The location of the famous full moon party; this is a Thailand experience marked on most backpackers’ calendars, potentially even an event that you plan your trip around. Thousands of backpackers gather here for the party each month and by midnight the beach (Haad Rin) is packed with intoxicated, neon clad travellers. Although this insanely awesome party is the main reason to head here, and there are other more exciting and beautiful islands surrounding it, Koh Pha Ngan is more than just a party once a month. There are jungle parties and pool parties going on all the time around the island, and there are tons of awesome bars and fun restaurants to hang out in. It’s just a great place to chill, meet new friends and have a good time.
How to Get There
We took a failsafe route to Koh Pha Ngan and bought a joint ticket online (out of character we know) from Bangkok. We were arriving in Bangkok by bus the same morning of the day we wanted to leave on an overnight bus, and anticipating a busy hoard of people buying tickets to get to the full moon party we played it safe. We bought the tickets at 12GO.asia for 1000 baht, it was closer to 800 baht if we had bought it in person the day of if we had risked it. The ticket included an overnight bus with the Thai Sirim company to the ferry pier at Surathani (complete with a few included snacks but eat dinner before), and the ferry ride to Koh Pha Ngan from there. The ferry ticket was listed for 300 baht at the pier. The bus took 14 hours from terminal to ferry pier (with a random mandatory stop at 1am for a very weird dinner?) and then we had to wait 2 hours until our ferry arrived. The place we waited had a coffee shop with wifi and a little convenience store for snacks. We had a Seatram ferry and it was pretty nice. Make sure to sit near the front as the back reeks of gas. The ferry ride to Koh Pha Ngan picked up people from Koh Samui then headed to our final destination, and it took about 2.5 hours.
We were dropped at Thong Sala, which is about a 30-45 min drive to Haad Rin Beach where the full moon party actually takes place. Taxi drivers will rush you as soon as you get off the ferry, but if you walk down the road you’ll find mini buses shuttling people to Haad Rin for 150 baht each, leaving once they’re full. They will drop you right at your hostel. Try to arrive a few days BEFORE the full moon party as transportation will be tough and crowded the day of because SO many travellers come to this event!
Coming from Koh Tao is a simple ferry ride. The ticket is approximately 400 baht (ours also included a taxi ride) and the ferry takes about 2 hours.
Where to Stay
- Charung Bungalows – We booked this early (like MONTHS in advance) to ensure we got a place within walking distance of the full moon party zone. Haad Rin is a small peninsula with the party taking place on the large beach on the east side. Charung Bungalows are on the other side of the peninsula, a close five minute walk away but far enough to not be bothered by the noise and shenanigans taking place on the beach. We booked through hostelworld.com back when we were young innocent rookie travellers, and had paid 1785 baht (69 CAD!) for 5 nights with another 1785 due upon arrival. Almost every hostel has a mandatory 3-5 day stay during the week before and after the full moon party, which was annoying because we were only planning to stay for 3 nights but were paying for 5. The bungalow was basic but clean, and weirdly had two double beds though we only paid for one. It also had a little balcony with a hammock and was right by the water. We definitely recommend to book early like we did, as a lot of our friends were on the other side of the island and had to taxi back and forth from the party and other activities. Having the freedom to come and go from the party as you please and not have to be on a schedule is worth booking early, not to mention the whole Haad Rin area is super cool and worth being able to explore at your leisure. You can book online here.
What to Do
- Full Moon Party – Obviously this is the reason you’re here. Below are some good tips on having a fun and safe time at one of the biggest parties in the world:
- Don’t go until 11pm at the earliest. We made the mistake of thinking it started when it got dark and the moon came up (makes sense right?!) but the beach doesn’t start bumpin’ until 11pm or later. And the party lasts until sunrise… so you don’t want to start too early!
- Get into the neon paint and shirts. Black lights are everywhere and it’s part of the theme! Yes the shirts and paint are overpriced but it’s once in a lifetime and super fun.
- Only bring a phone and minimal cash (around 600-700 baht). So many people we met lost all of their belongings that night! Avoid bringing your bank cards and your wallet. Buckets are 150 baht, you definitely don’t need more than 3 (and that’s pushing it, those things are strong) and you can use the rest for midnight snacks at the Chicken Corner.
- Go to the Chicken Corner for midnight snacks! Always good to have food in your stomach while drinking, and Koh Pha Ngan has concocted the holy grail of all drunk food spots – the Chicken Corner. Literally an intersection with a fried chicken joint on each corner. So many options, so much greasy food.
- Avoid drugs. Drugs are super illegal in Thailand, and cops patrol the beach. Some might even try to sell you drugs and then charge/threaten to take you to jail if you buy. Unless you want jail time or you have a good chunk of cash on you to bribe the police avoid drugs. Just avoid buying drugs from random people in general, that should really be an overall life rule.
- Head up to The Rock for a bird’s eye view of the madness. The bar restaurant on the south end of the beach offers great views of the neon backpacker covered beach featured in our photos.
- Enjoy the fire guys, don’t do fire jump rope. This should be obvious but most people aren’t good at fire jump rope while intoxicated. The amount of people we saw fall on the fire rope was crazy. We also heard rumours that the fire rope turners will purposely speed up the rope until jumpers fall, and hospitals will pay them for bringing in burn victims. May be true maybe not, but we didn’t try it. Stick to fire limbo.
- Pre-Parties – There are lots of parties going on in the days before the grand finale. We hit up a pool party two nights beforehand and had a lot of fun, but skipped out on the jungle party the night before. We heard afterwards that it was nothing to write home about, and we were happy to have rested the night before the full moon party.
- Beach Soccer Tournament – Tommy’s Resort on Haad Rin Beach hosts a beach soccer tournament the days before the full moon party. Alex signed up the day before and got put on a team for the three game tourney and had lots of fun. It was 300 baht and you get a free shirt out of it.
Where to Eat
- Lazy House – This was our go-to hangout spot during our stay on the island. It had comfy couches, great movies playing constantly on a projector screen and three tv’s throughout the restaurant and pretty good food. Great place to chill after a long night out. They also had another site across the road which was almost identical but was constantly playing friends, so if you don’t like a movie you can head over there.
- The Rock – Not only does The Rock provide great views of the beach and full moon party, it’s also an awesome place to go for dinner. Literally perched atop a massive rock on the south side of the beach, it has cheap food and drinks and a fun atmosphere.
- Paprika – An awesome falafel joint on the main road heading to the main beach. It boasts a great falafel wrap and shake combo for 100 baht. The wraps were delicious and the shakes were great! Make sure to check it out.
- Chicken Corner – This fried chicken isn’t strictly for drunken nights, but it often turns out that way. The fried chicken sandwiches are amazing, but our opinions may have been biased due to it being midnight on the night of the full moon. You can find Chicken Corner right at the main road leading to the main beach, you can’t miss it.