About the Full Moon Parties
If you’re backpacking through Thailand, then chances are you’ve heard of the infamous Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan. These parties involve dancing on Haad Rin beach until sunrise in colorful costumes, drinking liquor out of buckets, leaping over a flaming jump rope just for the hell of it (at your own risk) while meeting many amazing people from all over the world. I was really happy I chose to spend my New Year’s Eve here (from 2018-2019), because I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the island!
The reason I decided to attend my first Moon Party is I watched Travels with My Father and loved the hilarious mixed reactions the characters had to the party, so I wanted to experience it myself! There is one episode where the son takes his father to Koh Phangan where his father stares at his son in disbelief as he dances (quite hilariously) through the drunk hoards of people and mingles with the locals. After drinking out of a bucket of alcohol with his son, he then proceeds to read ‘Reporting on Hitler’ with noise-reducing headphones to escape from his surroundings.
Your reaction will probably be one or the other, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is: Try to enjoy the time you have with the people around you. This is especially important for solo travelers. Even if the people in your vicinity may not be your best friends or the first people you’d choose, I’ve became friends with the most unlikely people and learned a lot from them just from simply being open-minded.
How to get to Koh Phangan
The best way to get to Koh Phangan is to fly to Koh Samui (or other surrounding islands) and take a ferry. The ferry ride takes less than 2 hours and start at only $10.
The first time I came here, I made the mistake of taking a 10 hour bus and ferry ride from Bangkok. The ride was accommodating, but I realized I wasted a lot of time that I could have spent on the beach.
You can book buses and ferries from most destinations in Thailand from 12go. They will also give you the total amount of time it takes so you can decide the best way to get here.
Koh Phangan has parties almost every weekend, so you can come any time of the month and have a good time! The Halfmoon Festivals and Blackmoon Culture parties also occur during the month, along with more lowkey parties spread across the island. I have heard from my friends that the Waterfall Party is one of the best, but I have yet to experience it for myself. The best way to find the right one for you is to ask the locals!
Where to Stay and Pregame
Once getting off at one of the piers (I recommend Thong Sala), take a taxi or motorbike directly to Haad Rin because that is where most of the bars and people are, and you can walk to the beach party by foot. The farther away you walk away from the pier, the cheaper the taxi will be (the first people that approach you will try to overcharge you).
Due to the popularity of these parties, a lot of guest houses and hostels require you to stay for 5 days minimum which can be expensive, so what I did was just stay for the night and took the first ferry back at 6am.
Once reaching the beach town of Haad Rin, I decided to wander around. I found a hostel appropriately named Wild and Wandering where I met some of my best friends in Thailand. This hostel has a nice stereo, a bar that serves buckets of alcohol, and tons of people to hang around. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the owners at the bar while I ordered a pink bucket, and I bribed him a few hundred baht so I could store my stuff there for the night (which was a significantly cheaper option).
Inside of the hostel, they had really amazing Princess Monoke murals as well. I danced and talked to my new friends until around 10pm, then we decided to go to the beach! The fee to enter is only 100 baht, so it’s not really expensive.
Full Moon Party: New Year’s Edition
The first thing I realized is that most of the people that attend these parties are travelers looking to make friends. Despite its crazy reputation, the beach is extremely safe. I have read articles that claim you can buy joints and ecstasy pills on the beach, but that was not the case here. I did not witness anyone selling or using illegal drugs–everyone was happily drinking out of buckets and no one acted too out of line so it was relaxing. If you want to get things besides alcohol, you are best off not looking on the beach.
I spent the majority of my time wandering around the beach and doing a lot of people watching. I enjoyed seeing people jump over the fire rope, dance the night away in their crazy outfits, and a few guys bought me drinks too which was really nice. There were multiple music stages setup so you could find a genre that you liked and enjoy it with the calm sea breeze. My favorite was the techno stage which was set up next to this bar called the Swing Bar. It’s very easy to find–just look for the neon lasers and people sitting on swings! They have a great menu of buckets and cocktails, as well as swings.
When midnight drew near, everyone gathered on the shore and watched a giant flaming countdown light up the sky as the year became 2019! I felt extremely accomplished that I made it all the way here, and even though I originally came here alone I was surrounded by people that all shared the same passion for travel as me.
After the countdown, I went back to Wild and Wandering to wish all my friends happy new year! The rest of the night was kind of a blur; I remember barhopping around the island with some people I had met and then going to a treehouse bar where I fell asleep with one of my friends. Fortunately I had set multiple alarms so I was able to take a taxi back to the pier in time to make the first ferry. I was a bit sad to leave, but also I felt like I wanted some time alone to reflect on things so I headed back to my neon pink hut in Koh Samui. A New Year well spent!
Blackmoon Culture Party
Wanting to experience a party in the jungle, I came back to Koh Phangan in May during Japan’s Golden Week holiday. The Blackmoon Culture parties take place on the night of the new moon in Ban Tai, away from the beach and surrounded by trees and foliage. For that reason, they are popular for psytrance music. Though usually that genre is not my cup of tea, I decided to try it because why not!
I repeated the same steps as I did before; taking the ferry out for one night only, revisiting Wild and Wandering to store my luggage and see my friends; but this time I noticed the island was much more quiet. My friend who lives on Koh Phangan informed me that the island is liveliest during the monthly Full Moon parties, but during the low season there’s not as many people attending the parties even though the island has that reputation. However, this turned out to be awesome because we had the beach all to ourselves for a while. It was great to catch up with my friends after not seeing them for 5 months.
After drinking a bucket and some mojitos, I took a taxi to Ban Tai around 1am and went to the Blackmoon Culture party. The entrance fee is 600 baht which is 6x the price of the Full Moon Party, but it’s still affordable. I immediately met some new friends from CA and we all shared a bucket while dancing to trance in the neon jungle.
At Blackmoon Culture, the sky is dark so you can focus more on the music and your [neon-hued] surroundings. The music was good, but unfortunately there was only one stage. The Full Moon Party had multiple stages so this was a bit disappointing, but I still had fun. Though I prefer beach parties more now, I am grateful I had a psytrance experience in the jungle. Going during off season let me see Koh Phangan how it normally is and become better friends with the locals, so it was overall worth it!
Those who are looking for a psychedelic night in Thailand: Please see my post on Koh Lanta for more information!
If you have any questions/additional details to add, please let me know in the comments. I wrote this as a handy guide for those backpacking to Koh Phangan and wish to know more, so I hope you find it helpful.