You've seen the body paint, you've seen the crowds, and every time a friend posts a picture of Thailand's Full Moon Party your stomach aches with jealousy. Now's your chance to find out what it's like, the highs, the lows, and the stuff that's completely wild and crazy! So is it worth flying across the world for? I'd say yes!
Full Moon Party was an essential part of my Thailand experience, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart. There are a few things you should know before joining Thailand's most crowded and most talked about party. We'll go through what to expect and what to prepare for, so you can get the most out of your Full Moon experience!
What started 30 years ago, in 1988, as an impromptu party between travellers has grown into an epic tourism event each month, drawing crowds of up to 30,000 people. Located on one of Thailand's many islands, Ko Pha Ngan, it's impossible to miss the Full Moon Party. The whole island is essentially dedicated to the event. Every tourist shop sells Full Moon party shirts and flower crowns. Every hotel offers shuttle service to the beach on the full moon. And every hotel near the beach sells out quickly, so book early and plan ahead. Oh, and don't forget to have fun. Because just like 30 years ago, when a group of travellers came together to party and say thanks to the beautiful island that brought them together, that's still what the Full Moon party is all about.
20 You Meet Tons of New People (Epic)
The absolute best thing about the Full Moon Party is the people. Hands down. There's no other place in the world that attracts that many open-minded and friendly people in one place.
Everyone on the island is there to have a good time, and it's impossible to stay on Ko Pha Ngan without making a few friends along the way. Because Full Moon parties attract travellers from across the world, it's literally the best place in the country to meet new people. During my stay we partied with Canadians, Americans, a British Couple and a loads of Australians.
It was like the world shrunk down to the size of that beach for a night, and it was magical.
19 You are forced to stay on the island for a minimum 4 days (Let-Down)
If you want to go to Full Moon party, you need to plan ahead, there's no getting around it. The island has a strict four night minimum for any hotel even remotely close to the beach. That means you either show up early (which I recommend, since it gives you time to meet people before the party) or you give yourself a few days to recover after the full moon.
They don't want people showing up for the party and leaving the next day, that wouldn't be as easy for the shops, restaurants and hotels to capitalize on your visit. What's unfortunate is that you'll spend more money in those four days than you would in weeks on other parts of the Thailand. Plus, Ko Pha Ngan isn't nearly the most beautiful or tourist friendly of the islands, so it can feel a bit like wasted time during your trip.
18 The atmosphere is unlike anything in the world (Epic)
Everything that can be seen as negative for one traveller may be positive for another. While some days I felt forced to stay on the island for four days, other days I was grateful for the experience and the time it allowed me to develop relationships with new people and experience things I never had before. While most of my Thailand trip was go go go, the days spent on Ko Pha Ngan were some of my favorites. The days are slow, and you have time to catch your breath and relax. The nights are wild, and everyone talks to everyone. It's unlike anywhere I've been before, and if you're young and want to meet like-minded people, it's incomparable.
17 All the Prices are Jacked-up (Let-Down)
For every amazing aspect of Full Moon party, there's another that was not so fun. For us, price was a big bummer. Most people who travel to Thailand go because you can get so much for so little. When you're used to staying in hotels for $20 and pay a dollar or two for food or drinks, Full Moon feels expensive. Prices are jacked up on the island, and you just have to go in knowing that you'll pay more. Bargaining works, as it does all over the island, but the bartenders and shop owners also know that if you walk out, someone else walks in, since the beach is teeming with partiers, so you really need to play your cards right to get a good deal.
16 There are crazy celebrations every night before full moon (Epic)
When I travelled to Ko Pha Ngan for Full Moon Party I was not mentally prepared for all the other celebrations that week, which were equally impressive. Every party has a theme, an elaborate venue and a lot of people. The word spreads across the island for which party is THE party for the night, and then it seems like the whole island attends.
One of my favorites was earlier in the week when we went to Jungle themed event. We were in a taxi shuttle for what felt like forever going up the winding roads until we were literally in the middle of the Thai jungle (note to self, I should have worn more bug spray).
The music was great, the atmosphere was hyped, and then it rained. A LOT! The shuttle back was one of my favorite / most terrifying memories of the trip.
