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How to Get Stuck on Koh Phangan and Go to 3 Full Moon Parties

Koh Phangan, you monster.

We had all intentions of leaving you, but there were forces at work beyond our control.

The original plan- if you could even call it that – was to stay on Koh Phangan for the Christmas Day Full Moon party then peace out to the smaller and slightly more relaxed island of Koh Tao before having to return to Bangkok to go back to school on New Years Day.

Well. That’s not what happened at all.

Full moon party garb
Getting festive for the Christmas Day Full Moon Party aka the only Full Moon Party we actually intended to attend…

We got sucked up into the party culture, emerging only to find we were completely homeless. We didn’t book our bungalow for enough nights since we thought we would be leaving and they, in addition to every other bungalow place on the island, were completely full for both the true Full Moon Party on the 28th and the New Years Eve Full Moon Party on the 31st. Our first homeless night, we decided to leave the solution to our lack of accommodation problem up to the Full Moon gods.

It was an interesting night, not unlike the others we had already spent out on Haad Rin except for the sheer magnitude of the debauchery. We scattered in our efforts to find a place to rest our respective heads that did not leave us at risk of being toppled by shroom-tripping party-goers.

Full Moon garb/80's aerobics instructor/unsuccessful streetwalker
Full Moon garb/80’s aerobics instructor/unsuccessful streetwalker costume.

The next day found us homeless still, since we had failed to foresee how horrifyingly expansive the reach of the Full Moon Party could be at the tippy top of the High Season. We readied ourselves to leave for Koh Tao but couldn’t find a single bungalow/hostel/temporary accommodation situation on that island either.


So, Molly and I did what anyone would have done: we accepted a generous offer to bunk with a very kind South African flame-thrower for our final three nights on Koh Phangan.

Christmas in Koh Phangan
A very merry Christmas Day to you too! This was before the homeless part.

We had to move our stuff from the peaceful beaches of Ban Tai straight into the madness of Had Rin, aka Full Moon Beach, and just accept that we were not going to escape the party – oh no, no, we were going to become the party.

All of this, after a massive hike up the highest mountain of the island that left Molly elated and sweating and me sucking for air and falling over; after, on a separate occasion, I experienced nothing less than a full-on anxiety-induced meltdown in between bites of a som tam/sticky rice lunch; after covering our bodies in neon paint and dancing on platform stages on the beach all night for 4 good nights:

The crux of it all, New Years Eve, was anticlimactic at best. We had already seen and done the party – become the party – it was the same singlet-wearing, shoeless, sunburnt, drunken revelers, except this time with a touch of rain to remind everyone of the inherent melancholy of yet another year gone by.

New Years Eve Full Moon Party
A very rainy New Years Eve. After this photo, I promptly changed into a bathing suit before heading yet again into the madness on Haad Rin.

A pseudo-romance came to it’s end on Haad Rin beach that night. I willfully yet somewhat ashamedly engaged in a superfluous screaming fight with a boy I had known only a week (what a shame since it was so nice while it lasted)… Molly and I retreated into the flame-thrower’s room (he was still working the party) and, eventually, found sleep as firecrackers exploded and the music thumped meters from our windows.

And finally, New Years Day. The grayness descended again just like on the day of our arrival. We boarded the ferry, that same sweet despondence I had known the first time I left the islands in October weighing down my heart. The ferry was overcrowded. People lay in piles. A refugee ship.

On the ferry


What was this trip? Was it a time to relax? To party? To confuse myself about what I like in people, in myself, in my holidays? I guess I didn’t expect that I would need answers to these questions; I expected I would show up and the “purpose” of the trip would make itself apparent. But holidays (“vacations” for my fellow Americans) need not have a defined purpose.

Anyways. Here we are, 2o12. You are ending here, with this. With me in Koh Phangan, staring out at the cool grayness and silvery sea (the weather was better in October. “Low Season” my arse!) and wondering just how it could look so much like winter out here and yet still feel like July.

Stormy Koh Phangan
“The grayness has descended upon us again…”

This year began with Jordan and Morgan and Brian in an unidentified bar in Brooklyn. This year began with hot tears, uncontrollably spilled after the harshest of harsh (yet still somehow necessary) words were thrown at me by my uncle in the living room of their 12th-story apartment in Manhattan. This was the year I started Bag the Bag, and then left Bag the Bag to grow in my absence; I road-tripped to Miami for Spring Break with my best friends; I completed my monkey research project, not without Allison’s generous help, and presented it at Psi Chi.

I fucking graduated.

I moved to Thailand and admittedly experienced the lowest of lonely lows I’ve ever known before finally finding connection. I continued to explore what it means to connect with people and how and where I can find such connections as the ones I have since established.

What does this trip mean? What does this year mean?


  1. Now THIS is what I was expecting instead of that last piece of introspective navel-gazing. “Fear and Loathing” meets “Hangover Part II.” Tripped out ravers, fire throwers, anxiety attacks, screaming fights with unnamed companions. All that is missing is a Mike Tyson-style tattoo across the face and hallucinations of carpet crawling up the walls while you swipe ferociously at invisible bats over your head. I’m glad you survived it.
    Love, Mom

  2. Daveo says:

    What a holiday you had! But it seems like you girls salvaged it and had fun. Crazy times… good to be young and adventurous. Loved the pictures.

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