Ibiza, move over: the world’s biggest beach party shines with a thousand lights on the island of Koh Phangan, in Thailand. Organised every month at the full moon, the fête attracts up to 30,000 party-goers and caters to all musical tastes under the sun.
The beach is unable to contain a gathering so large that it spills over into the water. It’s almost as if the world’s biggest cruise ship has just sunk in the turquoise waters of Koh Phangan and thousands of survivors have sought refuge on the lovely Haad Rin beach. In truth, however, most members of this impressive gathering of revellers came via airplane, coach and, finally, boat to join the party. They are attracted by the magic of the place, naturally, but also by the ‘free spirit’ atmosphere that permeates the warm air of these lively tropical soirées. Enough atmosphere, actually, to create a smoking hot reputation that acts as a magnet for the party circle. All musical tastes and ambiances are represented in the string of bars that line the beach: trance, techno or jungle for some; R&B, hit parade or reggae for others.
Glow glow glow on Haad Rin
Once they’ve had a look around, the partiers’ next step is to ‘choose a bucket’ - that is to say, to buy a cocktail sold in a mini-bucket - before jumping into the big Full Moon melee. The party will continue until the next evening, for better and also for worse, as seen by the rising number of accidents. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people moondance together under the pale Thai moonlight. The dress code echoes the fête: togs have to be fluorescent, whatever the style. Fireworks, fire jugglers and the (in)famous fire limbo are also part of the scene, as are the revellers tarrying at dawn amidst an ocean of debris that a small army of islanders is industriously tidying up.
The Full Moon Party has become a much-hyped must for travellers to South-East Asia. From the streets of Bangkok to the heights of Angkor, T-shirts depicting the world’s biggest beach bash are omnipresent - quite the marketing scheme! Because, honestly, the party sometimes seems to have sold its soul to the devil. What began as an alternative happening is now a very commercial venue, giving rise to an avalanche of copycats, like the Half Moon Party, Shiva Party or Jungle Experience.
As for Haad Rin, the little village that used to be a traditional little village, it has apparently morphed into a mega-dormitory for westerners in search of exotic experiences. So where’s the authenticity? Perhaps it is found in the spirit of the party pilgrims and in the unique atmosphere that permeates the island once a month. Not to mention the unforgettable dawn sun which at least those partiers who have managed to stay awake can watch as it rises over the shimmering bay.