Leo Full Moon Party

The Leo Full Moon Party is happening tomorrow (1st August,2015). Not only is Leo beer fairly awful, but this event represents a new low for Haad Rin. What was once a cool and underground party has become a huge and over-publicised event, and the final step to corporate whoredom has been completed. I haven’t been so upset since Michael Evis turned the travellers away from Glastonbury. Money really can ruin everything.

The Leo Full Moon is going to be held at Cactus Bar on Haad Rin Sunrise Beach. Apparently some famous DJs will be there. Leo beer will be sold for 80 Baht (still cheaper if you go to the 7-11). Also 350 Baht mojito buckets will be on sale.

If you turn up early and register you can do 60 minutes of beach cleaning from 5pm to 6pm. This will earn you 2 free Leo beers and a bunch of merchandising that you won’t use much but will apparently help the Leo brand.

Leo is from the same company that makes the best beer in Thailand (not saying much) Singha. It is undrinkable unless very cold. I think of it as the Bud of Thailand – light, tasteless and like making love in a canoe.

Whether all the 1st August Full Moon Party is going to be re-branded the Leo Full Moon is unclear.

While the junta makes noises in Bangkok about restricting alcohol sales around universities and proclaims their intention to host only nice, rich, short-stay, 5 star tourists, it seems that some Thai companies are not coy about associating themselves with the bibulous and class-a ridden beach party.

Also why is the beach cleaning before the party when there is little mess to clear up?

I do hope this corporate tie-in just dies on its arse.

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How Many People Go to the Full Moon Party?

fmp

This is a question that can never be answered with any certainty. And this for the simple fact that statistics, if they exist, in Thailand are not reliable. The internet is awash with different figures for the size of the party. It is a point of pride for the party folk on the island and those that benefit from the party to ‘big up’ the popularity of the event.

No official figure exists for how many people go to the average Full Moon Party. The Wikipedia page cites the number of 5,000 to 30,000. This number is based on a news story in Time Magazine.

I have seen elsewhere the top figure put at 20,000 as well as 50,000. I imagine you could find sources that say 60,000.

The census of 2012 for Koh Phangan puts the population of Koh Phangan at 13,700. That figure probably doesn’t include the few hundred ex-pats living on Koh Phangan on and off for the last 20 years.

On the 23rd of January 2013 the Bangkok Post declared that 30,000 people had attended the Full Moon Party (http://www.blog.fullmoonpartythailand.info/attendancefigures.html). They based this fact on the assertion that 30,000 foreigners took ferries to the island a few days preceding the party. Two holes are quickly seen in this method of counting: you don’t need to show ID to buy a ferry ticket. Lots of Thais come to Koh Phangan as well for the party. And secondly, not everyone arriving on the island near the FMP will go to the party.

However, boat capacity is probably the best way to estimate party attendance numbers. The other possible source for data would be the entrance fee for the party: everyone going to the party has to pay 100 Thai Baht. To this number you could add the number of people already in Haad Rin who could get to the beach before the ticket barriers go up.

Somewhat not surprisingly, official figures aren’t available for how much money is raised by charging to enter the Full Moon Party. The money is divvied up between the headmen and the police with money put aside for beach cleaning. Tea anyone?

When you are at the party, bucket in hand, and you try to guess how many people are on the beach with you, you come to the unflinching conclusion that a ‘fuck of a lot’ is the answer.

Why settle for a figure used by a lazy journalist at Time Magazine with a middle age party pooping axe to grind? Why give Wikipedia any credence when they cite such weak sources?

I expect the low-point attendance of 5,000 could be about right. It could be lower. The monsoon season sees the island empty out. Lots of the locals go north rather than face the rains, power cuts, treacherous roads and deep puddles. Only dedicated kiteboarders would be drawn to Koh Phangan in October and November. (The worst of it usually lasts a month but when it starts varies from year to year.)

The top figure? Well New Year’s Eve is the biggest party in Haad Rin and maybe that is close to 30,000. I suspect the average party gets no more than 10,000. Haad Rin beach is less than a kilometre in length. There are about 10 main sound systems. Under such limitations the beach seems really crowded, as does Haad Rin which is no more than an overgrown village. 10,000 people would be enough to swamp the place.

