New Years Full Moon Party in Koh Pha Ngan: One party to rule them all, One party to find them, One party to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
New Year’s Eve is a pretty epic event for all around the world. Whether you’re in Europe, South America, Australasia or somewhere else equally as fun, you’re bound to have made plans for the night and have your vat of glitter and cocktail choices laid out. It’s a decadent affair where you can wave farewell to the previous year and let your hair down, so if you’re ever in Thailand on the gorgeous island of Koh Pha Ngan for New Year’s Eve, you may perhaps have plans to attend the infamous Full Moon Party?
The Full Moon Party has a real mix of reviews – some absolutely loath it and can’t think of anything worse, and some freaking love a good bash on a beach. But if you’re yet to make your mind up, we thought it best to share our experience on the epic beach of Haad Rin that we shared together a few years ago. We’re talking alcohol by the bucket loads, dancing on every surface, terrifying taxi rides and pumping catchy (cringy) tunes blasting from all speakers.
I had been traversing Thailand alone a few years back, and Alex met up with me for Christmas and New Years. We had spent a heavenly Christmas on the southern island on the Andaman Coast, Koh Lanta, before making the real long and arduous journey over to the eastern islands. It took a loooong time but after a taxi, a ferry and two buses, we made it to our quiet accommodation on the west side of Koh Pha Ngan.
The Full Moon Party takes place on the southern tip of the island on Haad Rin beach, a good 45 minute taxi ride away from us – we made the wise choice of staying on a quieter side of the island and make the journey over to Haad Rin beach when the big night came around.
I have to admit, I’m not usually a big fan of New Years. The forward planning, the crowds, the pressure to have an epic night – the thought of it makes me want to take a big nap and postpone the festivities until my Christmas food belly has diminished. But I have to say, as someone who’s not a huge NYE fan, the Full Moon Party was insanely fun and plain old EPIC.
Myself, my sister and her friend got into clothes that were the only ones that looked ok after spending a few weeks crammed into a backpack, and jumped in an open back taxi over to Haad Rin beach. The journey over to the decadent party was an experience in itself, with the steepest hills, winding roads and tight blind corners.
We gratefully spilled out of the truck and followed the crowds down to the beach. Expect plenty of rowdy folk, but generally the vibe is pretty happy with a large does of excitement! Music pumps from roadside bars where you can stop and pick up a bucket of some kind of lethal cocktail. Tattoo parlours, hair braiding, steaming BBQ’s, souvenirs – the streets are buzzing with life!
When we hit the beach, we were a bit dumbstruck – I hadn’t seen this amount of people on a beach ever. It was a touch intimidating… so what’s a pair of girls to do? Take a big glug of Dutch courage, jump on one of the dance floors and begin dancing like loons to endless Sean Paul and Akon. The crowds were heaving, everyone was smiling and generally having a freaking blast! It was like a rave with poorly chosen reggae pop blaring from the speakers. Thais and tourists were dancing side-by-side, living it up until dawn.
We had a top time at the Full Moon party, and we definitely gathered some tips for anyone thinking of heading to one. From what to take, to scams to watch out for; see below for our top tips for the Koh Pha Ngan Full Moon party – it should be done at least once in a lifetime!
Our top tips for the Koh Pha Ngan Full Moon Party:
1. Stay somewhere away from Haad Rin Beach
First thing’s first. Where to sleep before and after the Full Moon Party? I would recommend the west side of the island as it is quieter with a slower pace, plus it has a touch of reggae laid-back fun. If you’re not a fan of the quiet beach life, then stay over towards Haad Rin where the parties are non-stop and the music pumps, but we like a decent nights sleep to recover from late night fun.
There’s nothing worse than desperately needing sleep, but having a ton of people running riot outside your door. That wasn’t for us so we stayed in some quaint little bungalows around Haad Yao, just around the corner from the stunning beach of Haad Salad. This area was family friendly and easy going – the perfect nook to rest up in.
2. Go with the right people
Like any party, if you go with the wrong people then it’s bound not to be good. The party can be awful with crap music and not a free drink in sight, but if you’re with the right people then you can turn it up and have a blast. We’ve all been there – the people make the party. So with that in mind, be sure to head to the Full Moon Party with people who have an open mind, no judgements which will cloud their experience and a fun spirit. My sister was my perfect partner as although we were initially apprehensive, we had to go with it and make the most of it. And we darn did.
