Koh Phangan – A Travelogue By Punam Mohandas
The sensible way of getting to Koh Phangan quick is to take a flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani and onwards by a fast speed ferry. But hey – being sensible ain’t always fun, is it?! And so I take the overnight train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong railway station, and mighty excited I am too, as this is the first time I’m travelling on the Thai railway.
So far, so good. There’s no rowdyism and people sit on their allotted seats 🙂 Lots of backpackers, with what appears to be their house on their back, but there’s adequate luggage space on the train… Hawkers selling Thai fast food, but no frightful din about it…AND I get Sean, this dishy Irish-Canadian dude on the berth next to mine – there is a God!! Wonders will never cease; the train attendant actually makes our beds for us, with an additional mattress that goes atop the seat. Just as I think I’m getting spoiled, along comes a familiar stench reminiscent of Indian trains – ooh boy, the loos smell here too! BUT – they are cleaned through the night, which is more than can be said for the Indian railway.
Come morning and I’m all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to get off the train now and get GOING. Ah, I haven’t mentioned the reaaaal reason I’m so full of beans, have I ? Well, I’m here for the traditional Full Moon party! I’ve never done it before and it’s more than time that I got to see what all the fun and fuss was about; at this rate, my kids have more of a life than I do!
A lot of people mistakenly assume the Full Moon party happens on Koh Samui; that could well be because Samui is just a 45-minute ferry ride away from Koh Phangan and there are plenty of ferry services plying between the islands. But – Koh Phangan it is.
Although I am doing this trip as a pseudo-backpacker (‘pseudo’ coz I’ve been roundly told off by Sean that someone who makes hotel bookings in advance ain’t an honest-to-god backpacker) I have wisely opted to stay at a good hotel here, as the drug and alcohol scene is pretty rampant during FM time – and so are the Thai cops! The Phanganaburi has recently been acquired by the Best Western and is one of the best properties around; less than ten minutes away from the scene of action, which is Haad Rin (sunrise side– predictably, coz one is dancing the night away! )The sunset beach is also within five minutes of easy walking in the other direction and is a beautiful, stunning locale.
The hotel was a good bet. I have a lovely room, with the balcony overlooking the swimming pool. Also, since I throw a tantrum about the two piddly sugar sachets they have in the room (TWO??) I am given unlimited access to where the stocks on my floor are kept, so everybody is a happy bunny now: ) There are actually two pools, I find, as I meander around, with the second overlooking the sea and a mountain view right behind us. The Best Western Phanganaburi also has its own strip of private beach, so one is not accosted by hawkers or urchins. However, it’s infinitely more relaxing to sit by the pool …..
…..if only they would turn the blasted volume down!! Jeez, what IS this infernal din; sound emanates at terrifying volume from the speakers, which the hotel fondly imagines is the music of the age but which sounds more like chain mail gangs slashing at each other, snarling dogs on heat, and a drummer presumably wired outta his skull! After three days of this manic torture, we find ourselves jerking like marionettes in the pool and gaze at each other numbly in petrified horror during the few moments of unaccustomed silence, as the damn tape spools on itself for another merciless round. Two Irishmen (who else!) take it upon themselves to request the management to play something a little more in keeping with the ambience and are soundly (sic!) told off.
Despite – or probably, because of – this audio assault, we form ourselves pretty quickly into one happy group, with introductions made in the pool J So there’s Jeff from England, Nicole and Brendan who were working in Australia but are now on their way back home to England for good, and me. We are joined later by Simon, the two Irish guys and another friend of theirs, and head out to the village for dinner one night. The food was really crappy; check out the ‘tip’ Paul left for the management with his mashed potatoes 😉
And finally – we get to THE night. Lots to be done before nightfall though; for starters, I tell everyone they’ve gotta wear the official uniform (FM Tees) else they can’t go to the party 😀 Simon and Jeff grumble good naturedly, but acquiesce. Nicole declares we need paint, as body painting is a MUST for the party so we set off for the little village.
Finally, we get it all together and head for dinner out on town. Everyone decides on Indian, but the joint is actually Nepali and the food, predictably, is a mess, with me mumbling apologies and explanations throughout the meal, “this isn’t Indian!”
Onwards to the beach shack Paul and Neal have, where we’re to indulge in some body art. We ended up like little kids let loose with colours and had so much fun …Nicole honed her creative streak on me, my “tribal art” leg was much in demand, and Simon had so much faith in my artistic skills (also my inspiration) that we went a little wild!
The moon is playing hide-and-seek at her own party and we kind of lose track of time; the beach is crowded and the party well under way when we finally get there. ‘Buckets’ are the only way one swigs a drink here, so every body’s got stuff sloshing outta plastic pails except for me – well, HOW much pepsi can I drink before I pass out?! Some of these concoctions are absolutely vile, judging by what Brendan tells me – whiskey and raspberry fanta! Vodka, sprite, coke and red bull!
Just so you get an idea of the chaotic scene that is the Full Moon party – there are makeshift raised platforms for dancing, fire dancers, guys walking around nonchalantly in two-piece bikinis, a row of bucket stands, and virtual strangers with their tongues in each others’ mouths (blech, talk about PDA!) Each afore-mentioned platform has its own blaring music and bright lights so that after some time, the world is just one big happy, confused psychedelic blur and that, my friends is the Full Moon party – the most happening beach party in the world!
I am like a little child let loose without her minders (you’d understand this better if I told you my SON has a curfew time for me when I stay with him!) Brendan is rather amused with my delight and Simon keeps checking to see I am still tagging along. Everything is just “awesome” and I trundle along with my mouth agape, tired but happy and then – well, then I see the most horrific sight that no one should ever have to go through…a line of men, just pissing nonchalantly into the water and, since we’re at about 3am now, the tide comes swirling in with all that eeuwwyyyy stuff and I’m skipping nimbly outta the way and calling out to the gang that it’s time to go, NOW 🙁