I really dislike when people look down on you for seeking out an experience that to them is cliche or “touristy” or for not being an “authentic backpacker”. What is that? The tourist vs traveller debate is so overdone and pointless, and yet it’s still applied to bucket-list experiences in Thailand like the Full Moon party, maybe because it’s been going on for so long and become so popular. I don’t think anyone is entitled to judge another’s travel experience. Instead, go with an open mind and you might surprise yourself, or don’t go at all and then don’t judge anyone who does!
I went to two Full Moon parties in the space of 6 months. Was it my best ever travel experience? Probably not. But I did have an awesome time, met awesome people I’m still in contact with, I challenged myself, did something new and made great memories. All positive experiences and part of what I think travelling should be about.
So here’s the stuff I learned from my experiences at the Full Moon party:
How to get to the Full Moon Party
Koh Phangan is on the eastern side of southern Thailand and the adventure starts with the journey there. In the days leading up to the Full Moon party backpackers are streaming to Koh Phangan from all over the country.
Thailand is full of little travel agencies who will be happy to book you on transport to Koh Phangan from whatever destination you need. You can overnight train/bus from Bangkok before taking a ferry or fly to neighbouring Ko Samui then ferry. Shop around a little bit so that you can compare prices.
We made the pilgrimage across to Koh Phangan from Phi Phi Island, showing our tickets at each place and being herded with different coloured stickers (this seems to be the norm in Thailand, stickers for everything!) Slightly dodgy-looking boat, suffocatingly hot bus, marginally better boat and we were there.
Where to stay on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party
I would recommend staying in Haad Rin on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, in the center of the action. You can book in advance or come early and chance your luck when you get there. The whole town is full of accommodation but it will start to fill up in the days before the party. If you book in advance expect to pay for a minimum number of days. We booked in advance, which meant locking into 5 nights of accommodation, often the minimum over the Full Moon week.
The advantage is knowing your accommodation is secure, but you also may spend more by booking online as prices are often higher than just walking in. We paid double online to the advertised price outside the accommodation (still cheap at $20US per night for a private room with pool facilities at the hotel though!).
By waiting until you get to Koh Phangan to choose your Full Moon Party accommodation you can check out the places before saying yes, and another benefit to arriving early is that it’s possible to get cheaper walk-in rates for accommodation for the Full Moon Party, and not be locked into as many days. However, you’ll still want to arrive early enough to have your choice of accommodation, and I would recommend at LEAST 3 or 4 days early.
It is possible to stay outside Haad Rin or ferry from another island but I think you miss half the experience, and you have to worry about the ferries rather than being able to walk back to your accommodation when you like. A lot happens on the island in the buildup to the Full Moon Party and I think it’s worth being there to experience it without having to travel from another place all the time. However, backpackers and solo travellers often go to Koh Samui or Koh Tao after the Full Moon party to unwind and relax.
The first time I went to the Full Moon Party I stayed at the Dancing Elephant Hostel in a 40 bed dorm. Sounds like hell but it was surprisingly quiet and private because of the walls between the built-in bunks. Half the time our room was empty and we mostly meet new people in their pre-parties in the street outside, which anyone can attend. There’s a lot of choices when it comes to Full Moon Party hostel accommodation, but I would say this is one of the better options. The owner has been living there for years and knows his stuff, and the facilities were good.
For my second Full Moon Party experience, I spent the same amount as I had in a party hostel for private accommodation at the Sun Cliff Resort. It has an amazing pool and it’s a 5-minute walk away from the center of Haad Rin so not noisy if you do head away from the party on the beach.
Why you should go early to Koh Phangan for Full Moon
In the same way, you could not stay in Haad Rin, you could rock up the day before Full Moon, or even boat from somewhere else on the day, but then you’d miss half the fun. But the build-up to the Full Moon Party is well worth the early trip to Koh Phangan! We spent the nights in the leadup to the Full Moon Party meeting the people we would end up spending the actual night with and getting our bearings around the island.
