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Feature photo by re-ality. Photo above by jeremydeades.

From its shadowy origins to tips on raging there today, here’s everything you need to know about Thailand’s Full Moon Raves.


It’s sunrise. In fact, it’s my third sunrise this week
. All around me, music blasts as hundreds of people dance and drink on the beach. Buckets and beers cover the sand and passed out people are checked on by the occasional passerby. I look around. Tonight was a lot of fun. Full moon raves always are.

What is the Full Moon Rave?

The origins aren’t fully known, but legend has it that in 1987 a group of young backpackers celebrated the birthday of a friend under a full moon in Thailand. They had so much fun they came back the following year and then the following month.

Word got out and more people came. Enterprising Thais saw an opportunity and hyped the party, bringing more people.

At first it was like a house party on the beach–a few hippies and backpackers playing guitars. The 90s brought the rave scene and all the drugs that went with it.

By 2000, Thailand was on the map and hordes of young people inspired by the movie The Beach were flocking to Ko Pha Ngan. The Full Moon Rave was in full swing.

Photo by zhaffsky.

What to Expect Now?

The Full Moon Rave has turned into a giant party with a lot of drinking, dancing, drugs, and sex. Each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music every few feet.

The beach is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers put on shows. Little booths are also set up selling glow-in-the-dark face paint as kids run up and down the beach selling trinkets and glowsticks.

When Is It?

The full moon of every month. High season parties see about 20,000-30,000 people, with the full moon around New Year seeing the most. It you miss it, there’s always the half moon party, quarter moon party, and black moon party. Really, every day is a party here.

Click here for the 2008/2009 schedule.

Photo by nogoodreason.

Where to Stay?

There’s accommodation all over the island, but you’ll want to stay in Haad Rin so you can be close to the action. Bungalows start at about 300 baht and go up from there. Bungalows on the beach, despite what Lonely Planet says, are at least 1,000 baht a night.

If you want any chance at cheap accommodation, get here at least three days in advance. The closer you get to the party, the higher the prices are and the harder it is to find a room. Get here that day and you’ll need a miracle to find accommodation, especially if it’s during the high season.

How Do I Get There?

There’s no airport on the island, so everyone comes via ferry. You can arrive via the Surat Thani, on the mainland, or from its bigger neighbor, Ko Samui. From Surat Thani, roundtrip tickets cost about 600 baht and drop you off at Thong Sala.

From Samui, tickets cost about 400 baht and leave from Big Buddha Pier or Maenam beach. The Samui ferry will drop you off at the main dock of Thong Sala or at Haad Rin depending on time of day. During the full moon rave, boats go from Samui to Haad Rin every hour.

Travel Tips:

  • Tickets can be bought in Haad Rin but are more expensive. Save yourself money and buy a return ticket before you get to Haad Rin. Many companies run buses from Bangkok for 450 baht but in Asia, you really get what you pay for and if you are paying that little there’s a high chance you’re being scammed.
  • Thefts from Khao San Road buses are notorious. Pay the extra money and get some peace of mind. If it seems like it’s a good deal, it’s not.
  • Photo by re-ality.

    Costs

    Here’s a sample budget for a full moon rave in Haad Rin:

  • Bungalow: 300+ baht
  • Average meal: 100 baht
  • Banana Pancakes: 30 baht
  • Beer: 80-100 baht (30 in 7-11)
  • Cigarettes: 60 baht
  • Buckets: 120-200 baht, depending on what kind of alcohol.
  • Partying Tips

    Drugs: There are a lot of drugs here, especially during the full moon. All drugs are illegal in Thailand and possession is punishable with time in the worst prison or death.

    Undercover police will try to sell you drugs only to arrest you. Locals will rat you out for a reward. You could probably avoid jail by paying a hefty “penalty.” Simply put, doing drugs here is stupid. The risk is not worth the reward. Ever see Brokedown Palace? They weren’t making that stuff up.

    Buckets: Buckets are little sand pails filled with one pint Thai whiskey, one Red Bull, and one Coke. They’re deadly! One, two, three, passed out on the beach! If you want to make it to sunrise, don’t start drinking buckets before midnight.

    (Note: The Red Bull in Asia is a kind of ephedra. This substance is like speed and you’ll be flying high after one of them. It also negates the effect of the alcohol quickly, keeping you from feeling drunk. Be careful and watch your consumption of both liquids.)

    Photo by timparkinson.

