The Full Moon Party – or FMP – is a beach festival attended by over 350,000 people every year in Thailand. It originated at Haad Rin Beach on Koh Phangan, and although many of Thailand’s islands host FMPs of their own now, Haad Rin’s annual event is still the main one.
Rumour has it that the original FMP started as a small birthday party thrown during the full moon by a group of backpackers. It has now turned into a full-scale rave at Hat Rin, complete with fire dancers, fluorescent paint, and world-renowned DJs.
It’s safe to say that Thailand has a plethora of sites worth visiting and things to do. The commercialisation of this event and the dangers that come along with it has led many to question whether it’s an event still worth attending. Is it just another beach party? What can you expect, and finally, what can go wrong?
What to expect
As to you arrive at Haad Rin, there’s a palpable buzz of excitement in the air. Stalls selling FMP gear and fluorescent paint beckon you to unleash your creative side. Everyone’s inner Picasso springs to life and party-goers dab each other with glow-in-the-dark paint.
As you approach the beach there are stalls selling vibrant buckets that contain a mixture of alcoholic drinks. Then as you amble further down, you’ll first hear the music – an eclectic mix of rock, electric, EDM, and reggae music – pulsating throughout the beach. Next, you’ll see flashes of light (actually fire dancers) skip fiery jump ropes and lean back to fire limbo. There’s so much positive energy in the air and everyone wants to dance till the sun rises.
What can go wrong?
The buckets are extremely cheap (USD6-9) and contain a mixture of ingredients intended to get you very drunk, very quickly! One of the ingredients is M-150 – an energy drink that contains ephedrine (a chemical with side effects such as nausea, heart palpitations, and hallucinations). Many don’t last past midnight, and you’ll spot people passed out on the beach from consuming one too many buckets.
Sadly, there have been numerous reports of sexual assault at the FMP. Sometimes, drink spiking happens. This involves drugs like Rohypnol being added to the buckets of alcohol sold at the beach. The spikers wait for their victim to pass out and then take advantage of them.
This is just one of the many things not to do in Thailand and there’s a rampant supply and use of drugs during the FMP. Nevertheless, Thailand carries strict penalties for drug consumption. There are also undercover police officers who’ll attempt to sell you drugs, and once you’re caught, you’ll have to bribe your way to freedom. Sometimes, locals also try and cash in on the bribe by tipping off the police. Be wary, be vigilant, and stay clear of any drugs – you don’t want to experience the Thai legal system.
Theft is a common problem at the FMP. During particularly busy FMP’s (such as during New Year), you can see local gangs lurking on the sidelines, watching and waiting for an opportunity. My advice is to only carry enough cash for the night and your room key. If you absolutely need to carry your phone, store it in a bum bag or waterproof case with a strap around your neck.
What can go right?
There is music to suit everyone at the FMP. I walked from one stretch of the beach to another and grooved to Queen, Jay-Z, Bob Marley, and Tiesto. You can feel the music thump-thumping as you make your way along the beach and you can’t help but feel your heart pumping in tune to the music too.
Everyone is dressed in neon clothing and splashed in fluorescent paint, making for quite a visual delight. There are also clubs alongside the beach with blue lighting so when you enter you feel like you’re in a scene from Avatar. However, these clubs are usually less peaceful and feature more questionable dancing.
The vibe here, much like at the rest of Thailand’s beach festivals is immensely positive and energetic. Everyone is looking to make friends, dance, and have a great time. No one cares where you’re from or what you do. They’re likely more interested in that luminous tribal design you painted on your face!
One of the best moments of the FMP was climbing up some rocks to greet the sunrise after dancing for eight hours straight. The wind gently cooled my damp skin and the waves whispered good morning as the sun welcomed me to the day ahead.
If you’re looking for real insight into Thai culture and traditions, and you enjoy your personal space during parties, the FMP isn’t for you. However, if you want to dance on the sand under the fading light of the moon and twinkling stars, bump into strangers, and make new friends, then the FMP is perfect.