Koh Phangan. Home to the notorious Full Moon parties of Thailand. Famous for drinking, dancing and general debauchery...
Seeing in the New Year at a Thai Full Moon party is one of those things which has always been on my bucket list, but it's only ever really been on there half heartedly. Supposedly one of the best parties in the world, it's an event which I've always felt that I should go and investigate at some point, but have always secretly suspected that I'd not actually enjoy too much. Seeing as New Year was merely days away, and Koh Phangan was just a short boat journey from our current location it made sense to choose the present time to welcome in 2017 on Haad Rin beach, with around 30,000 other partygoers.
The boat journey from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan was by far the most traumatic boat journey of my travels so far. As the weather was clear and the sea was calm, we decided to sit on the top deck and play the 'Guess The Celebrity' game, where someone thinks of a celebrity and the rest of the group get twenty questions to try and guess which celebrity the person is thinking of. I was sat happily munching on Heather's Oreos, quite smug that we were nearing the 20th question and nobody had guessed my celebrity, when Sarah looked up and said,
"I'm really stuck with this one - the only person I can think of is Cilla Black, but you said that it was someone that was still alive and she's obviously dead, so it can't be her..."
I practically choked on my Oreo. "CILLA BLACK IS DEAD!?" She was my chosen celebrity - I'd somehow missed the news of her death well over a year before, and was only just finding out about it. I was absolutely gutted, though everyone else seemed to think that my dismay (and my ignorance,) was quite amusing.
Although a very special Christmas treat, at a cost of nearly triple my entire daily budget per night, the five days I'd spent in my posh room in Koh Tao were more than enough for me. (I'd rather spend the extra money on food...) So whilst everyone else continued their lives of luxury and checked into their hotels in Koh Phangan, I went Lone Ranger and booked myself into a hostel. It was actually good to go back to sharing a room with a bunch of randomers - I've become quite accustomed to background noise and I'd found myself struggling to sleep in my quiet room and huge bed over Christmas! My hostel wasn't too far from where everyone else was staying either, so it was only a short walk to theirs to join them for a Mai Tai or four by the pool.
The eve of New Year's Eve soon arrived, and we decided to spend the day at Mellow Mountain on Haad Rin beach, the same beach where the Full Moon Party would take place the following night. I'd been pretty ill overnight and for most of the morning too, and a kind French man from my dorm had looked after me - got me some food, water and medicine and made sure I was propped up in bed ok. Although I'd started feeling a little better, I wasn't sure if I should spend a day in the sun at the Mountain, but I went anyway and it turned out being one of my favourite days in Thailand. We were all in a bit of a silly mood, got the giggles in a big way and within a few hours my stomach hurt from laughing. I had a permanent stream of tears running down my face. I was mid hysteric when we bumped into the French guy who had been looking after me just hours before - his face was a picture - I'd gone from looking like something out of the Walking Dead to the chirpiest girl in Thailand. He must have been thinking, "Blimey, those meds were good!"
We were trying to relax on the beach when a group of loud, boisterous Scots appeared from nowhere and started throwing clumps of sand at each other. Seeing the look of distaste on each other's faces set off our laughter again, and then we realised that if they heard us laughing it would attract their attention and they might want to come and join us. For me, one of the hardest things in the world is to try and stop laughing when I'm not supposed to be, and the more we all tried to stop laughing, the harder we laughed. We did an absolutely terrible job of avoiding their attention and of course they spotted us and came to sit next to us.
One of them had a big bushy ginger moustache and and spat a bit when he talked. It just about killed me off to watch everyone's faces as he yapped away, rather than speaking to them at a normal volume, spraying their faces with flecks of spit in the process. I was almost rolling in the sand, crying with laughter. His friend had chosen to lie right on the shore of the beach, waves crashing over him, submerging him fully for a second or two each time a new wave came. Hannah and I went for a paddle to get away from the yappy, bushy mouthed one, but when we got to the water, there was a loud shout of "BOW DOWN TO YOUR MOTHER!" The 'water Scot' had risen from the sea, and with eyes bloodshot from the salt water, he proceeded to inform us that we have all in fact evolved from fish and not apes. He kept trying to get us to bow down to the sea, as it was our creator, and he wanted us to give the whole 'lying down in it' thing a go, so we made a prompt exit and instead went in search of a toilet. (We found a puppy instead, which as you can see, brought us copious amounts of joy.)
The following day was New Year's Eve and we were all ready for the Full Moon Party. (We were covered in UV paint and mentally prepared to drink buckets of disgusting Thai vodka and mixer at least.)
We arrived at Haad Rin, and in a suitably tipsy state, the cheesy music and horrific dancing that everyone was partaking in was actually quite a laugh. There were fire spinners and fire twirlers and lots of fire in general. In fact, it was all fire and fun and games until we needed the toilet and saw that every single other person at the Full Moon Party also needed the toilet, and the queue stretched out of sight.. There was absolutely no way we could hold for that long, and even if we managed to, we'd end up missing the NYE countdown, so we had to go and join the large group of people who had also left it too late to get in the queue, and were using the sea as a form of communal, unisex urinal.