15 The Half Moon and Full Moon Parties are pretty much the same (Let-Down)
In case you didn't get the memo, Thailand is a great place. And it's not just Ko Pha Ngan. Cities and beaches all over Thailand host full moon parties. Ko Pha Ngan is the original, the biggest, and I'd like the think the best, but the full moon party was so successful for Thailand they decided to start Half Moon parties as well.
Another, much smaller island, Ko Phi Phi, hosts an awesome Half Moon party. My fiancé and I were visiting Phi Phi for a few days and had no idea there would be a party on the beach that night.
Since Full Moon party is so popular, and you need to book your hotel months in advance and stay on the island days before, you expect to have a good time. Half Moon party was a complete surprise, and we ended up having so much fun that the bar was set really high for full moon party. It turned out to be pretty much the same, just with more people.
14 Everyone is in florescent body paint (Epic)
My favourite part of Full Moon party (I feel like I've said that before, but there were so many highlights) was the body paint. You can have an artist paint you on the beach, for a fee, of course, or you can buy body paints from the shops and paint yourselves at your hotel before going. My friends and I opted for store bought body paint, and had fun drawing random things on our backs, arms and faces and legs before walking over to the beach. I'm especially proud of the brontosaurus I painted on my fiancé's back (he's a big Jurassic Park fan)!
Everyone proudly displays where they're from (I had Canada written down my leg), what they love and who they are. Plus the pictures look awesome!
13 There's TOO much going on at once (Let Down)
I was getting a bit of whip lash from looking around at all the things to see. My expectations were so high that I forgot to focus on the moment and pick one thing to do and enjoy it. I didn't know where to dance, there were too many choices and too many people to talk to. If you're not careful, you could easily get swallowed by the tsunami of activity and feel overwhelmed.
My advice to you is just go for it. See something you like, commit to it, then move on. Watch the fire shows, release a lantern, join in the games or do nothing. Just do you and it'll be fun.
12 The fire dancers, fire limbo, and fire shows rock! (Epic)
It's not a full moon party if there aren't fire dancers! I have to say it again, but this was definitely one of the highlights! It's incredible to watch how agile the Thai fire dancers are. There is fire spinning, fireworks, fire breathing, fire jump rope, fire limbo... it's not stop entertainment. Good thing water isn't too far away if anything happens, because Full Moon parties have fire everywhere.
The first time you see it, you're spellbound. The second time you catch it on camera. The third time, you're a little more jaded. But years later, when you think about your trip, that initial moment of awe will be what you remember. Trust me, it's worth seeing!
11 Get your money early, because ATMs are known to crash (Let-Down)
You're going to need money at Full Moon party, and the best idea is to get it early. If you don't, you might be stranded with nothing, because the ATMs are known to crash when they are overused by tourists.
I tried to take out money from a machine just before the party, and my card was rejected. I waited outside for a bit and saw a Thai man enter the ATM booth, take out money, and walk away. I went back in, hopeful it was fixed, but again my card was rejected. I was about to call it quits when finally another traveller pointed me in the direction of an ATM she just used, successfully. It was a scare I didn't need to have that evening, and one you can easily avoid by cashing your money out in advance.
10 The music is amazing (Epic)
What's a party without music? A little like a massive music festival with different bands or DJs on different stages, if you walk along the beach you'll hear the music (song and style) change from spot to spot. Pick the style you like, and hang around there. Try to avoid those nasty in between spots where you hear music from two different sets of speakers, it can be a bit disorienting.
The DJs play everything from trance music to R&B, house to reggae and of course lots of drum and base! There's something for everyone, you just have to find your match.
9 You're exhausted! (Let-Down)
When I get tired, my mind goes blank. I remember having fun, but I also remember when the sun came up being so ready to go to bed. I was sore and tired. My ears were buzzing and my feet were nearly numb. I was exhausted.
I mean, hey, that's the mark of a great party, right? But at the same time, you need to really pace yourself the days before. After going to Jungle party and Coral Bungalow's Pool Party and outings all day, by the time Full Moon came I was spent! It took me a few days to really recover.
