Day 87: The Full Moon

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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Trip End Aug 19, 2008


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oh dear, where do I even begin... It's hopeless to try and convey this day (or night mainly) through writing but I'll do my best, hopefully the nightshift induced state of delirium I'm in right now will help. So we woke up and spent the bulk of the morning lazying about the beach while Jeff went on an Internet errand. By midday we boarded a Pha-Ngan bound ferry with no reservation at an inn there; the plan was to stay up all night (the fiesta lasts well into the next day) and catch a sunrise ferry back to Samui and promptly crash. This would turn out to be something of an error in planning, pulling an all-nighter at an outdoor rave sober wasn't a great recipe for fun. It was all part of the experience though and tis important to look at every situation on a trip like this in a positive light no matter how grueling it seems at the time, because ya know, it's not every day y one gets to visit Thailand (or Vietnam, or Cambodia, or Indonesia, or Nepal...)

We made good time in arriving on Ko Pha-Ngan, with a decent chunk of daylight hours remaining and plenty of time for exploring its allegedly nicer, more "authentic" beaches (ha!). A s a precaution I brought only my passport and Jeff brought only his passport and cash. The risk of being robbed a t the Full Moon Party was excessively high so we didn't want to carry anything important that we didn't need. Unfortunately there was a little miscommunication between us two resulting in Jeff thinking I was bringing some cash of my own a long, thus bringing less of his own. Even if I'd wanted to, I had no cash remaining to bring. When we arrived on Ko Pha-Ngan we discovered to our horror that there was only enough cash for the two ferry tickets back and *exactly* $5 of food money for each of us. It would not be impossible to survive on this, but meant we'd be living off  of rationed pad Thai and banana cakes from 7/11 for the next twelve hours and that our drink budget would be virtually nonexistent. So be it.

The island itself was much more like Ko Phi Phi than Samui, with its only settlement being a tightly backed traffic free web of cobblestone alleyways, pancake stands and surprisingly little stench. The "sunrise beach" was, as promised, sparkling clean with crystal clear water though the water had a strange stinging effect. My first impression was one of charm; what an adorable little innocent beach town this was. Little did we know what heathen abomination it would transform in to once the sun went down and the full moon rose. We lazied about Sunrise Beach for a while, where the locals were busy setting up shop for the craziness to come. Makeshift alcohol stalls with names like "So F#cking Bucket", "One More F#cking Bucket", "Lucy F#ck You Long Time", etc painted on their fronts. Apparently the locals thought that by inserting the f-word randomly into their signs, they'd make the whiteys laugh and buy from their stalls. Unfortunately they are correct. As for what a "bucket" is, they are nifty drink combo packages consisting of a can of soda, a medicine bottle of "Red Bull" (definitely something different in there), and depending on the price a bottle or full handle of Jack Daniels or Sketchy Thai Whiskey. And of course, the lil plastic bucket you're meant to mix all these into and drink from. They're sort of a fixture at these Thai beach shindigs.

We left Sunrise Beach briefly to go watch the sunset on Sunset Beach. The ensuing psychedelic majesty was hands down the most jaw-dropping, perfect sunset I can remember seeing. A resident kitten befriended us as we watched it and began purring up against our arms. We showed it love and in return it betrayed us and lightly bit my wrist (though not deep enough to bleed), prompting what must've been a funny-for-Jeff panic attack on my part as I demanded we rush to 7/11 and use the rest of our money on a bottle of rubbing alcohol, to sterilize the theoretical Rabies I'd just "contracted." Two minutes later I calmed down and realized there was nothing to worry about. Stupid cat. With the sun now thoroughly set and dinner overwith, it was time to return to the other beach and see what chaos had began unfolding. By now the settlement was booming with crowds of late-teen and college aged Westerners, and the Thais deploying every stall on the island to rake in the imminent dough.

We stepped out onto the beach and... all holy hell was about 30% unleashed. Scattered crowds of shirtless dancing 20-somethings, fire dancers juggling flaming nunchuks, GoGo-girls making stealthy rounds, even the beginnings of a laser-light show. In the background boomed the recent Coldplay song "Viva la Vida", its beats matching up to the bobbings of moonlit longtail boats along the shore. If there was a song that accurately conveyed the epicness I felt thinking back about the trip as a whole, it was this one. Soon, a commotion... a local firedancing teen had lit the fuse to a rocket in his hand, stuffed it into an empty water bottle, stood up on a chair like a warrior leading his men on a charge, and launched a makeshift firework into the sky. Spotlights swinging around, silverly moonlight on the water, increasingly deafening techno beats, ravers high out of their minds... Holy Hell was at 90% and it added up to a shocking catharsis of debauchery and mayhem that would remove any faith the viewer had in humanity's future. This wasn't a dance of dozens, or a hundred, or even hundreds but rather thousands. Thousands of Australians, Europeans, Americans, and Thais, all of whom plastered out of their minds were crammed onto this formerly modest beach dancing away in ways that only illicit substances of the most severe order could inspire. My humble little beer could do nothing to numb my senses and help this all make sense. After it all became too much, I retreated to a quiet corner of sand to (successfully) pass out. Jeff stayed awake and spent the rest of the night watching fire dancers nearly kill their audiences with errant fire.
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Comments

ts on

"The island itself was much more like Ko Phi Phi than Samui, with its only settlement being a tightly backed traffic free web of cobblestone alleyways"

Oh come on, the island is 168 square kilometers in size and is the 3rd largest island in Thailand. It takes the better part of day to drive around.

Haadrin, or as you call it, "The settlement" is not even the largest town out of the 6 or 7 towns or villages on the island.

As for "Authentic" beaches, why even be snarky? It is clear you could not have afforded motorcycle or taxi rental to explore this beautiful island.

sirrocko711
sirrocko711 on

These were just my raw sometimes tongue in cheek written-while-travelling impressions... didn't mean to offend. I guess a better way of phrasing it was just... Samui: Felt urban, Phangan: Felt remote (as it should)

sirrocko711
sirrocko711 on

And I was also making fun of the guidebook I was using, which described Haadrin as a more "real" experience than the main beach on Samui, Chaweng I think

ts on

fair enough, i grow tired of hearing koh phangan described as if it consisted merely of haadrin, which is in my opinion but a wart on the rest of the island.

cheers

Susan on

Nice photos of Ko Phangan. Your write up is also good.

vakantieman on

These FullMoon partys are so awesome, I was about 10yrs ago in Thailand but will never forget them

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