This is where the night started to go horribly wrong. A nasty, chavvy male (who looked like he'd skipped leg day at the gym every single day for all of forever,) told us (whilst urinating into the sea himself) that we were disgusting for using the sea as a toilet. He got quite angry at us so we returned some abuse in his direction before heading towards the main area of the beach, where the countdown for New Year was going to happen. I wanted to be right next to the fireworks so I could film them for my GoPro video. Everyone else wanted to stay out of the most crowded part, so we found a prominent spot for to meet them after. Pretty much ten seconds after leaving them, I bumped into this disgusting boy I'd met in Koh Phi Phi a few weeks before. The last time I'd seen him, he'd said to me,
"You may as well get into my bed instead of your bed later because we both know you're going to end up in my bed tonight anyway.."
When I'd arrived back at the hostel that very same night he'd been so sure that I was going to sleep with him, he'd been sat in his bed, blind drunk, being sick all over himself and making absolutely no attempt to go to the bathroom or to throw up somewhere other than all over his bed and his own self. Hate is an extremely strong word, but from that moment onwards, I hated him with passion. Naturally, when I was making my way over to the area where the fireworks were going to be set off, and I bumped into him and he suggested that I stand with him and kiss him at midnight, I did a complete U-Turn and made my way back to stand with everyone else.
Turns out that bumping into Sicky sick face did me a huge favour. As the clock struck twelve, chaos ensued. The fireworks decided to go off into the faces of the crowd instead of the sky, and as a result, there was a stampede of people trying to escape the sparks which were flying over anyone who happened to be close to the front. I managed to somehow miss the initial stampede of UV painted backpackers, as I was too busy fighting off a Thai man, who I'd caught with his hand in my pocket, trying to steal my phone. I successfully started a 'THIEF, THIEF, THIEF' chant, so the pickpocket was forced to disappear from the area, and I turned round just in time for the second wave of the stampede to practically carry me off my feet.
It took us a little while to find each other (and our flip flops) after the rush of burnt people had trampled their way through the masses. We were lucky to have not been close to the front - there were lots of people with burns all over their arms and faces, and it was obvious that plenty of people had got separated from their friends.
We made our way off of the beach, away from the drama and to a place we thought might be less chaotic. Moving through the crowds, several men obviously thought that groping was acceptable behaviour. My suspicions about the Full Moon Party not being very enjoyable were proving correct, a little ball of anger was growing inside of me, and I was coming extremely close to lashing out and punching someone in their stupid UV faces. When we finally made it to a bar, I bought a drink and before I'd even taken a sip, a man flicked his cigarette ash into it. I was fuming. His friends apologised and said he'd buy me another one. By now, I didn't even want another drink, but out of principle, I walked over to the bar with the man and ordered another. He was so drunk, he walked off without paying and it was around this point that we all decided we needed to get as far away from one of the world's 'greatest NYE parties' and head somewhere else.
I couldn't wait to get on the boat that was going to take us to 'Eden.' There were promises of decent music, decent people and an actual good time. I wanted to get as far away from the gropey, drunk idiots and the pickpockets and the crowds of burnt people and the chaos. We clambered on board, put on our life jackets and got ready for the short journey to the other side of the island.
It was at approximately the halfway point that the storm hit. It came out of absolutely nowhere. The waves were huge and the boat was rocking. Everyone was screaming and it looked like there was a chance that we could even capsize. I'm not going to lie - I was actually enjoying the rocky ride. We were getting drenched, the waves were spraying everywhere, the boat was almost in the sky one second and then we'd come crashing back down. Seeing as we were at the halfway point, there was no point in turning back - we may as well continue on our merry way. We hit dry land safely and everyone stumbled off the boat.
The pleasure I gained, from the same boat ride that everyone else seemed to hate, was short lived. I guess you could even say that it's karma, but as I put my hand into my bag, I realised exactly how non waterproof it actually was. The whole thing was pretty much filled with water. My phone seemed to contain half of the ocean - it was more than dripping - it was practically gushing. The screen was dying a sorrowful death, right in front of my eyes. I'd already spent hundreds of pounds on phone repair since arriving in Thailand, and the last time I'd been at the repair shop, the man had told me that if it ever got wet again then it was a goner. I walked to Eden, simply to ask for a bag of rice to put my phone in, and then walked straight back to the boat, clutching my bag of rice, so I could head back to the hostel. It was probably only around 1:30am, but I was sick to death of 2017.
Because I obviously didn't hate New Year in Thailand enough already, the boat men wanted triple the price for the fare back. They knew we had no other choice but to pay up - it was either that or stay stranded in the rain. I grumpily handed over the final remainder of my money and headed back to the hostel, all spent out, drenched to the bone, and once again without a phone.
At least I've ticked the Full Moon Party off my Bucket List..... (Or rather put a MASSIVE red cross through it, with a flashing LED warning to ward off anybody else that ever suggests it might be anything close to a good idea....)