I went every Monday for 18 months to the Jungle Bar party in Thong Nai Pan Noi. It always seemed full. At peak season in August and December it seemed really full. The German techno festival also swelled the party goer numbers. But otherwise it was always about the same amount of people. Less than 100. Less than 50. It just felt like lots of people. Only the owner who counted the cash take the next day held the answer.

Making Friends in Haad Rin

haad-rin-beach

If you are travelling solo to a place like Haad Rin, you might find that you have a yearning to make friends to get the most out of your time on the party beach. Lots of people like travelling alone. They are sociable when the occasion calls, but they are also happy with their own company. I have lots of respect for such self-contained people, but it strikes me that Haad Rin is the last place you would want to be alone.

This is because Haad Rin is the most sociable beach on Koh Phangan. You are expected to mingle and meet. People go in big groups to the Full Moon Party, and much of the run up to the big event is designed to not only make money for the local businesses but also to break the ice for those travelling alone.

There is also a practical reason for taking a friend or friends to the Full Moon Party. And that is safety. You are much less likely to get in to serious trouble if you are in a group. If you pass out there will be a friend to look after you; to prevent your pockets being picked. If you go to the toilet you can have a friend to watch your drink so that it isn’t stolen or spiked. A friend by your side gives you confidence, it allows you to enjoy the party more as well as stay safe. Moreover, you will need someone to have a laugh with.

How to make a friend in Haad Rin? Here are a few tips:

  1. Stay at a hostel. Most of the hostels are very sociable places. Many have pre-party bashes where you get the chance to chat with people. Also staying in the dorms gives you plenty of opportunity to get talking to people
  2. Go on a boat tour. There are several companies doing boat tours. They pick you up at your resort in the morning (not too early); take you around the island, usually stopping at Than Sadet (to see the waterfall), Thong Nai Pan and Koh Ma (to go snorkelling). These tours are often quite jolly with people drinking and relaxing. It is a perfect chance to get chatting to someone. Recommended is Snoop Dogg Tour partly because I love the name.
  3. Enter a competition. There is a football and volleyball competition prior to the Full Moon Party. It doesn’t cost much to enter. If you sign up alone they will match you with others to make a team. There is nothing like sport for bringing people together. To find out more contact Heinz – heinzkauien@hotmail.com. Competitions are held on the beach in front of Tommy Resort.
  4. A gentler option is a cooking class. Several restaurants have cooking classes that last a few hours. You learn the secrets of Thai cooking and get the chance to break the ice by talking about food.
  5. In the run up to the big party there are plenty of people out drinking. Why not offer to buy someone a drink. Or get on the pool table at the Outback Bar.

I hope that helps. You will have more fun in company in Haad Rin. You will also be safer.

Dancing Elephant Hostel

Above is a slightly sad or touching (depends on your outlook) video clip taken at Dancing Elephant Hostel in Haad Rin. It is a popular hostel that has been running since 2009. Like Same Same it copies the formula of dorm beds and parties to pull in the punters coming to Haad Rin looking for booze-fuelled memories.

Dancing Elephant Hostel is located in the centre of Haad Rin Village, just a few minutes’ walk from the best bars, clubs and party venues. It is far enough back from the beach to avoid the full brunt of the sound systems playing music to the max at the Full Moon Party. However, for those looking for early nights this is not the place to get a bed during the FMP week. Indeed, best to avoid Haad Rin altogether if you don’t want to party hard and late.

The hostel provides bunk beds in dorms. There is free wifi, air-con, a locker per person and a shared bathroom. Guests also have access to PS2 games and wii games. There is a restaurant and bar.

As you can see from the video the bar is concrete, colourful and designed to hold plenty of jumping bodies. Dancing Elephant is known to have one of the best warm up parties for the Full Moon bash. They often get one of the better full moon DJs to provide the music. The music is trance, techno, house, and not normally Mariah Carey.

Those staying at Dancing Elephant also get a discount card for the bar at the hostel as well as for a handful of bars and reAstaurants in Haad Rin. There is obviously a family connection going on between these different businesses.

