise from bed and join us for the day, so we made a good group of four. Ko Pha Ngan was surprisingly beautiful and some of the Northern beaches were really quite impressive. It was on this trip I added another injury to my right foot. The poor thing had been hammered in the preceding weeks, and most of time on Ko Pha Ngan I was wielding three separate bandages on my foot, from three separate incidents on three different tropical islands. One on the Perenthians from some coral, one puncture injury from a small piece of rebar sticking out of Some Concrete on Ko Phi Phi and the bike injury on Ko Pha Ngan. What happened was I was pulling up and put my foot on the ground at about 1km an hour. Unfortunately my crappy flip-flops bent in the middle and sent my toe jabbing into the asphalt. At the time it looked like just a small injury and I ignored it, but five minutes later I looked down and my foot was covered in blood with a beautiful deep red pool of blood shimmering on my flip-flop. Being covered in bandages on Ko Pha Ngan everyone assumes you’ve done something stupid whilst drunk and I got quite sick of explaining the injuries.
Again a pre-party at the Dancing Elephant hostel. By now we had quite a crew and another good night ensued, ending up partying down on the beach. A good warm up to the full moon antics themselves.
The day of days had arrived. The sense of anticipation was brewing, but was also somewhat tempered by the fact most people had just had two massive parties in a row (my count was at 5 by that stage.) The day was subdued and relaxed. Again I split from the girls and relaxed with the crew at a cruisy bar overlooking the beach, spending the afternoon sleeping on the axe pillows, being jealous of the Finnish girl on the lone hammock and watching the spectacular sunset.
The question everyone was still asking was after the last couple of nights was “how crazy can it be?” We would find the answer soon enough. Erik and I eased into the night with a street side jam session which turned into a good sing-along. The glow paint was flowing again and everyone was again getting colourful. With a couple of days practice (and starting the painting a little more sober) the artwork was better that the previous efforts.
That is except for Erik... He started with some somewhat artistic self-finger painting but as he drank more (and he did drink quite a bit) the paint got thicker and thicker. By the end it looked like the aftermath of an explosion in a paint factory. He was covered, and quite frankly looked a little scary. He frightened off more than one person that night.
We eventually made our way down to the beach. The beats floated up through the night air and the closer we joined the tides of painted bodies making the pilgrimage. The beach access paths, clear a few hours ago were packed with sellers, bucket stalls, food stalls, clothing stalls and “glowing stalls,” selling all manner of fluorescent devices. We emerged onto the beach into the crowded throng of heaving 20-somethings and the wall of beats that pummeled ear drums. Just in front of the beach access was a small space in the crowd, which consisted of a stream that flowed from a storm water drain. Lying in the water was the first casualty of the night, a guy passed out cold in the water. That didn’t bode well for the rest of the night. We were just arriving after all.
We soon got into the spirit and were throwing some crazy dance shapes. Erik in particular was on fire. Greeting everyone we passed with an exaggerated “Herrrrooo!!!” Like I said, a few people were scared of our Fake Swedish. There was one person however who wasn’t scared, and one of the ladyboys on the beach took a great interest in him. Of course, Erik being the friendly sort he is (and the alcohol talking) stopped for a conversation and a few photos. We dragged him away, but strangely shortly after this encounter our boy Erik disappeared for the night. Coincidence? Hmm....
We were moving further down the beach, and after a few stalls waiting for Erik and his conversations with everyone we passed, we lost him. We ended watching fire-twirlers and fire-breathers whilst dancing like crazy bastards at the drum and bass stage. At this point Soph and Stella put on a nice show for the roving video camera. I wonder if they are famous?
The night continued with a mix of different bars, stages, buckets, music and podium dancing. With a small amount of fire-jumping, the cause of many of the wounds carried by the walking wounded. Of course it all got more drunken and debaucherous with pass outs, sickness and couples getting busy on the beach being a common occurrence.
Really though, whilst still being a lot of fun, the full moon night was just a little too busy and crazy. Not enough space to dance and insanity everywhere. This was typified by the scene at sunrise. I’d been off the main beach for a couple of hours and returned just as the sun was breaking over the horizon, bathing the beach in a bright crimson glow. The light bounced off the water, silhouetting the couples who were shagging in the water. Just a short distance away was the usual line-up of guys who couldn’t be bothered making the way to the toilet and were turning the shallows yellow.
During the week I learnt a new word, “Morkkis”. It’s Finnish slang word loosely meaning “moral hangover.” Usually related to drinking and/or partying it’s a word to describe that feeling when you wake up the next day and think “oh shit...” Whilst I managed to escape Ko Pha Ngan with a surprising lack of morkkis, I’m sure there were thousands who thought otherwise.
The next couple of days were again spent relaxing in one of the cruisy bars or on the beach. One afternoon that will stick in my memory was sitting on the beach and jamming with Erik. There were a few jugglers and twirlers practicing as well, it was a pretty good scene. I was surprised when everyone else who was on the beach that day also called it a highlight.
After a final night of dancing and beach fun we left Ko Pha Ngan and made our way northwards. I just remember thinking one thing.