A crucial ingredient for any South East Asia trip is a ‘Full Moon Party.’ They are famous for copious amounts of alcohol, all-night parties, high spirits and spectacular views. The most famous of all Asia’s full Moon is held on Haad Rin beach on the small island of Koh Pha Ngan (located off the East Coast of Thailand), but it’s not the only one – they can be found all over the continent.
Once a month the usually peaceful and idyllic Koh Pha Ngan plays host to thousands of tourists who flock to the island in search of the experience, each party sees in around 50,000 people dance the night away. Although the event has fairly humble roots. The first known party was more of a social gathering back in 1985 when there just 30 people in attendance.
It is incredible to think that back then there was just a small disco, whereas now there are numerous bars and clubs on the beach front all have their stereo systems on full whack as they try to attract customers from their neighbours.
In fact it has become so famous that it has become one of Thailand’s number one tourist attractions, so much so they are even more popular than some of the most famous temples. The full moon parties have got so popular that the Island has now introduced ‘Half Moon’ parties which are to a smaller scale.
As for the music expect everything from techno, trance, drum ’n’ bass to commercial dance and reggae. Also expect to see jugglers, fire eaters and fireworks. When I hear ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ it sends me back to June 2000 when I was lucky enough to experience Ko Pha Ngan’s party for myself.
Like the parties themselves the alcohol ‘buckets’ are equally as famous, they come in all different strengths – none of which are for the faint hearted. You would have probably heard stories of drug taking (and of course the famous ‘shroom shakes served up at many surrounding cafes). Although be warned, health implications aside, Thailand is very a strict country and with the strong police presence you could well end your night in a Thai prison.
Other Full Moon Parties in Asia
Whilst Ko Pha Ngan is the original party and the most popular, here are some other great Full Moon Parties in Asia:
Bali’s full moon is known locally as Purnama and still sticks to tradition with locals heading off on their pilgrimages to religious temples. Whilst it is well worth experiencing the local traditions around the streets of Denpasar, for the party head to either Kuta or Seminyak to enjoy the social buzz and the beach side bars and clubs which stay open all night.
Cambodia is known for excellent parties and some are well worth visiting, the favourite location for full moon parties is Sihanoukville, a beautiful coastal town that is similar to Ko Pha Ngan only smaller. Like most of the competition there is plenty of alcohol, music and dancing. It’s also known for it’s lively fire shows and ‘happy pizzas!’ A full moon party to consider if you prefer a more intimate atmosphere.
Vientiane in Laos mixes a religious tradition with an excellent party, the ‘That Luang’ festival in November sees an annual three day build-up to the full moon where respect is paid to Buddha. The party place is at Mekong River Bank, known locally as the ‘River Bank Rave’. Although it is quite subdued in comparison to the craziness of Koh Pha Ngan but there is plenty of beer on offer, as well as dancing, music and local food.
Of course there is nothing to stop you planning your trip so you can spend a number of months island hopping and visiting them all!
What to drink…
1. The Bucket
A Full Moon Party would not be complete with a famous “Bucket”, always an experience to share with friends. The beautifully coloured straws will lead to an interesting night… They are generally filled with either Sangsom or Mekong whiskey, and mixed with a Thai version of Red Bull (M150) and possibly a ‘little’ fruit juice or coke.
2. Bia Hoi
A specialty in Hanoi and other Vietnamese cities, you can find them being sold at the side of the road. With them being sold at a litre at the time, why not sit back, watch the world go by and share them with some friends. You will find yourself surrounded by locals, especially at lunchtime, which will give you a very authentic experience. Unlike the buckets, they are not a lethal cocktail of alcohol but a light BUT refreshing lager that is normally about 3% in strength.
3. Cobra & Scorpion Whiskey
A drink that has to been seen and tasted to believe – depending which bottle you go with, there will be an actual cobra or scorpion in your bottle of whiskey. It is not for the lighthearted, and comes with an acquired taste that is not to everyone’s liking, but imagine showing your friends back home the pictures. This crazy drink is sold in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos – are you brave enough to try it?
4. Homemade Lao-Lao Whiskey
Laos’ national drink – it is a very strong and powerful home-brewed whiskey, which is locally made and the strength can vary but you can guarantee it is lethal and will blow your mind.
5. Fresh Coconut Juice
After the parties and all the above drinks have all been consumed you make wish for something a little more refreshing and less alcoholic – If that is the case then fresh coconut juice is the answer. It does not get any fresher than drinking the juice straight from the coconut plus it will help you deal with the heat and to rehydrate you.