Reggae House Bamboo Tattoo Studio

Reggaue-House-Tattoo

Reggae House in Haad Rin is a cool bar to hang out and get a few drinks and a bite to eat. It is also one of the leading places in Koh Phangan to get a traditional Thai tattoo. They give free consultations and will draw designs to any specifications. I don’t recommend getting a tattoo but if you are determined to add more ink to your skin or need to hide a truly awful tat then this might be the place for you.

The bamboo tattoo technique is thought to have originated from the Khmer period 3,000 years ago. In Thailand the practice of getting tattoos began with monks getting inked with religious texts under the behest of senior monks. Over time these tattoos became regarded as giving magical powers of protection. Soldiers started going to temples to get tattoos to give them strength, invincibility and even invisibility on the battle field.

Thailand is a traditionally conservative culture and so the majority of Thais didn’t adopt tattoo art into main stream culture. As in Japan, tattoos were regarded as the preserve of gangsters. With the rise of tourism in Thailand and the contact with Westerners obsessed with body art and piercing tattooing became popular especially with young Thai men. However, tattoos using a machine were easier to do, and as a result bamboo freehand tattoo artists are thin on the ground. Recently, celebrities such as Angelina Jolie have had bamboo tattoos. This has done a lot to revitalize the ancient practice.

Reggae House has a resident tattoo artist who uses the traditional method. In essence needles are welded together and put in a long piece of bamboo. This is dipped in ink and the tattoo is made up of many holes. It is painful but not very bloody.

So after getting wasted on buckets and special shakes and dancing all night to techno, trance and house why not do the sensible thing and head down to Reggae House near Haad Rin Nai and get a mystic design tat or the name of your current amour tat or get an old tat covered with something else? It will remind you of your mad times in Haad Rin, be a conversation piece and you will look alternative like all the other souls with tats.

Forgetting

forgetting1

I found a blog called massivelysilly.wordpress.com. It wasn’t that massively silly really. The entries for Thailand and Koh Phangan actually detailed the writer’s journey quite well. It included prices, names of resorts, times of tours etc. and could help people looking to find out more about travelling in Thailand before they get to the Land of Smiles.

What did make me laugh were the posts written around the Full Moon Party time. Without realising, I suspect, the author has hit on a bit of a theme, and that is forgetting. If you don’t remember something important there are going to be consequences. Here is a brief list of the instances of forgetting found at https://massivelysilly.wordpress.com/tag/haad-rin/

  1. A humorous tale about a chap who seduced a lass and persuaded her to do the deed in a fisherman’s boat. He nips off quickly to the 7-11 for a condom and of course when he gets back to the beach he can’t remember which boat the girl is waiting for him in. In the end he gives up and goes back to his room.
  2. The writer and travel companion get so drunk in a bar that they are literally legless. They had forgotten that they still had to walk home.
  3. The intrepid duo meets 2 French men on a tour to Talu Island (near Phuket). They meet the same two men on their way to Koh Phangan. They meet the two French chaps the morning after the party. The two are wandering around aimlessly as they have forgotten where their bungalow is.
  4. The writer is catching a taxi to Thongsala 2 days after the FMP. They meet a group of lads who have done the pre-party, the FMP and the after party. One member of the group has seemingly forgotten how to do his normal UK accent.

Forgetting is funny, especially a few days after the event. However, at the time forgetting where you put your stuff or your flip flops or your passport can be distressing. Forgetting who you are is called amnesia and is certainly distressing. If possible try to remind yourself about stuff you shouldn’t forget. It might help.

How to Dance to Trance

The wonderful thing about things that we are forbidden to talk about is that they just make you dance; the beats invade your synapses and make your limbs move as if involuntarily. Perhaps you feel the music. Your inhibitions are blown away and you can just get into your own inner space and follow the journey that is trance music.

Trance is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is slower than drum and bass; it’s not gone that stripped down route of minimal nor the happy vocal route of summery house; the breaks seem all build and no blast off. But somehow Koh Phangan party people continue to love this old form of dance music. Even if it’s re-jigged in the hard and progressive Koh Phangan sound.

My silly conclusion is that trance’s popularity is all in the dance. Trance is perfect for sand dancing. It is also perfect for holding a beer or even a bucket. It is also a dance style that you can keep going (sort of) for hours at a time, with the right chemical inducements.

