Beyond the Full Moon

Backpacking & Trekking, Health & Safety, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Parties, Festivals & Events, Thailand — By on March 8, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Although it probably didn’t seem like it from my previous blog entry, Amanda and I actually didn’t spend our entire time in Ko Pha-Ngan sipping buckets. In between the half moon, New Year’s Eve and full moon parties, the rest of our time was spent exploring the island, working out, catching meals with new pals or just sitting around and people watching. There’s definitely a lot more to Ko Pha-Ngan than meets the hazy eye. Here are our top picks and random observations in no particular order:

• Eclectic Youth: As former Florida State University alumnus and ex-sorority girls (Oh, I can’t wait for the comments on this one!), Amanda and I figured we had it in us to party like we were college students again at least for our time in Ko Pha-Ngan. What we hadn’t planned on is that almost everyone there would actually still be in college! Like as in ages 18-22. Yikes! Not that really mattered; we were still in our 20s after all and we did find a good group of other backpackers closer to our age. But after hearing one too many comments like “Chemistry 101 was, like, so hard” or “My parents are totally getting me a new car for graduation”, Amanda and I were tempted to put certain people’s buckets where the full moon don’t shine! But of course we’re too ‘mature’ for that kind of behavior!

• Road Rash Horror: OK. Here’s the deal. Unless you want to look like a character from The Night of the Living Dead (that’s an old horror movie for those readers who fall under my first bullet), renting a motorbike on the island probably isn’t the best idea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m normally not afraid of this kind of stuff (I’ve been sky diving, bungee jumping and white water rafting on Class 4 rapids if you needed a resume), but after Amanda and I noticed that every 1 out of 5 backpackers were either hobbling around on crutches, resembled a fighter who went head to head with Holyfield or were wrapped in more gauze than Ashley Simpson after her “non” nose job, we decided that walking everywhere was much safer. If we wanted a special tattoo from Ko Pha-Ngan, we’d stick to the neon paint kind.

• Muay Thai Tough: For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is a famous and pretty brutal form of martial arts practiced across the country. While seeing a live match in Bangkok was one of the coolest things Amanda and I did, practicing the actual art form ourselves in Ko Pha-Ngan was definitely the most bad ass. For about $5 at the local gym, a well-trained fighter will kick your butt around the ring for over an hour, teaching you how to kick, punch, knee and elbow your opponent like a pro. After one class, Amanda and I were sucking wind and sweating buckets (literally, the booze from our previous night’s buckets was oozing from our pores), but were fully prepared to defend ourselves again any unruly revelers at the full moon party.

• Dark Side of the Full Moon: Before we left for our round-the-world trip and throughout the journey, one comment from family and friends pops up time and time again…Be Careful! With the exception of a few places notorious for theft (Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, etc.), the girls and I knew that the majority of countries we planned to visit were statistically safer than most big cities back home in the states. Still, we always use common sense on the road and keep our wits about us wherever we went and fortunately had not encountered one single incident…until Ko Pha-Ngan that is. While what happened to us there only occurs on occasion, future full mooners should be prepared.

The 411 on the incident: At the very beginning of the night during the full moon party, Amanda and I were strolling along the beach with some of our friends and thousands of other people, when I felt something catch on the small purse I had slung across my chest. I reached down and caught the main pouch just as the strap snapped and the purse began sliding down my side. It took me a second to realize what had happened, but when I looked at my bag in the moonlight and saw the frayed cord, I realized someone had razored it off of me. I spun around to see two local men standing right behind, the only still creatures in a sea of swaying ravers. I started screaming that they were trying to steal my purse, holding up the evidence and getting in their faces. One ran off immediately, but the other one stood dumbstruck in the sand. Maybe he was used to having less attentive victims or wasn’t expecting a ‘5 “3 white girl in a jean skirt and tank top to call him on his attempted theft, but he didn’t move for a good 15-20 seconds. I used that time to put my newfound Muay Thai skills in effect and kicked him in the knees over and over again until he snapped to and ran off to find his partner in crime. It was then that Amanda turned and realized what was happening and, of course, being the loyal LG that she is, was like “Which way did they go? Let’s go find them and kick their asses!” She even grabbed some random dude who she thought I was pointing at and started threatening him. In the end, we put aside our pissed off feelings (no one tries to ruin our fun and get away with it) and be happy nothing was actually stolen. We enjoyed the rest of the night without thinking twice about the “Stupid Slasher” (as he’d become to be known) and sleep soundly that night with the knowledge that the first guy who tried to mess with The Lost Girls had bruises to show for it!