    Safety Tips

    Pre-hydrate: You are going to be drinking a lot and, even though it is night, the weather is still hot and humid. Drink a lot of water!

    Avoid the ocean: It may seem like a good idea to play in the ocean, but it’s not. Not only do you risk drowning, but everyone uses the ocean as a personal toilet. There’s a reason why the water is warm, and it’s not because you are in Thailand. Stay sanitary and don’t go in.

    Wear footwear: Partying on the beach without footwear may seem like a good idea but as the night goes on, broken beer bottles and other sharp objects litter the beach. Avoid a foot injury and just wear something on your feet!

    Bring enough money for drinks and a copy of your passport in case of an emergency. You don’t need anything else.

    Protect your belongings: Theft is ripe during full moon raves. Bring as little as possible. You’ll be drinking so much, chances are you could lose something. Bring enough money for drinks and a copy of your passport in case of an emergency. You don’t need anything else.

    Community Connection

    Plenty of Matador members have partied hard in Thailand, but they’ve also enjoyed other experiences as well. Check out 18 year old Rigo Lara’s article about his first trip abroad or Ian MacKenzie’s profile of Sean Aiken, who made his experience SCUBA diving in Thailand.

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    About The Author

    Matt Kepnes

    Matt Kepnes gave up the cubicle to pursue a life of adventure, hoping to avoid an office for the rest of his life. You can find his daily musings at Nomadic Matt.

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    • ianmack

      awesome post with great tips! here's the video of sean's own visit to a full moon party ” target=”_blank”>http://www.travelistic.com/video/show/1347/Full-M…

    • Turner

      Personally, I'd stick with the half moon parties… aren't officials known to haul at least a few bodies off the beach after every full moon, due to ODing, death, or insanity?

    • Hal

      I was a bit disappointed with my full-moon experience. Went expecting a rave and found one big frat party. But that can be fun too, I guess. I stayed on the other side of the island instead of in Haad Rin. (I was traveling by bicycle, and there are some mean hills on the way there!) It was a lot more laid-back there, and I had no trouble finding a ride over to the craziness and back.

    • benny blocks

      a much nicer spot to stay is sunset beach, about 15-20 mins walk round the coast from haad riin chilled during the day and no booming bass when all you want to do is sleep (yes. that day will come) just be careful negotiating the rocks on the way back..

    • Slinky

      I was there I think for one of these parties? Too many buckets makes the memory foggy! I strongly suggest abiding by the rules on the drugs as everyone will offer them to you. If sleep is a choice stay in a place away from the beach, option #2 drink so many buckets a gong inside your room won't wake you, let alone the bass that will beat until 10 am or so the next morning. I made it barefoot with no injuries but better to be safe than sorry. Great party I strongly suggest it though. Sunrise Phangnan is a great hotel on Haad rin beach.

    • Kirsten

      BEST TIME! we had been partying it up in samui… at the green mango and just on the street there so we already had a taste for buckets and night long partying! we had the half moon party the first night and full moon the next! the half moon was awesome maybe because we were so hyped… there was just as many ppl there and we bought our own body paint and did it ourselves (good because it cam off easier than the ones that got it done by a thai man).
      the atmosphere is sooo good walking along the beach u will find any music!
      i agree with the no drugs sooo not worth it and the cops do try to sell it to u! plus the buckets are cheap!
      i wore no shoes/lost them and i was fine aswell! there is also a 7/11 open all night for any emergancies! and a first aid…

      i didnt see any bodies/heard of anyone very hurt i think if ppl were that hurt it would be out of their own stupidity.

      ppl had warned me and my girlfriends to be careful and we were a bit scared at first i guess but i felt so safe all night… dropped a mate home on the back of a thai guys scooter and he bought me back all safe! – we stayed on other side of the island at the phanganburri…
      so yeah really good never felt scared, thai ppl are all loving and friendly and that along with the travelers, music and alcohol aswell as being on this magical beach make it a memory of a lifetime. its so beautiful and crazy to describe so just goooo!!!! i cant wait to go back!

    • http://www.thailandculture.org Thai Culture

      What a terrific post on thailand weather radar! I honesty enjoyed reading it, and my own site is about Thai Culture so I’m not just saying so lightly. Keep up the excellent work!

    • http://www.thailandculture.org Thai Culture

      Few things are more inspirational than browsing through your post here after a long day. Your fresh insight keeps me, and surely others, motivated and informed about Thai Culture. Don’t ever stop posting like this one on thailand weather radar, ok?

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