3. Book a taxi
Before the eve, make sure you book a taxi if you’re a fair way away from the party scene like we were. If you leave it until an hour until you wish to leave, you’ll find it near impossible to flag a taxi down as they are all jam packed with party goers crammed inside. Perhaps ask your accommodation to help you out or team up with some people from your homestay or hostel, as it will cheapen the cost and help to lock down a taxi at an arranged time. You can also arrange a pick-up which can be tricky to keep to, but when people are leaving a party, it’s easier to jump on a ride.
4. Go with a small group
Haad Rin is HUGE. Factor in a revelling crowd of thousands of people, bars, dance floors, intertwining inland streets packed full of excited tourists, and you’ve got the perfect scenario to lose your comrades. If you go with a large group, accept the inevitable that you will lose people as its real hard to stick together in this mayhem. We went as a three but still lost one, but luckily my sister and I stayed together like our lives depended on it.
It would be wise to organise a meeting point at a certain time if you’re with a large group and wish to head home altogether. Or even to continue the night after a brief regroup!
5. Stay alert
Make sure that you do not wander off by yourself unless you mean to. Once you’re separated, it might be a long time until you catch-up with your friends at the prearranged meet point or until your taxi is ready to get you. Even though a hell of a lot of people fully let loose at the party, we didn’t get absolutely wasted as this is quite a key thing if you’re travelling alone, whether you’re a guy or a girl backpacking. Be sure to keep hydrated and keep a bottle of water on you at all times – I swear this has saved me from many a hangover. Those buckets of booze can be dangerous!
You need to stay alert and at least have the sense to know how to get yourself home when you’re done with the night, especially if you’re staying a good distance away from Haad Rin beach.
6. Take minimal expensive things with you
It’s a party on a beach. If you lose something, that’s it. It’s gone forever! We brought along minimal possessions with us and even brought disposable cameras as there was no way we were going to haul our pricey DSLRs into a bumping thumping crowd. A phone is kind of necessary, but I had switched to a tiny primitive Nokia on my travels to avoid any kind of expensive breakages. These days, sure you will bring your smartphone, but just stay wary of it as no one wants to begin beach-combing for a lost possession at 3am!
7. Don’t be scammed
We hadn’t actually heard of any scams prior to the party, but then again we didn’t actually look them up. We had been wary of any scams just from being in a new country where the tourists make easy prey, like anywhere in the world.
When on the dance floor, we were approached by some Thai men offering to sell us drugs. Due to the packed dancefloor, they were very close to us and in a semi-circle. We never felt threatened at all, but once we had declined and they had left us, some Thai girls ran up to us and began speaking Thai to us – as we’re half Asian, we got mistaken for Thai a few times. Once they knew we only spoke English, they told us to check our bags. They warned us that this sometimes happens and when you’re distracted by the selling, someone else will pick pocket you from behind. We were luckily fine from that scenario, but it’s something to watch out for.
Alex did get her coin purse swiped from her bag, but only lost a few Baht… Our friend was holding cash in his hand at a bar and someone ran past and grabbed it from his hand. Watch out for pick pockets, as they can come in the form of any nationality as drunks at a party are pretty easy to take advantage of.
8. Eat some delicious food
Ok, enough of the scary warnings… now about the food! Endless stalls will be whipping up delicious treats all night long, so if you get the hunger during your experience, you’ll be spoilt for choice! From spring rolls to noodles, veggie stir fries to burgers, curries to fresh fruit – you’ll find something to sedate the pangs.
Also, there are some lovely cocktails to be had. They’re a touch pricier than the beer or buckets, but if you suddenly want to treat yo’ self to a Mudslide for a bit of energy, then your wish will be granted here! Go away from the beach onto the streets and you’ll find a whole heap of options.
9. Get home
This tip is pretty straight forward and simple…. Do not pass out and sleep on the beach. It’s likely that you’ll wake up with shoes missing and wallet gone walkabout, not to mention that it’s pretty horrific to wake up under the blazing sun surrounded by the carnage of the night. Try to get home to your bed and you can thank me in the morning.
10. Let go and embrace the party!
Like I mentioned, the people make the party. Even if you’re quite put off by the hordes of drunken people, if you’re there you should just go with it. Let your hair down and embrace the night as it’s a whole lot of fun if you follow our simple guide!
Alex and I must have left the party around 4am and happened to find our taxi home by pure chance as we got pretty lost in those small lanes. Another winding drive home and an undignified backwards fall out of the taxi (for me), we were home and could collapse into our beds, exhausted.
The Full Moon party on Koh Pha Ngan is a top party to check out if you happen to be there, and on New Year’s Eve it gets absolutely crammed. But take a breath, grab a bucket and get on the dance floor and dance like no one’s watching!
all photographs by Alex Saint