The Full Moon Party on Haad Rin’s Sunrise Beach is the largest monthly outdoor rave in the world, and it only costs 100 Thai Baht to enter! That’s just $3 and if you stay in Haad Rin there isn’t any entrance fee. The party regularly draws crowds of up to 10,000 people. During peak times like New Year’s Eve the attendance swells to over 15,000 people. That is a lot of people for a beach party.
The party has become legendary. It features on the bucket list of many young people wanting to see something of the world. Going to the Full Moon Party is an experience you will never forget. And hopefully, you will leave Koh Phangan with happy memories of the party.
Guide to Full Moon Party Venues
The Full Moon Party is not one party: rather it’s a lot of smaller parties going off at the same time and taking place at the bars running the length of Haad Rin Beach. Every venue is different which is what makes the Full Moon Party so popular – there is something to suit everyone! This is our guide to the different bars, running North to South along the Full Moon Party beach.
Mellow Mountain is a laid back wooden bar perched on the hill above the sea. Mellow Mountain attracts an older and mellower crowd than the rest of the Full Moon Party with a mix of Techno/House/Funk. Catch DJ Lai from Thong Nai Pan on the decks at around 2am for some original and upbeat house mixes. This is a great bar to either chill out or dance. The action is all inside and overlooking the Full Moon Party. There is lots of room to dance or chill out with drink sat on some cushions. Read our review.
Tommy Beach Club
This one of the four big venues on the Full Moon Party beach (the other three are The Cactus Bar, Drop Inn Club and Paradise Club). Tommy Beach Club gets packed on Full Moon Party night with two sound systems on the beach outside the front of the bar. There is a lot going on here throughout the night. They have a good line up of DJs and play a mix of Psy-Trance, Tech House, Techno and Electro House. Tommy Beach Club has a club like feel with a giant laser, dance podiums, UV lighting, fluorescent sculptures and a fire wall. You are likely to want to spend some of your night at this bar.
The Orchid is the Full Moon Party’s only Drum and Bass, break beat and hip-hop bar. This bar is one of the smaller venues on the Full Moon Party Beach. It has a loyal following who pack onto the covered concrete dance floor. People tend to come here for the music. It’s a good place to dance as well if you don’t particularly like the big crowds.
The Cactus Bar
The Cactus Bar is probably the busiest bar on the beach. They put on a good show with a fire show and pretty girls dancing on the bar. The music is more commercial than the other bars on the beach with the playlist ranging through 70s ,80s, 90s, Hip-Hop, Dance, Electro, Dance, Drum and Bass and classic dance ‘anthems’. The music appeals to a really wide range of people. Like the Tommy Beach Club they have a fire wall, dance podiums and fluorescent sculptures. Good bar inside as well with two floors. Arrive early if you want to get seats for yourself and your friends. Keeping your seats all night is a bit more difficult!
Vinyl Club is a small club with a big sound system. Resident DJs Kay and Jok play Hard Techno and Psy-Trance to a cool crowd intend on partying hard until the early hours of the morning. There isn’t much room inside the bar but plenty on the beach. And no they don’t play vinyl anymore.
Zoom Bar is next door to the Vinyl Club and a very similar kind of club. They have a DJ booth overlooking the beach which is pretty cool. This bar has an unfortunate recent history – this is where tourist Stephen Ashton was shot dead at the beginning of 2013. Stephen got caught in the cross fire when an island resident shot at another island resident. Not the fault of the bar, and it doesn’t mean that this bar is any less safe than any other – it could have happened nearly anywhere in Thailand.
Drop Inn Club
Launched in 1989, Drop Inn Club is a mainstay of the Full Moon Party. At points during the night they can attract up to 10,000 people. It get busiest when their music starts to get really good. They play a wide range of music a lot of it falling into the category of ‘popular music’. This said at points during the evening they play really good House and Techno. The music is up and down, like everywhere at the Full Moon Party. You need to move from place to place as the music changes.
The first Full Moon Party was around 1983 and was organized by a certain Mr. Suti at Paradise Bungalows. He put on a small party for some backpackers on full moon night and carried on doing it every month after. Starting out with only 20 to 30 people partying around a bonfire, the number of people who now go sometimes tops 30,000. Paradise is the place to experience the ‘old skool’ Full Moon Party. This is the place where they do the notorious fire rope skipping. Lots of party goers come away from Full Moon Party night with burns to their leg after trying this one. Be careful! They also have a fire wall and a rock slide. Paradise is a must-visit when you go to the Full Moon Party. They play mostly House and Techno music.
The Rock is a laid back bar on top of a big rock at the Southern end of the beach. The Rock is run by the legendary Mr. Suti and has an ‘old skool’ feel with wooden floors and palm leaf roof. This is a good place to chill out and you get a good view of the party but away from the madness. If you do decide to take time out be sure to try one of their cocktails, by far the best on the Full Moon Party beach. The music is generally Funky and Soulful although it changes in tempo throughout the night.
