Phangan Colour Moon had its opening night on the 9th December 2014. It has never been held before and marks the start of something new for Koh Phangan: an event successfully organised by the Island and Regional governments which appeals to both Thais and tourists alike.
Normally these types of evening event are primarily aimed to appeal to local Thais, with a small number of tourists visiting out of curiosity more than anything else. They normally have little more than a Thai dance stage, a small fun fair, some markets stalls, and a lot of food and beer stalls. Phangan Colour Moon Festival went well beyond this formula with a well thought out and organised set of attractions going on through the night.
The fashion show was in three parts, with one presenter speaking in Thai and the other in English. The first, and longest, part of the show featured half a dozen professional models showcasing original Thai fashion designs based on the theme of Koh Phangan. There was a heavy emphasis on beach and party clothing often incorporating the traditional batik fabrics made exclusively in Southern Thailand.
The second part of the show involved body paint skills modelled by young female tourists. Body painting is a highly developed art on the island and it features heavily on party nights. Anywhere except Koh Phangan this probably wouldn’t be considered fashion, and indeed the girls were not wearing much.
The third part of the show was a modelling competition between workers at two of the local resorts, Buri Rasa Resort in Thong Nai Pan Noi and Grand Sea Resort in Thong Sala, and the Lomprayah ferry company. As well as modelling each team designed their own costumes. Lomprayah came first, Buri Rasa Resort came second, and Grand Sea Resort, which decided to field the night’s only male model, came last.
Throughout the evening the stage featured a succession of Thai and Western musicians playing a largely acoustic set of chilled-out guitar based music which is as much a part of the local music scene as the progressive hard dance music Koh Phangan is best known for.
The harbour was lit up with fishing boats with their green lighting rigs turned up to full brightness. The green lights are used to attract squid and fish at night. The use of the lighting on fishing boats moored in the harbour was a clever way to bring the fishing industry into the festival and fishing remains a key part of the local culture and economy. Phangan wouldn’t be Phangan without it.
Local Culture and Eco-Tourism
In addition to the entertainment stages, there were a number of other stalls and exhibitions dedicated to local culture and the local environment.
Coconut farming is very important to Koh Phangan. For most the 20th Century coconut farming was the main industry on the island. As well as being good to eat, coconut has proven medicinal benefits particularly the oil as a food supplement and health and beauty product. Local producers have started to capitalise on this by producing their own range of oils and beauty products manufactured on the island. Another more creative, and unusual, use for the coconut was the walkway constructed with coconut shells. The idea is that by walking on the shells you get a therapeutic foot massage.
The hull of retired Thai Navy warship HMS Phangan was opened up for the night for use as an impromptu art gallery. At one time HMS Phangan was a US navy tank ship. This internal space is perfect for events and easily accessed by the large ramp which in former days was used to load and unload tanks. The art show featured a number of different media including tattoo exhibitions, painting and line drawings and a fascinating display of photos of Koh Phangan over the last 120 years with the earliest photos being of King Rama V at Than Sadet waterfall.
Last, but not least, were the exhibitions about the marine life in the Marine Park areas around Koh Phangan; some of the local dive operators, most notably Sail Rock Divers, assisted by showing underwater videos and answering questions about the local sea life and conservation.
For those of you who missed the festival, the question is whether it will be on next year? No one is sure yet and there have been no public announcements to say whether it be will held again for the Colour Moon in 2015. However, given the success of this year’s event we believe it is sure to be held again next year.
Update for 2021
The Phangan Colour Moon Party didn’t catch on. It was polite, progressive, cultural and environmentally friendly. It was also lacking in appeal to the 30,000 party goers that descend monthly on the island. While Bangkok generals, some business owners and locals want to address the environmentally cost of the parties, as well as the reputational damage to the island by promoting alternative festivals, the majority are resigned to hosting the big parties.