Confessions of a Full-Moon Party Newbie

“Have you even been to Thailand if you haven’t been to a Full-Moon Party?” This was the question posed to me sometime around dawn, as the sun threatened to break the horizon, ushering away the moon and the last of the revelers on Haad Rin Beach.

“I think so,” I said, swaying to the beat of the music still thumping behind me and gazing out toward the oncoming daylight. “But you certainly missed something.”

Now, I don’t mean to imply that I was always gung-ho about the Full-Moon Party. The opposite, really. There is a big difference between a drinker and a partier, and I am definitely not the latter. The idea of an all-night rave with drunken tourists drinking out of communal buckets of booze – on sand of all places– sounded pretty awful, actually.

View of the Full-Moon Party
Going into that party seems like a bad idea, right? Right?

But, like everyone who visits Thailand, I kept hearing that there are some musts: visit an elephant sanctuary, attend a cooking class, get scuba certified, and go to a Full-Moon Party.

Well, I thought, since this year is all about stepping out of my comfort zone, I will do it. But I will NOT, under any circumstances, drink out of a communal bucket. That is where I draw the line.

Once on Koh Phangan, my first glimpse of Haad Rin Beach resulted from a (very) wrong turn while I searched for a yoga studio. After loyally following Google Maps across a backyard filled with a family having breakfast (they offered me some fruit), through a hole in a chain-link fence, and up a very steep hill filled with some sort of sticky, thorny plant, I gave up and admitted to being quite lost.

A very nice Thai woman at the top of the hill helped me pick the burs out of my yoga pants and waved me across a rickety porch toward what sounded like water.

Rickety Porch
Walking across this porch seems like a bad idea. But, hey, if Google Maps says so…

And there it was, Haad Rin Beach looking peaceful, clean – and nothing like a yoga studio.

Haad Rin Beach
The calm before the storm at Haad Rin Beach on Koh Phangan.

I took the very short walk across the beach and through the streets lined with clothing stores to my hotel (a much more direct route when skipping the back-country detour!) And I picked up my Full-Moon attire along the way.

Full-Moon Party outfit
Neon over neon!

I even found a suitable fanny pack with neon accents (bum bag for those from the part of the world where “fanny” means something very, very different.)

Fanny Pack
The Fanny Pack is Back! I think everyone had one of these at the party.

Then it was time to wait for the sun to set and the full moon to rise.

Full Moon Rising
“There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

On my walk to the party, I stopped to add a splash of neon paint to my arm.

Neon-paint job
No Full-Moon Party outfit is complete without a bit of neon paint.

And I was officially Full-Moon Party ready.

Here we go!

I had heard that the Rock Bar & Restaurant at the north end of the beach allowed for a quieter scene and a place to overlook the madness, and this piece of intelligence proved fruitful. I watched as people jumped over ropes of twirling fire and performed the limbo under sticks full of flames. (Fire and booze seem like a bad combination to me, but who am I to judge?)

View of the Full-Moon Party from the balcony of the Rock Bar & Restaurant.

It’s at the Rock where I met my Full-Moon crew, teaming up with a Canadian woman named Taz who invited me to join her table.

Full-Moon Party crew
The Crew

We walked together across the beach, singing 90s rap at one bar and flailing about in some form of failed house dance at the next – laughing all the way. Upon reaching the south end of the beach, I realized that my rickety porch from earlier that day is actually the famed “Mellow Mountain” named for the hallucinogenic shakes sold inside the dilapidated building.

While I did not opt for a mushroom shake…this did happen somewhere around two in the morning.

Bucket of booze
When under a Full Moon…

And then – after a night filled with dancing – the sun was somehow already rising.

Beach Happy
A morning stretch on the island of Koh Phangan.

While the Full-Moon party isn’t something I need to do every month, the experience taught me to keep my heart open to all experiences. (And it was totally worth the booze-bucket hangover.) 

Full-Moon Party Do’s and Don’ts


  • Wear water shoes or sneakers. The sand and surf get pretty dirty as the party gets kicking. Not to mention the risk of broken glass.  
  • Get a fanny pack and wear it at the party – and everywhere on your travels. It’s the best thing. Ever.
  • Stay near Haad Rin Beach and walk to and from the party.  
  • Paint your body in neon. Stop by a do-it-yourself roadside table, or pay 200 THB (about $6) for a piece of temporary body art.


  • Bother to bring neon attire with you. Buy from one of the many stores selling everything neon on the cheap.
  • Stay on one of the neighboring islands like Koh Tao or Koh Sumui and rely on the ferry. Pay the extra money to book in advance, or arrive at least four days early to book a cheap room on Koh Phangan.  
  • Get into your bed without washing off your body paint. It turns out hotels and hostels are tired of the neon mess.
  • Leave your drink unattended.  

At Your Own Risk (but I sure as hell wouldn’t do it)

  • Limbo beneath a stick of fire after drinking a bucket of booze.
  • Jump a rope of fire after…yeah…just don’t do that.

Thinking of joining the Full-Moon Party? Save this for later!

Full Moon Party fluorescent paint

2 Comments on “Confessions of a Full-Moon Party Newbie”

  1. Pingback: Full-Moon Party Survival Tips | The Lens of Jen

  2. Pingback: I am a Scuba School Dropout | The Lens of Jen

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