Thursday, February 21, 2013

tSH goes to Thailand: Koh Phangan

Our next stop was Party Island. Otherwise known as Koh Phangan.

Apparently Thailand has a secret. And these secrets are called Full Moon Parties.

Well actually these aren't a secret. It's just that ridiculous people who live under rocks (like me) don't know about fabulous things like Full Moon Parties so when we find out about them we have no idea how such a thing could possibly exist in the world.

But they do.

Think of the largest rave you can imagine, on a beach, once a month, to celebrate the full moon. Now take that, on one specific island in the middle of Thailand, add glow in the dark/black-light reactive body paint, a lot of alcohol, and you've kind of got the picture.

Did I mention that the emphasis is on electronica as well?

Anyway, that's why we were heading to Koh Phangan - to check out the world-famous Full Moon Party that was happening on the 27th (when the full moon was happening).

I'd read a little bit about these parties before I left and generally, it sounded a little daunting. The official website for the event gave foreigners/first timers advice:

  1. Wear closed-toed shoes - there may be broken glass or other nasties in the sand and it's better to protect your feet.
  2. Wear a sweater - before you know you it the sun will come up and you will either get cold or very sunburned.
  3. Don't bring your actual ID, only a photocopy of your ID. (In my mind this really commented more about the looseness of their age-checking, rather than anything).
  4. Only bring the equivalent of about 500 baht. If you spend more than that, you're spending too much and will likely get yourself into regrettable trouble (Thought this piece of advice was the most interesting...really? You're gonna tell me how much I should reasonably stop spending at? Interesting...).
  5. Don't bring anything of value - it will get lost or stolen in the shuffle.
Basically that was the gist of things. Don't bring anything you're not okay with losing, don't bring anything of value, basically be okay with surviving for one night, making it home in one piece should be counted as a resounding success.

Hmph. Well then. I can play this game. Survival 101. Gotcha.

So we got ready that night after spending a day checking out our newest digs (the Haad Yao Bay View Resort and Spa - we decided to stay a good 45 minutes drive away from party/puke central and this was one of the few places that had a 3-night minimum stay for full moon times rather than a 5-night minimum stay) and headed over after arranging a rather convenient shuttle service from our hotel (obviously this is a once a month ordeal for them, so the path has been deeply grooved by now).

The conclusion?

Not as bad as it was made out to be. Granted, one should still be careful, but I would rate it as "not dangerous if you've got common sense."

Seemingly however, this still turned out to be not as large a percentage as one would hope. The States may have an average IQ of 100, but what's the world's IQ at places like these, I wonder?

...especially when the mean age seems to be about 19? And incredibly intoxicated? And you see wonderfully intelligent things like this:

Yes, I'm sure your sandals were so uncomfortable that you needed to wear them around your legs. Yes, sandals, ugh, so impractical (that's sarcasm).

I'm sure it didn't help when the drink of choice was buckets.

Yes you read that right. Buckets. Buckets of booze. Example:

This guy was selling his wares at our hotel. It's that prevalent. It comes with a bottle of booze, a mixer (which ranges in class from anything like unfiltered mango juice to glass bottles of Red Bull and little bottles of soda), and your very own bucket! Usually they'll fill it with ice so you can then mix your booze bucket yourself.

And carry it around with the appropriate amount of straws (appropriate meaning you can have more straws to invite strangers to drink from your bucket as well - yes, these are not necessarily just individual beverages).

Just so you know, there are about 30 baht to the $1 and 40 baht to the 1euro. The prices were all pretty standardized on the island so this guy wasn't particularly more expensive than anyone else we saw when we actually got there.

Important clues on how the Thais know their target audience also? English translations. The drink menus gave it away: Thai whisky, Smirnoff, mojito, vodka. Oh yes, when something as simple as "cheap vodka" plain and simple is written on the menu, you know you're in for a night of that. Yes, you should be wearing those closed toed shoes. You may not be walking on glass, but pretty sure you're almost guaranteed to walk into something you're not gonna like at some point or another.

Jesting aside most people there were actually pretty well-behaved. Throwing up or otherwise lewd behavior was at a surprising minimum. And since Thais are pretty conservative themselves (both in behavior and in dress), I think most people kept it pretty classy, considering. The only exceptional minor points were the large amount of people running out to the shore to relieve themselves...but I imagine this happens basically anytime you have a beach party and there aren't poisonous creatures in the sea at night and you have thousands of people drinking.

Anywhere, here is an image summary of what the party looked like. And yes, for you Marc, there was fire dancing of various kinds. Pretty sure I know where various friend groups of mine would have gotten stuck.

All in all it was worth the experience and I'm glad I went. I don't need to go again, but it was something I'm glad to say I've gone to.

I think the fun phrase to tie to this event: what has been seen can never be unseen. ;)

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