Hostels in Haad Rin

haad-rin-hostel-facebook-page

In the mind of many, many backpackers on a tight budget is the firm conviction that hostels are the way to go. They seem to ignore the fact that until a few years ago there were no hostels in Koh Phangan; and to ignore the fact that a cheap and basic bungalow set back from the beach costs virtually the same as a dorm bed.

If you are travelling with another person then sharing the cost of a bungalow makes a lot of sense. Having your own privacy is not an expensive luxury in Haad Rin or elsewhere on Koh Phangan.

Rather there is a hostel fad. People want to be with like-minded people and the hostel is the solution. All young, fluorescent decorated, sexually active and up for binge drinking folk need to congregate in a hostel in Haad Rin during the Full Moon Party.

This is perfect for Haad Rin shop and bar owners. All that wasted space on the second floor above their businesses can now be filled with bunk beds. Plumb in a toilet; add some lockers; put garden furniture on the street (smoking area); promise ‘free wifi in all areas’ and you have a hostel. It is a sure-fire winner of a business idea. And as such is being copied all over Haad Rin as well as Baan Tai.

Very few of the hostels in Haad Rin have their own websites. Instead they rely on companies like Agoda and Hostelworld to promote their hostel. The free and lazy digital solution to promotion is the Facebook page.

Here is a list of hostels in Haad Rin.

From this list most of the hostels have Facebook pages. What stands out with these pages is that they contain hundreds of pictures of the aforementioned young full mooners. Page after page, album after album of drunken fun with little to no pictures of beds, lockers, restaurant or other facilities. It says to me that these hostels have nothing to recommend themselves except that they sometimes host cheap booze revels. It obviously works as there is no end of selfies and group hugs to be seen on Haad Rin hostel Facebook pages.

I wonder if permission has been sought to publish these pictures. Are people tagged by name and later discriminated against by future potential employers? And finally, why do people place so much importance on free wifi when it is the cheapest facility for a hostel to provide?

The one notable exception that I have found is Mickey Hostel Facebook page. It has plenty of pictures of bunk beds.

Welcome to Haad Rin

kancha

This is the sign that greets people arriving by boat in Haad Rin. The sign is big and prominently located on Haad Rin Pier. It is hard to miss. What is perhaps harder to understand is what the sign exactly means. It is a great example of how Thai can get lost in translation.

The sign made me laugh. The two points of curiosity are ‘Kancha’ and ‘fine imprisonment’.

In Thai a ‘k’ sound is often pronounced as ‘g’. Thus, ‘Koh Phangan’ is pronounced ‘Go Phangan’. One has to presume that the official charged with coming up with the text for this warning sign got his ‘k’ and ‘g’s confused. It should be ‘ganja’. I love the word ‘ganja’ – it conjures up images of getting stoned by the river Ganges. It is a Hindu word tinged with religious implications. It is the type of word Bob Marley would use. For those fans of weed, it is a great word and often the word of preference to designate the plant. Officialdom in the UK and the USA would never use such a word. They would write ‘marijuana’ (Spanish origin) or cannabis (Latin origin).

The sign suggests that ganja is widely available in Haad Rin. New arrivals might find this good news, and may take less heed of the warning.

So on to the warning. Getting caught with marijuana or magic mushrooms is ‘punishable by fine imprisonment’. The conflation of two different punishments: namely a fine and incarceration is done deliberately. Taking drugs in Thailand is illegal. Those caught should be processed by the law and appear before a court.

However, the reality is that those caught with illegal substances in Haad Rin are threatened with prison time and then allowed to go once a fine has been paid. It is very unlikely that the 99.9% of victims caught and made to pay 25,000 Thai Baht or more in fines are ever given legitimate receipts. You can also be certain that Thais caught in possession don’t pay anything as much and are highly unlikely to appear before a judge.

There is no general moral condemnation against marijuana or magic mushrooms in Thailand as there is in say the USA. Back in the day, it was the old mamas in the cheap guest houses who were often the dealers. It is just a sad reality that the Full Moon Party has made it huge business to sell the stuff and catch a few unlucky souls taking it.

If you are paranoid about getting caught, but fancy a try then head to Mellow Mountain on the Full Moon party night. They sell magic mushroom shakes. Everyone knows about it and the police seem to tolerate it. If they were raided you could just deny the drink was yours.

For those hardened international tokers the real worry is the piss tests that police in Bangkok and Chiang Mai / Pai force tourists and expats to take. Even if you don’t have anything illegal on you, if the tests come back positive you will be treated as a criminal.

The sign’s meaning is obscure; this in a way mirrors the far from transparent way in which those caught breaking the kancha and magic mushroom laws are handled. Beware; heed the sign; and be cautious. If not abstemious.

