Full Moon Party review: 1 May 2007, Ko Phangan’s Haad Rin
Not counting the four or five hours I spent wandering back and forth along Ko Pha-Ngan’s Haad Rin during the May 1 Full Moon Party earlier this week, I’ve now been on the island for just over two days. Making a pilgrimage to the FMP has been on my Life List for years now; when I came to Ko Pha-Ngan three years ago, I somehow managed to arrive two or three days late, just as the island was beginning to empty out. This time around, I decided to stay on Ko Samui, and to take the slow boat over to the island at night. We pulled into Haad Rin pier an hour or two after dark, and although short bursts of rain had been falling all day — the sky was so overcast, in fact, that the full moon never actually showed itself — the requisite thousands were still packed onto the beach, hanging onto plastic buckets filled with vodka and Red Bull, and gyrating to bad techno and house music. My consensus? Largest and most ridiculous group of jackasses I have ever seen in my relatively short life.
Then again, I spent the entire evening sober — no alcohol, no pills, no nothing. It’s quite possible that I was the only sober boy on Haad Rin, and something I’ve noticed during the past two days here is that Pha-Ngan seems to take on an entirely different hue — for me at least — after I’ve swallowed a Beer Chang or two. Or three. I suspect a lot of backpackers probably feel the same way about the place. The other day I spent a bit of time reading through the Thailand threads on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum, and I was surprised (but amused) to read a post in which one traveller expressed his hope that KPN would be swallowed up the sea, or something along those lines. Funny — that’s exactly what I was thinking two nights ago while I was trying to fall asleep at two in the morning, but wasn’t able to because the four-foot high stereo speaker outside my door was cranking Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” at such a ridiculous volume that I could practically feel the bass drum vibrating inside my bone marrow. (Same-Same Guest House, in case you’re curious.)
Most amusing/unexpected aspect of the Full Moon Party? I was astounded at the number of people I saw passed out in the surf. I walked back and forth along the beach maybe four times that night, and every single pass revealed a new performance, mostly staged by young men, who had apparently chosen to lay down for a little nap right where the ocean’s waves were meeting the sand. Thankfully, every time I saw someone belly-flop into the surf I also saw friends or strangers dutifully tromp off to the rescue — and believe me, the rescues were a performance in and of themselves. It generally seemed to take two or three full-grown men to drag each drunken idiot out of the ocean. All that dead weight isn’t easy to handle, I suppose.
Before heading back to the pier to find my boat to Samui, I caught sight of a slightly overweight gal who had also decided to take a suicide nap in the sea. She had one friend holding onto each arm, and both were attempting to hoist her into a standing position, but to no avail; she flailed back and forth and side to side, and fell dramatically onto her ass probably four or five times before her pals finally managed to drag her onto dry land. She was wearing a short denim skirt, and throughout the ordeal her underwear was wrapped in a tight tangle around her knees. I saw at least two tourists — one of them female — nonchalantly snapping photos of this sad scene as they wandered past. Without a doubt, the May 1 FMP certainly qualifies as the most pathetic spectacle I’ve had the good fortune to witness in Thailand since arriving here two months ago. Which isn’t to say that I won’t return sometime in the future! But when and if I do, I’ll make damn-well sure my blood alcohol content is in the Serious Danger Zone before I so much as step off the boat.
I’ve been trying to figure out just how many of the suicide nappers actually died this month, and apparently a story at www.thaivisa.com, which I wasn’t able to find and therefore can’t verify, reported the number at one. Last night I ended up chatting with a friendly server at a reggae bar just off Haad Rin who told me a little about last month’s Full Moon Party stabbing incident, which you can read about here. This is direct from Ko Phangan Island News, an online magazine:
Sunday the 1st of April 2007, just right before the World Famous Full Moon Party at Had Rin Beach Koh Pha-Ngan, an Israeli tourist was knifed and beaten to death by local teenagers in Drop In Bar on the tourist island of Koh Phangan in Surat Thani province.
David Kakitelashvic, 31, was found dead with eight knife wounds to the chest, arm, face and back, and four signs of serious head wounds. He was lying on the floor of Drop In Bar on Haad Rin beach when police reached the scene at about 2am.
Police were told the tourist and four Israeli friends had arrived on the Island of Madness, also well known as Koh Phangan, to participate in the monthly celebration of insanity, formerly known as the Original Full Moon Party. The Israeli tourists were in the Drop In Bar at Hadrin Beach drinking and dancing when a fight broke out between the Israeli tourists and about five local Thai teenagers in which one of the Israeli tourists was killed, witnesses said. His assailants reportedly included the son of a local politician. Police will seek arrest warrants for suspects.
According to my reggae bar server, following this incident the police in Surat Thani province are talking about enforcing a 2 a.m. bar curfew on the island. Sounds unbelievable, especially considering all the money to made, but the same thing happened in Bangkok recently, so who knows? This’ll be an interesting story to watch.