• Shake It Up: During our time in Ko Pha-Ngan, we kept noticing that there was one huge bar perched high above the cliffs that crowds of people would flock to as the night’s partying progressed. We weren’t exactly sure what the appeal of that particular place was, but we soon heard threw the Hat Rin grapevine that The Mountain Bar was a main source of the area’s ubiquitous happy shakes. A completely organic and legal concoction, these special slurpees promise to give partyers a new outlook on life – for a few hours anyway – without any harmful long term side effects or risk of arrest / heavy fines (Quote from Lonely Planet: “Even though it seems like the entire island is a drug buffet, narcotics are illegal in Thailand and police enforcement is stepped up during full moon parties. The police take it very seriously. The going rate for a small pot bust is 50,000 baht” – that’s over $1400). Throughout our time in SE Asia, we’ve noticed that many restaurants have more happy meals than McDonalds, serving curious backpackers (the exact number isn’t posted on their signs, though) special pizzas, sandwiches, teas and frozen drinks at very reasonable prices. So, the one happy value item on The Mountain Bar’s menu didn’t come as a particular shock to us. Did Amanda and I get our shake on, you wonder? Sorry, you’ll have to wait ‘til The Lost Girls book comes out to get the answer to that one! 🙂

• A Different High: While backpackers are notorious for finding ways to give themselves an extra lift during the full moon party, Amanda and I discovered an alternative method for getting high during our time in Ko Pha-Ngan. We’d read about a couple DIY hikes from Hat Rin to other nearby beaches, so one day, we decided to swap our flops for hiking boots and go exploring. After a few wrong turns and unintelligible directions from a few passersby, Amanda and I found the path we were looking for and started to follow the spray painted arrows (that’s the local area’s version of trail markings) up the hill. And up and up and up some more. We clawed and climbed our way over rocks, vines and tree stumps until we reached the top of the surprisingly steep mountain. As we came out of the woods into a clearing, we realized what had first attracted visitors to this island decades ago. Without a doubt it was not the party scene, but rather, the unbelievably spectacular view. Far beneath us, foamy waves crashed onto uninhabited crescents of white sand nestled between jagged limestone cliffs. Long tail boats that looked like tiny moving particles in the vast ocean, sailed over the teal blue waves, their passengers oblivious to our presence above. Amanda and I relaxed on our look out rock soaking up the view and the fresh air for about 20 minutes before deciding we should continue heading down the trail to beat the sunset to the next beach. The rest of the hike was a grueling downhill battle down steep dirt leaf covered paths, so the by the time we reached our final destination, we were happy to rest a bit. And we could not have happened on a better place to relax. Our two hour trek landed us directly onto Hat Thian beach, a thin stretch of powdery sand rimmed by a rocky cove that offers seclusion and plentiful hammocks to its low key inhabitants. Settling down on comfy cushions at The Santuary (the area’s popular vegetarian restaurant, yoga center and health retreat), Amanda and I had finally found a balance in our Ko Pha-Ngan life. In reality, the only thing that stood between us and Hat Rin raver status was a few miles of ocean, on this side of the island, we felt a million moons away!

— Jen

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    2 Comments

  • Samantha says:

    “Did Amanda and I get our shake on, you wonder? Sorry, you’ll have to wait ‘til The Lost Girls book comes out to get the answer to that one!”

    The book doesn’t say… As sad as this sounds I was so looking forward to the Full Moon Party in the book and it wasn’t there. Love the book anyway, very inspiring!

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