Full Moon parties: ruining Australian lives?

Thailand's famous Full Moon parties ... dangerous or just a bit of fun?
Thailand's famous Full Moon parties ... dangerous or just a bit of fun? Photo: Getty Images

I dunno how, but I woke up next to my brother. This still would have been an amazing feat had we both slept in the twin beds in the bungalow we were sharing, but we didn't.

We slept, like most people, on the beach.

Despite our vow the night before to stick together no matter what, things had got out of hand quickly. There were the buckets of vodka and whatever it is that passes for Red Bull in Thailand. The games involving fire on the beach. The chance meeting with some Irish backpackers we knew.

The morning after ... sleeping on the beach is typical after a Full Moon Party.
The morning after ... sleeping on the beach is typical after a Full Moon Party. Photo: Getty Images

At some point in that wild night of twirling fire and thumping techno and sand down the pants, we'd separated, going about our merry ways into the bright Thai night.

So it was something of a surprise to rub my eyes the next morning as the sun was cracking the horizon, and peer into the morning murk at the figure slumped on the sand a few metres away from me.

"That you mate?"

My brother groaned and rolled over. "Um... I think so."

Well, that was the first problem of the morning solved. Next: to get all of this sand out of my pants.

The two of us had just ticked off a rite of passage for backpackers the world over: a Full Moon party in Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand. And we survived!

Listening to the press lately, you'd think we had just scraped through a nightmarish brush with death.

And when I say "the press", I mean me.

I was invited to go on A Current Affair a few weeks ago to talk about Full Moon parties, as back-up to an interview with one of the Australian girls involved in a boating accident off Koh Pha-Ngan last year.

The angle of the story, as I probably should have guessed, was something like, "Full Moon Parties: Ruining Australian Lives", detailing the dangers of backpackers going to unpoliced beach parties in remote South-East Asian islands.

Unfortunately, the only part of my interview that made the cut was me banging on about the fact that things can get a little bit out of hand there. And they can. But I had a lot more to say, so I'm going to take this chance to say it.

You might well be opposed to the concept of Full Moon parties. (And don't worry, I do understand that yesterday I was whinging about drunk Aussies in South-East Asia, and today I'm admitting to being one. Different time, etc...)

You could fairly say that they're ruining a small part of the region for everyone else. You could point out that they're a Western indulgence in a country that merely tolerates rather than condones such behaviour.

But you can't say they're dangerous.

No more dangerous than, say, a skiing holiday, which requires special travel insurance. Or a music festival, in which tens of thousands of people drink and dance and do pretty much everything else that happens on Koh Pha-Ngan.

I can see how a green traveller could be intimidated by a Full Moon party. It's a seething mass of people roaming the beaches clutching buckets of booze, with huge speaker stacks competing for attention like drunk blokes yelling at each other in an argument.

People go to Full Moon Parties to let loose – the fact there are no policemen and sniffer dogs there, or security guards to check your shoes and kick you out when they decide you've had enough, is seen as a good thing. That's the attraction.

So if lawlessness and debauchery don't appeal to you, it might be best to stay away.

Aside from that unfortunate, but isolated, boating accident, the main dangers that I can see involve the odd drink spiking, or people going nuts taking drugs they wouldn't normally try at home.

Even then, there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of it happening to you. If you buy your own drinks and stick with friends all night, there's not too much that's likely to go wrong.

In fact, you'll probably have a lot of fun. Just try not to wind up sleeping on the beach – that sand gets everywhere.

Have you been to a Full Moon Party in Thailand? Did you think it was dangerous? Would you go again?

Hope you're enjoying the Backpacker blog – there will be a new one published every Tuesday and Wednesday on the Fairfax Media websites. To contact me with any topic suggestions or personal abuse, visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or email me at bengroundwater@gmail.com.

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