Haad Rin Lows

ladyboy-pissing

While this blog is about the good times, the high times in Haad Rin, it is only fair that some mention should be made about the low times, the bad times at Haad Rin. It is sadly not a fairy land place where nobody gets hurt, heart-broken or injured. I wish it was. So here are some of the low points of the place.

The Sea

Having a huge party by the sea makes for an impressive back drop; it also makes for a convenient toilet and a way to avoid the 20 to 50 Baht toilet fees during the FMP. Sadly a few times a year someone mixes too much booze (or other substances) with the sea. They go for a swim and are washed up hours later, face down. These incidents don’t make it into the media.

The sea gets rough from October through to January. There is often a strong under tow that sucks people out. People fight the under tow, get exhausted and go under.

Fire Dancing

I don’t think anyone has died from the burning skipping ropes or the burning limbo bar but they do get seriously burned. Can you imagine the Swiss allowing drunk people to publically play with fire? No.

There is now quite a selection of medical centres in Haad Rin. These places are designed to profit from full moon injuries. They expensively treat second-degree burns and motorbike injuries, knowing that most people will pay as they have travel insurance.

Top Tip: If you are seeing double or having mushroom tracers don’t skip with fire.

Gangs

On New Year’s Eve 2012/13 Stephen Ashton, 22, was caught in gang cross fire while sitting at a beach bar. He died minutes later. At first people assumed he had provoked a young Thai lad who went away, got his gun and took his revenge. It turned out he was a totally innocent bystander.

Koh Phangan is traditionally something of a wild place. Each village has its young bloods. Haad Rin is no exception. The gangs dabble in drug dealing, petty theft and intimidation. Guns are sort of allowed in Koh Phangan. The one that got Stephen Ashton was homemade.

Generally Thai men are friendly and polite and like a laugh. So many young Thais have tattoos that these daubings don’t immediately flag any warning signs. However, I’ve noticed that Thai men have their pride or face and don’t like being publically humiliated. They will sometimes go away and reappear with mates or a weapon to wreak revenge. Even if you are tasty with your fists don’t be a hero, disappear sharpish. Leave the island ASAP.

Drugs

Highs and highs. The FMP offers a smorgasbord of natural and synthetic highs. The bars on the rocks at the northern end of the beach sell ‘special shakes’ openly over the counter.

The police know this and turn a blind eye. They are interested solely in the users not the suppliers. That tasty high you are cultivating can frighteningly implode when the cops nab you doing something you shouldn’t be. It is a protracted and expensive process to buy your way out of a cell.

Anyone arriving in Thailand for the first time will notice within days that laws are being broken left, right and centre. The primary role of the police is to generate income, secondary is to uphold the law.

Burglary and Petty Theft

Before booking a place to stay in Haad Rin online spend a few minutes reading Trip Advisor. Avoid places where people mention that their bungalow was broken into and their cards, camera etc. were stolen. Bungalows are easily accessed and when the party is going full swing opportunists know they have a range of places to plunder.

Some resorts have safety boxes in the rooms or at reception. Avail yourself of these facilities. Also don’t bring your all in a money belt. In the early hours thieves can be seen searching those passed out for valuables.

Transgenders

Lady boys are not always easy to identify. A young man gets his mojo all stoked from being surrounded by Thai hotties during the day and at night gets drunk, and ends up being carried back to his bungalow by a man in a dress. Some men laugh it all off the next morning; others go through some bruising self-questioning.

And then there are the jokes from your mates who saw it all and will have endless mirth from re-hashing the whole sorry episode.

Conclusion

The best advice is to do the FMP with a group. Try and stick together. There are numerous benefits to going out as a collective. One of the group will spot possible pitfalls. As one person becomes a bucket victim, another will sober up enough to drag their buddy to the safe zone on the beach or back to their bungalow. One person will spot the man hands on the fair maiden. One person might hold back their eager chum when they get caught in the mesmerising spectacle of swirling fire. It is the quantum theory of insanity at work in the universe.

First Post

Haad Rin High is a light-hearted blog covering the beach area of Haad Rin in Koh Phangan. It is a place that has become famous thanks to the staggering success of the Full Moon Party. Haad Rin has gone from a sleepy fishing village to a global village. Here you find all nationalities, all points of view and a bacchanalian attitude to the phases of the moon.

This is not a guide to Haad Rin. This is not a site about hotel rooms. This is not even a site dedicated to music. Rather haadrinhigh.wordpress.com is a scrap book of information about Koh Phangan’s biggest tourist asset. We hope to elicit a grin, a wry smile, the ocassional grimace, an odd chuckle. Life is short and best represented by its ephemera.