The Jungle Party was the biggest pre-Full Moon party the night before. My first time on Koh Phangan I had an even better time at the Jungle Party than on the actual night of the Full Moon. It was held in some remote location of the island that I’m not even sure of, in the middle of the jungle of course. You’ll see posters on lampposts and around the restaurants that advertise any pre-parties in the nights before Full Moon.
The parties on Haad Rin beach itself are always big in the nights leading up to Full Moon so it can be fun to just hang around there and meet new people. If you do go to a party outside Haad Rin just remember it will cost you 100baht per person to go anywhere in a songthaew (except if you cram 25 people on and bargain for 30baht each…).
But Koh Phangan offers more to do than just party, and you won’t struggle to find things to do in Haad Rin and Koh Phangan, like snorkelling or exploring further afield on scooters. You can fill your days with activities before Full Moon, and avoid parties until the night of if you like.
Making friends for the Full Moon party
Koh Phangan at Full Moon party time is one of the most social places I have ever been. Everyone chats to you! People come to the Full Moon Party to socialise. We met great people in restaurants, on the beach, even getting our nails done. There are pretty much unlimited opportunities, you just need to overcome your fear of rejection and walk up to people and say hi. Maybe they’ll invite you into their group or maybe they won’t, but if not you can have a chat and someone will eventually!
Friends are also important on the night of Full Moon. While I never had any problems the two times I went to the Full Moon Party I wouldn’t want to be wandering around by myself. Stick together and have a plan if you get lost (which will probably happen) so you’re not wandering around missing each other. It’s important to remember your safety, even if you’re an experienced traveller.
Pace yourself on Koh Phangan
You’re there to enjoy the Full Moon Party right? So you actually want to see it and remember it. Those buckets on the street are cheap and they are lethal.
My first Full Moon I left before sunrise, not because I had drunk too much but I was just tired and ready to go home, as were most of my friends, but the second I saw it through to the morning! By no means was I disappointed the first time for not making it to see the sunrise, but if seeing the sunrise is your goal and you won’t be happy if you don’t then pacing yourself is even more important!
I also wouldn’t recommend leaving the day after Full Moon. Potentially no sleep and a ripping hangover does not sound fun on those boats that leave the island the next day. I left a day after that and the boat had several zombies still in bright t-shirts with remnants of paint on their skin.
Stay safe at the Full Moon party
Pretty sure my Mum wasn’t too happy with me going to the Full Moon Party (I was 25…) because it has a reputation for being dangerous, and with good reason. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and go crazy drinking more than you normally would (and without realising because the alcohol may be stronger). It’s easy to lose your friends in the hugest beach party you might ever go to. There are not nice people in the world and some of them will be there. I’m not going to say it’s all perfect! But that’s not a reason to not go. Instead, you just need to be mindful of your safety.
Don’t go overboard. Don’t get too drunk and don’t do what you wouldn’t do anywhere else. If you want to go down the water slide through the fire fine, just don’t be stupid and try and surf down it. Being at the Full Moon Party doesn’t make you invincible. Oh and maybe stay out of the ocean. Swimming drunk is never that smart, and once you see the line up of guys along the shoreline you shouldn’t want to anyway…
Don’t take anything with you to the Full Moon Party that you don’t want to lose. Partly in case it’s taken, and partly in case you lose it. Carrying a bag is a like wearing a big siren saying TAKE ME. I wouldn’t bother. If you really want to document your night make sure you’re aware of your belongings (see pace yourself above…). Luckily I ran into someone with a DSLR camera who took some awesome pictures and upheld his promise to email them to me. He was a full on huge burly wrestler so pretty sure his camera was safe…
And most importantly, have fun
Shrug off all your expectations and just embrace the moment.
There are so many more things I could say about the Full Moon party. The whole experience of travelling to Koh Phangan and taking part really rates up there with things I’m glad to have done while backpacking. There are epic travel stories and friends I’m still in contact with that came from those two trips, and I’ve now met up with them all over the world. Yes, it’s a cliche Thailand backpacker bucket-list experience, but it’s one I’m glad to have had.
Maybe it’s one of your bucket list items or maybe you’re skeptical, either way, if you want to give it a go, I’m sure you’ll gain something from going to the Full Moon Party!
Have you been? Do you want to go or is it your worst nightmare?
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