Full Moon Party

Thailand has often been described as the backpacker’s Mecca. Movies like ‘The Beach’ have impressed this on the public’s perception, and when young, would-be travelers leave the familial home and take their first hesitant steps on their inner search through travel, Thailand is often the first port of call. But if Thailand is the backpacker’s Mecca, then the Full Moon Party is surely the Kaaba, and each month travelers and holiday-makers make pilgrimage to Koh Samui island to take part in the most famous beach party of them all.

I am a veteran of four such occasions myself (possibly five but my memory is a little sketchy regarding these events), and famous though the full moon party may be, I’m not convinced that it is actually a party at all in the classical sense. Or should that be in the neoclassical sense given that a party as we know it is a somewhat modern phenomenon? Whatevs.

Let me explain. For a party to be a party, one would expect a large degree of homogeneity in the experience of the revelers. In some ways the full moon party has this in buckets (I meant that pun, am very proud of it, and refuse to apologize for it), but in others it somehow lacks a certain cohesion.

Sure, it’s held on a relatively small beach on a relatively small island, and for the most part party goers don luminous shirts, drink copious amounts of hazardous liquid in the form of party buckets, and apply to their bodies glow-in-the-dark paint in intricate designs. But there is no main focal point, no major DJ or band. As a result, people often wander aimlessly up and down the beach through the throng, pausing tentatively to watch a fire show here or listen to a DJ there. Others leap upon one of the previously erected dance stages, high on Samsung, life, and God knows what else, and gyrate like epileptic shamen all night.


It’s possible the reason for this lack of cohesion is because the full moon party began nearly thirty years ago, organised by a handful of travelers, and has grown organically ever since. It’s not as if one day someone decided to have a rave, hired a DJ, built a stage, and invited the world. Instead the full moon party has expanded over the years, with various bars popping up on the beach to take advantage of the monthly influx.

Perhaps therein lies its charm. There’s something for everyone, just not a lot of it. Is the full moon party really a party? I guess that really depends on your definition of a party. For me it’s more like a street with a party in every house, each party spilling over onto the next.

Think that sounds like fun? Me too! Hence why I’ve been four (or five) times! So book that flight, strap on that backpack, and I’ll see you there…


– Hugh Hamilton


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