How to Dance to Trance?

Well as you like. In my humble opinion a default mode trance dance involves legs a few feet apart with the dancer facing the DJ. It is then a sway, possibly a side step and perhaps a gentle foot stamp. The upper body has minimal movement; perhaps a slow lunge when really excited; perhaps also a power salute to the DJ.

From looking at the video I have made below (2 spliced videos. One from the FMP and one at Shiva Moon) you can see what I mean.

The first chap is favouring the right foot tap. Note he holds his booze well. He mixes it up with a bit of shoulder movement, power saluting and head nodding.

The second clip shows the fag end of a Shiva Moon party. The survivors are clearly running on fumes and warm beer. They are also adopting the orthodox legs-apart stance. While the chap in grey shorts is employing a casual power salute and side to side step, we see a Thai chap putting on quite a show – he breaks the rules by doing some Cossack kicks (or is that Brazilian dance fighting) and psychedelic arm swinging. We also see a girl behind combining trance dancing with her morning calisthenics. Most New Age.

In this clip we also see a bald pony tail dude. Notice how he is paring down the style to its minimum by mostly just leaning back. The only impostor is the chubby chap at the end who is clearly being guided by mushrooms not trance.

Anyway try this at home. In no time you will have a passable trance dance that will get you accepted into any early morning trance circle, especially if you have a fresh packet of smokes.

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.

Graham Gold

graham gold

Graham Gold is a long running DJ in Koh Phangan. He currently has a residency at Tommy Resort and leads their FMP show. He also pops up virtually everywhere when there is a party on. You cannot stay in Haad Rin for any length of time without hearing his music or seeing his bald-headed mug on a promo poster.

While Graham Gold might have become a Koh Phangan cliché , he is in fact a bit of a legend. For a start he has his own Wikipedia page. Born in 1954, he started DJing when he was 15 doing a mobile disco. This was the start of quite a career. In 1975 he opened his first nightclub. In 1990 he played on the opening show of Kiss Radio. When Danny Rampling and Judge Jules went over to BBC Radio Gold started his Friday Night Show. These Kiss shows were considered revolutionary at the time, and made Gold’s name. The Kiss shows finished in 1990.

Next Gold fronted Peach nightclub in Camden Palace Theatre and started getting wider recognition. He was 8 times listed in DJ magazine as in the top 100 DJs in the world. He has also sold 700,000 records.

When the Peach gig came to an end Gold continued to play at festivals, do voice over work, and various TV work. Eventually he took a boat to Koh Phangan and never left.

It makes for a good story. You can see Graham Gold doing interviews about the Full Moon Party. He seems like a likeable chap and despite his age very much at home with the young ones.

Here is one of his sets from Tommy Resort. It’s house with a lot of electro farty bass noises; it’s high energy and well mixed. You can’t fault it really. Sorry about the jumble of code on the page. WordPress obviously stops iframes, Java etc. to encourage people to give them money.

https://www.mixcloud.com/widget/iframe/?embed_type=widget_standard&embed_uuid=a32715d1-994e-424f-b8dc-e4db5f437f4d&feed=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mixcloud.com%2FGrahamGold%2Fgraham-gold-live-at-tommy-resort-haadrin-for-aprils-full-moon-party%2F&hide_cover=1&hide_tracklist=1&mini=1&replace=0

Graham Gold Live at Tommy Resort, Haadrin for April’s Full Moon Party by Grahamgold on Mixcloud

You have to guess that Gold has taken a massive pay cut settling on Koh Phangan. I don’t suppose Tommy Resort is adding to his pension pot. The medical facilities in Koh Samui are outrageously expensive. Let’s hope that he has squirreled plenty away from his various successes prior to catching that boat to KP. Hats off to Graham.

Haad Rin Video

I like the premise of this video. People do daft things at the party. They make faces, they fall over, they have epic fail dances, they wear spooky costumes; things are lost in a haze of intoxication and translation. The plethora of FMP videos on YouTube and elsewhere tend to be too promotional and too earnest in their need to show the good times. This mash up is just the type of irreverence that is needed for a very irreverent party.