The History of the Full Moon Party
As with all legends there is confusion about the origins of the party. It seems that everyone wants to take credit for starting the party. The standard story is that it was organized as a birthday party by Paradise Bungalows. Another plausible story is that it was a group of foreigners tired of the commercialization of Koh Samui who came over one full moon for a party.
What is less in doubt is the development of the beach party. It quickly became a regular party on the night of the full moon. During the early years in the 1980s the party was a hippy affair where people gathered to smoke weed, take mushrooms and have fun. No doubt the influence of the Goa parties in India brought trance music to the island.
As the parties gathered more devotees so the police found it necessary to clamp down on illegal activities. This only fueled the notoriety of the party and caused more people to make the pilgrimage to Haad Rin.
The increased revenue of the party meant the bars providing the music became more profitable. As a result they pushed out most of the cheap bungalow operations form the beach front. At the same time they had resources to build bigger and bigger sound systems.
By the early 2000s the parties reached their present huge spectacle. Each bar strove to define itself by the music it played. Drop In played RnB while places like Zoom played the hard trance / techno sound pioneered in Koh Phangan.
At the same time policing and security of the party improved and the earlier raids ceased. Also the mass media began to pay attention to the party and made it even more famous.
In 2012 charging was introduced for those entering Haad Rin on the date of the party. The money gathered is supposedly to pay for policing and clearing up. Currently there has been no increase to the entry fee to the party.
Over the years the type of people going to the Full Moon Party has changed. The original hirsute and anarchical folk have largely been replaced with young people decidedly not committed to the hippy agenda of peace, love and happiness. This is the iPod generation who want to get wasted on buckets of booze.
Recently, the music agenda at the party has changed. There is less of an emphasis on trance and dance music. The party is fully commercialized and many bars seek to pull in the punters with popular music such as RnB and chart music. However, the Baan Tai parties such as the Jungle Experience, the Half Moon Party, the Shiva Moon Party and the Black Moon Party still stick to trance music. The exception is the Sramanora Waterfall Party in Ban Kai that plays minimal and tech/house. These parties only attract a few hundred people compared to the overwhelming numbers at the main Haad Rin party.
What is the Party Like?
This is perhaps the question that anybody considering making the trek down to Koh Phangan is most keen to have answered. The easiest way to find out is to watch one of the numerous YouTube videos of the party. We include one at the top of this page.
The party starts days before the Full Moon Party. All the bars crank up the noise and get the party atmosphere going. Drop In has a foam party; some of the bars do drinks deals. And of course all the resorts have a minimum stay requirement often insisting people book in 2 or 3 days before the event, so there are plenty of young up-for-it people around to populate the parties.
On the night of the party people spend time decorating their faces and bodies in day-glow make-up. This is almost compulsory. This is followed by the obligatory pre-party. Many of the resorts have their own DJs and free/cheap drinks to get the party started.
The streets of Haad Rin and the main party beach of Haad Rin Nok start to fill up from 11pm onwards. However, many don’t venture to the main party until midnight. It is a long night after all.
When the party is in full swing all the bars along the beach are packed. The crowds spill out onto the sand. The sound systems are pointing outwards so that the noise is loud. As you walk along the beach one sound systems melds into the next, without a break. People are dancing on tables and podiums. There are limbo competitions where the stick is on fire. There is usually a long skipping rope on fire that the drunk and brave attempt to skip over. (The following day the medical clinics are full of people being treated for burns).
To continue the description, people are dancing in the sea. To avoid the long queues and the toilet charge many men and women are also urinating in the sea.
People normally go to the party in groups. As the party has morphed there is a growing band of men looking for ‘romance’ at the party. There are also plenty of sex workers at the party including katoeys or ladyboys. Along with these workers, there are pick pockets, uniformed police and undercover police looking to catch people taking drugs.
The full moon celebrations spread out all over Haad Rin. Everywhere you go there are small wooden stalls selling buckets. The smaller Haad Rin Nai also has DJs. It seems that all of Haad Rin goes mad for a night. It is something like a carnival or a modern day Bacchanalian festival. Here you will see all that is good and bad about the exuberance of youth.
A Few Tips
1) Don’t attempt the fire rope
2) Wear something on your feet
3) Put your valuables in a safety box if you stay in Haad Rin
4) Drink water between buckets
5) Don’t smoke joints at the party
6) Apply sun block in the morning
The Full Moon Party is an event that never wants to end. The bars on the beach wind down around 10am but there is a hardcore of party folk who want more. Luckily there is no shortage of DJs and bars ready to keep the energy and noise going. Among these are Fubar Hostel in Haad Rin, Backyard Pub on the Haad Rin Peninsula and Baan Sabai in Baan Tai. If you don’t want to go to bed there are plenty of options available to you.