8 There's SO much happening (Epic)
If you're the type to slowly sip through a straw on the beach while looking out at the waves crash against the shore, don't even bother. There's nothing relaxing about Full Moon. It's a non stop heart pumping party where every where you go there's something to see or do. I don't remember sitting down the whole time. To be quite frank, the whole night turned into one massive blur of colour and sound in my over-exhausted memory.
But all this is what you want from the most hyped-up party in South East Asia.
7 You will lose your friends (Let Down)
There's a lot to get distracted by at Full Moon. Every sign has a joke, every shop has a special, every DJ is playing a different song, and every person is covered in body paint. When you linger too long on something, when you turn around, chances are your friend won't be where you last left them.
You will get lost. You will have a mini panic moment, until you spot them again, mesmerized by the fire dancers. Even if you only meet back up at the end of the night, just go with it, and enjoy your time, no matter who you're with.
6 It's the perfect meet up for travellers across Thailand (Epic)
When you travel to Thailand and talk about your itinerary with fellow travellers, it will likely have at least one thing in common: Full Moon. No matter what direction you go in, you'll come back together again on Ko Pha Ngan.
By the time we attended Full Moon it was towards the end of our trip. We'd been to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket and even Cambodia, and everywhere we went we hung out with people we'd just met. Full Moon was where everyone we'd seen over the last few weeks came together. Everywhere we turned we saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was unreal.
5 The fire jump rope and metal slide (Let-Down)
It's impossible to miss the fire jump rope, it's the big flaming cord everyone is standing around with their mouths hanging to the floor. But you might not want to wait in line to give it a try.
Person after person inevitably get a nice whip to the leg, a quick burn, and then it's on to the next one. There's no winning at this game!
So definitely watch as others do it, because there will inevitably be a line of people eager to try, but if you're nervous, there's a good reason. You won't be sent to the hospital with third degree burns, but it's definitely not a pain free experience.
And then there's the slide! Again I opted out and watched my friends go down one after the other. But for a little pleasure comes a little more pain. That metal slide is not friendly, and you may walk away with a burn, just like the rope.
4 It'll be one of the highlights of your trip (Epic)
I wouldn't trade or change my Full Moon party experience for anything. The people I met, the memories I have (and the ones I forgot, I'm sure!) and the crazy stories I'll tell for the rest of my life all hinge in one way or another around this crazy party, once a month.
As cheesy as it is, the best part about that night was spending it with my partner, and soon to be husband. With so many people, so many things to do, and a complete sensory overload for hours, every time I looked at him, I felt a little less overwhelmed and a little more safe.
3 It can be hazardous (Let-Down)
We've already talked about the possible cuts and burns from jumping over fire, but during the Full Moon experience, it's not unheard of for people to be involved in accidents, whether scooter, car, or something else. A friend of mine damaged his cheekbone, and his face was so swollen I kept having to remind myself how rude it was to stare while he was eating his breakfast. He was just one of the many people on the island who unfortunately got hurt during the few days I was there. I was another one, in fact! I hurt my wrist on a scooter two days before the full moon.
The treatment options in the area aren't the best. Even though we're always super cautious and careful, with so many people around and so much going on, it's hard not to bump into people or trip over things.
2 It's easy to stay up and see the sunrise (Epic)
Full Moon party doesn't really have an end, but the goal is to make it past sunrise. The crowd dies down, speakers are packed up, vendors close, and people start leaving. But if you stay, after your crazy night, even when you're having trouble keeping your eyes open, it's worth it.
When the sun comes up, your party bubble pops and you're reminded where you are and why. Thailand is a beautiful country, and you don't get to see that while you're dancing. Instead you see the culture and the fun. But when the sun rises over the ocean, you're reminded again of how wonderful the country is, and how lucky you are to be there in that moment.
1 The beach is unrecognizable (Let-Down)
There was a point late into the night, or early into the morning depending on how you see it, that I forgot I was on a beach entirely. My feet were cold since the morning had started to creep up, and only then did I remember I was standing on damp sand.
As I looked around while people started to walk back to their hotels and leave the beach, my heart sank at the complete wreck we left behind. Garbage everywhere. It was the typical post concert scene, but that much more heartbreaking because who knew how much garbage had already made its way into the ocean.