The Full Moon Party is just one of those things that seemed like you couldn’t go to Thailand and not do. I was pretty skeptical about how fun I’d think it actually was, given that I’m now well into my 30’s and have mostly outgrown the time in my life where I could party all night. But I have major FOMO and so I began planning how to make this happen during my month in Chiang Mai.
As I started to research, I struggled to find good information on this massively popular activity. I’m not sure what to attribute that to, but I thought I’d document what I did, and my experience, in case it helps others.
The Full Moon Party happens on the island of Ko Pha-ngan, once per month (you can find the anticipated schedule here). The party itself happens on Haad Rin beach and costs 100 THB (about $3 USD) to get in.
Coming from Chiang Mai, it seems you have two main options: the fast, easy, expensive way or the slow, cheaper way.
The fast way:
Fly to Ko Samui (USM). This is an hour and 45 minute flight from Chiang Mai and once you are there, it’s about 30 minutes more by ferry to Ko Pha-ngan. I paid $488 for a round trip flight, and $16 for round trip ferry tickets.
Watchout: I didn’t realize there were multiple ports on each island, so be mindful of which port you book as the island is quite large and booking the wrong port can really increase your time and cost.
The slow way:
Fly to Surat Thani (URT). This is an hour and 50 minute flight from Chiang Mai, and once you are there you have about 4-6 more hours by bus/ferry to get to Ko Pha-ngan. The plane ticket was running $207 round trip when I researched it, and the ferry was $20 – $60 round trip
The island of Ko Pha-ngan is actually much bigger than I had expected, so you have a decision to make here. Do you want to stay close to the party (walking distance), or explore other parts of the island and sort out how to get home after the party? My recommendation is to stay close to the party, at least for the night of the party itself. It’s pretty common to have a minimum stay requirement around the full moon party dates – ours were two nights but I saw several that had 4 or 5 night minimums.
We stayed at the Phangan Pearl Villa, which was about a 10 minute walk from the party. It was really nice not to have to worry about finding a taxi to the party or home again, and that also meant I had the comfort of knowing I could easily leave anytime I wanted, if I needed to.
I’d have a hard time recommending anyone else stay at the Phangan Pearl Villa, but perhaps most of the hotels on the island are similar and therefore all about the same. It was fine, it was a place to sleep and overall it served its purpose. However, it lacked really basic things.
- There were no hand towels, no washcloths, and no hand soap in the bathroom
- The in room safes, depending on which room you got, may or may not hold anything larger than your passport.
- There was no phone in the room – no room to room calls and no way to contact the front desk
- There was no clock or alarm clock in the room
- The AC was absolutely abysmal – when I arrived, the room was 34 Celsius (93 F). I immediately set the thermostat to 15 C and set the fan to high. When we left 7 hours later, the room was only down to 28 C (82 F).
- The AC and power will not run without the room key being placed in a slot on the wall.
- The hotel will only give you one room key per guest, regardless of how many guests are in the room or how much you beg, bribe, or yell. If you and your roommate do not go everywhere together at the exact same time, this means one of you will be sleeping with the door unlocked, or one of you will have no way to come/go. This also means the abysmal AC cannot run unless you are in the room.
- Breakfast is included in the room rate and supposed to run until 11am. We went to breakfast at 10am, only to find not a bite of food left.
For reference, we paid $113/night for a room with two twin beds and $168/night for a room with 4 twin beds (bunk beds). The property had a two night minimum required around the full moon party dates.
The beach is big, but not nearly as big as I’d expected. If you’re with a group and you get separated, it may take you some time to find them again, but you eventually will. We picked a spot when we first arrived that would become our meetup point if anything happened, or at the end of the night if we got separated.
There are many bars and restaurants lining the beach, and they each have their own music and speakers blaring onto the beach. This meant that you could walk up and down the beach and have totally different music at each bar – some played 90’s music, some played EDM, some played today’s radio hits, etc.
There were also quite a few places set up to rest. They had tons of picnic tables near the main entrance, which offered a nice respite when your feet tired from standing all night.
Additionally, there were several signs set up for photo opportunities.
What the party is like:
Maybe it used to be crazier, but I really expected the party to be crazier than it was. In reality, it was a pretty tame beach party that just happened to go until dawn.
Of course you’ll see the famous fire jump rope (please DO NOT do this – even if you are sober and able to keep the rhythm, other people jumping in can and will mess you up and there have been serious burns from this).
As mentioned above, there are also several signs set up around the beach, tempting you to take a picture for your social media.
For the most part though, people are just dancing the night away on a beach.
What should you wear?
Most people were pretty casual – it’s an outdoor party and we were there in the middle of summer so people were just trying to stay cool. Guys were mostly in shorts or swim trunks with tank tops or shirtless. Women were mostly in shorts with tank tops or bikini tops.
Many people wore full moon party branded clothing from local shops ($5 USD is an average price for a tank top), and generally the more neon you had on the better. Most people also wore neon paint: there are vendors who will paint you in neon designs, or vendors who will sell you paint to do it yourself. I saw a lot of flower crowns, crazy earrings, and neon everything.
What should you bring to the party?
You’ll need cash to get onto the beach (100 THB), and cash for any food or drinks you’d like once you’re there – they really do not take credit cards pretty much anywhere. You may want to consider bringing a hand fan, a bottle of water, some ibprofin, or anything else that might keep you comfortable throughout the night.
I also brought in my own beverages. I was concerned about the risks of purchasing from the street vendors, and there were no rules against bringing your own.
What should you NOT bring? Leave your cell phone at home, or bring a burner phone. There’s a lot of reports of phones being stolen at the party, and there’s also a lot of opportunity for you to lose or damage it in the ocean, or jumping firerope, or whatever. You can also leave your credit cards at home – very few places take credit cards, and certainly none of the ones at the party. Bring enough cash you get you through the night, but not so much you’d be devastated to lose it.
This was more fun than I expected it to be. I think part of that was that I just had such low expectations to begin with. I attribute a lot of it also to being with a group of friends – we had a good sized group and it would have been a very different experience alone or with one other person.
The venue itself was better than I expected it to be – I appreciated that there were tables to sit down when you needed rest, there were signs set up for photo opportunities, and there were multiple music options.
I didn’t personally enjoy Ko Pha-ngan as an island – it felt like the ultimate tourist exploitation, with mediocre hotels and restaurants who know they have a captive audience. To be fair, I have friends who stayed on other parts of the island – they did a yoga retreat and did not attend the full moon party – who loved the island.