You can’t backpack around Thailand and not attend one of Haad Rin Beach’s infamous full moon parties, right? That would be like visiting Rome and not seeing the Colosseum, or visiting Sydney and not seeing the Sydney Opera House or the Harbour Bridge. Well… sort of!
Koh Phangan (Koh Pha Ngan) is an island off the Thailand main coast that has become most well-known for the epic beach party it throws every full moon. They still fill out the rest of the month with an array of quarter moon, half moon and full moon pre-parties to suit every backpacker’s schedule, but the full moon party is truly the only one for the bucket list, and backpacker’s flock here by the thousands every month to get crazy drunk and dance the night away on the beach under the full moon.
Where to Stay
While there is lots of accommodation options (for all budgets) within walking distance of Haad Rin Beach, we decided to stay a little further away and – with our tight budget – we ended up at the Koh Pangnan Dreamland Resort. The accommodation is pretty basic, as you’d expect for a backpacker-on-a-budget, but the pool bar was a great place to hang out and meet people and the beaches nearby were absolutely stunning and secluded!
How to Get Around
You may have heard backpacker’s refer to their cuts, grazes and bruises on the road as their “Pangnan Scars”. The cheapest and most common method of getting around the island is on hired mopeds or motorbikes and, as drinking is a large past time on the island, it’s not uncommon for people to get silly and end up with all kinds of motorbike incident-related injuries. We decided to take the safer route and hired a small 4×4 car for our time on the island. We got a seriously cheap rental price but it did mean that our old (museum-quality) powerless vehicle really struggled to get up the steep hilly roads on the island, and we often found ourselves going backwards not forwards even in full throttle!
Where to Party
Stating the obvious, the Full Moon Party at Haad Rin Beach of course! Make sure you check the party schedule before making your way to the island, and be prepared for some minimum-stay requirements on the majority of the accommodation on the island for that time of the month. The party itself is great fun and with so many DJ’s playing at any one time, there will be a part of the beach where you will find your groove! The infamous chicken limbo using a pole on fire, and group skipping using a rope on fire, can be a unique and adrenalin-pumping activity, but just don’t be the guy who decides to give it a go after smashing 10 x vodka red bull buckets and winding up with first degree burns on his face or feet! Luckily, medic tents are set up all along the beach throughout the party with designated people pacing the length of the beach looking for such people to assist.
There are many pre-parties to choose from on the nights leading up to the Full Moon Party itself. Some take place on Haad Rin Beach too, whilst many resorts in the area also have pool-parties that non-residents can turn up for too!
What to See & Do
Starting to sound like a broken record, again I would have to say that the main reason to come to Koh Pangan is to do the Full Moon Party.
That said, there are lots of cool cafes and shops around the area, and the beaches in the more secluded areas of the island are dream-worthy! We explored a beach close to our resort with the clearest waters I had ever seen, and with the tide out, we managed to walk around 500 metres off the beach into the sea and the water still didn’t even make it past our knee caps! This little wander was actually probably my favourite daytime experience on the island!