Ko Pha Ngan is a beautiful jewel of an island in the Gulf of Thailand, just over 20 miles off the east coast of the mainland. While it is as picturesque a destination as one could imagine, it is most famous for its monthly Backpacker’s Bash- the infamous, incomparable, indescribable Full Moon Party. Every month, thousands of travelers descend on Ko Ph Ngan for the monthly festival- an all-night beach rave complete with neon body paint, epic fire dancers, legendary bucket cocktails, and enough insanity to satisfy even the craziest of party-goers. It is THE party of all parties- at least in this part of the world. The energy level increases in the days leading up to the Full Moon, tension filling the air as travelers from the world over vie for the last few beachside bungalows. The anticipation mounts as Had Rin Beach gets more and more crowded, a continual flow of tenders and ferries bringing more revelers over from the mainland and neighboring islands. Finally, it reaches the bursting point, and the whole islands explodes into one of the most epic scenes to be had along the Backpacker’s Trail. The Full Moon Party- definitely something that has to be seen to be believed.
There are numerous ways to get to Ko Pha Ngan- planes, trains, boats, and buses, among others. Ferries leave from the mainland towns of Surat Thani and Chumphon daily; you can catch a flight into neighboring Ko Samui and board a transfer ferry there; you can get there from Ko Tao to the south... It all depends on where you are coming from, and what your budget can handle. Check out http://kohphangan.com/travel/gethere.html for more details.
Things to do on Ko Pha Ngan
- Hit the beach(es)- you can walk around the entire island in about 10 hours if you want, and there are countless hidden, secluded beaches to be found well away from the madness of Had Rin. Pack a lunch, grab some water, and go explore.
- Speaking of exploring... There are several trails that wind through the island, providing great hikes through native forest, etc.
- Have some sport- volleyball, beach soccer, frisbee, beach bocce, snorkeling, scuba diving- just a few of the option on offer on Ko Pha Ngan. The monthly beach soccer tournament is not for the faint of heart- those that are brave enough to play take it pretty seriously...
- Party, party, PARTY- Yes, the island is known for the Full Moon Party, but there’s also the ‘Half-Moon Party’, the ‘Black Moon Party’, the ‘Beach Bungalow Party’- honestly, EVERY night is a party on Ko Pha Ngan. Make sure you save yourself for the REAL DEAL come Full Moon Party time...
- Booking accommodation on Koh Pha Ngan is tricky business. If you do it online, most hotels/bungalows will require that you book at least 5 nights- not a bad thing, really, considering you’ll be ON THE BEACH IN THAILAND, but still, a lot to commit to when you’re booking online and haven’t even seen the place. The problem is, if you wait until you get to the island, you run the risk of everything being full (a very real possibility, no matter what time of year), or having to pay OUTRAGEOUS prices for basic accommodation. It’s kind of a Catch 22. Your best bet is to do your research and get something locked down ahead of time. You won’t be spending that much time in your room anyway, so if it’s not what you thought, no big deal.
- Speaking of accommodation- BOOK EARLY. Again, literally THOUSANDS of other travelers will be joining you for the Full Moon Party- the earlier you look into accommodation, the more options you will have, and the more affordable those accommodations will be. As always, if worse comes to worst, you can always camp on the beach...
A few tips for the Full Moon Party
- Don’t get all dressed up- it’s a party ON THE BEACH, and whatever you wear is more than likely to get WRECKED anyway. Flipflops, swimmers, and a shirt you don’t mind getting paint on- that’s the way forward.
- If you are traveling/hanging with a group of people, you will most likely get separated at some point during the madness- it happens when there are thousands of crazed revelers dancing to techno music all over the beach. Set up a meeting point, get extra keys to your room, hide a key by your door if you need to- just make sure you have a way to get in BEFORE you go out.
- Some people are more sensitive to the neon body paint than others. The paint, while a very cool, iconic part of the festivities, can leave chemical burns on your skin if you’re not careful- be aware.
- Get out there early- the Fire Dancers put on an AMAZING show before things really get going- you don’t want to miss it.
- Take as few personal items as possible. Sure, you’ll need money, but everything else is best left in your room- it’s too big a risk of losing a camera or a phone when in a less-than-coherent state. Best idea- go out early, take some photos/videos of you and your friends getting painted, the fire dancers doing their thing, etc., and then put your camera back in your room. Then, you’ve got it documented, and won’t lose anything later on when the fun really starts...
- Use a pinch of common sense- The Full Moon Party is INSANE, and everyone is out to make it happen- whatever ‘it’ may entail. Sure, you want to have a good time, you want to take advantage of the opportunity, you want to go a little bit crazy, BUT- you’ll also want to REMEMBER the experience, and not wake up face down in the sand the next afternoon, having no clue what just happened for the last 12 hours. Trust us- we’ve seen it happen, and it isn’t pretty...