The gas-drenched rope ignited. Held on both ends by bare-chested Thais standing above two benches, they started looping it around, a giant jumping rope on fire! All around, backpackers looked on like moths to a flame, mesmerized by the burning contraption, unable to resist the urge to get in the middle of it and take a swing at the burning playground. It wasn’t even the night of Koh Phangan’s infamous Full Moon Party yet but it’s already a mad riot at the beach. We only live once, as they say.
|BUCKETS OF ALCOHOL AT THE FULL MOON PARTY|
Thailand’s Full Moon Party. A year ago, we have no idea what it was about until the subject was broached by J while we were on our usual drinking binge at a bar in QC. Apparently, he has attended one during his testosterone years and he said, we should also attend one, even if just once in our life. It was the craziest beach party ever, he prodded on.
|TOUCHING DOWN AT THAILAND’S SURAT THANI|
And so it was that more than a year later, we touched down at Thailand’s Surat Thani airport, backpacks and the whole gang in tow. Spending the first few weeks of our Beach Hop Asia Tour in Malaysia with C and M, we flew in to Thailand where our friends from TeamRH joined us. It was one heck of a plan, a year in the making, at least. The sad thing though, was J, who initially pushed us into going was unable to attend due to health reasons. He told us he isn’t allowed to drink any alcohol, and that’s just quite impossible at the Full Moon Party.
From the airport, we boarded a bus (THB590.00 including ferry fare) along with hordes of backpackers—mostly Europeans—to the jump off point for Koh Phangan, one of several islands at the Surat Thani Province. It was where the party originated and it has since spread throughout Thailand’s other beach areas. The ride took a couple of hours with no break for lunch. Bad news for us, we had nothing to eat since morning.
|THE AZURE WATERS OF THE GULF OF THAILAND|
The ferry to the island at Thong Sala Pier provided respite for our grumbling tummies. With a few minutes to spare before boarding, we hurriedly bought packed noodles for about 50.00 baht at the roving hawkers along the port. And soon, we were queuing in for our three-hour long ferry ride.
|A BACKPACKERFUL OF A FERRY|
Note that the ferry guys would insist on taking your backpacks, if they’re humongously big, and would pile them in one huge heap on one part of the ferry. If there are valuables and breakable things inside, just ignore them and bring your bags with you inside the cabin, there’s space enough for it in between the seats.
|WATCHING THE SUNSET|
|THE SUN HAS SET AND WE’RE STILL NOT IN KOH PHANGAN|
And we sailed, a ferry full of young travelers and backpackers ready to party. Already, a mini-party of sorts started at the prow of the ship, while most sat at the open railings of the boat’s port and starboard side, watching the azure waters of the Thailand Gulf turn into fiery red as the sun started to kiss the horizon.
|DINNER AT A HAWKER CENTER IN KOH PHANGAN|
It was full dark when we arrived at Koh Phangan. We really haven’t eaten much while on the ferry, the prices of the food being quite prohibitive for us Asians (yes, it’s next to nothing for our European counterparts). So while everyone was boarding songthaews, Thailand’s makeshift pick-up public transport truck, to Haad Rin Beach where the happenings are, we went off towards town to check for Thai hawkers.
Passing expensive restaurants, we finally found an open-aired hawker center where food is much cheaper. After looking around, the gang settled on one stall selling pre-cooked food with rice. Filipinos love rice indeed. Me, I went for a plate of pad thai with fried egg plus a piece of spicy fried chicken. We were hungry.
|FULL MOON PARTY WEAR|
With our appetites satiated, it was finally time to head over to Haad Rin. We pre-booked our hostel, knowing full well that we probably would have had a hard time getting one right on site. We haggled with a lady songthaew driver (90THB for each of us) and were soon driving through the darkness of the island, punctuated here and there by pockets of tourist areas. It was easy to tell that the whole island is heavily dependent on tourism.
|PRE-FULL MOON PARTY AT HAAD RIN BEACH|
|ALL FOR A BUCKET OF ALCOHOL|
Dropping our bags at the Funny Moon Hostel [CHECK RATES & AVAILABILITY]—small but clean, secure and more importantly, just a minute away from Haad Rin Beach—we immediately headed over to the shore to see the pre-Full Moon Party happenings.
With bottles of cold Chang beer in hand, we mixed in with the backpacker crowd. The tales of debauchery that J told us more than a year ago paled in comparison to the actual party we witnessed that night. It was much, much wilder. And yes, the moon isn’t even full just yet.