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Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan


The boat ride over from Samui was in itself something special. About 30 of us were crammed onto a large twin-engine speedboat headed for the party. The passengers, a mix of every western nation, sprinkled with the odd Japanese representatives were drinking and initially in high spirits, anticipating the upcoming full moon party. About five minutes after leaving Koh Samui, things were very different. Nearly all the passengers were either too sick or uneasy about the boat taking us over between the islands to drink or even talk. With only one out of two high power engines working the boat was leaning dangerously to the left. Corneel seemed unaware of the situation chatting undeterred to us but Allan was turning green and looking paralysed. Sitting at the back of the boat close to ocean I figured my chances of survival from an accident were reasonably decent. As was the potential to swim back since the islands are clearly visible and the water warm enough to keep you alive for some time. Something I was not sure about however, was what to expect in the water nor how much alcohol I had consumed by now. Sharks, jellyfish or some other dodgy animals living in the sea were another issue. I laughed out loud myself for a minute or so. Not because anything funny had been said but because I was suddenly feeling very nervous. With the concept of our boat tipping over in the middle of the pitch-black ocean in the back of my mind and seeing the serious, quiet faces of most around me, fear was channelled into laughter. The funny bit being that I actually had paid a lot of money to board a wreck of a speedboat, risking my life along with the other unwitting daredevil maniacs onboard. And so had everybody else on this boat unintentionally done. We paid to be scared shitless! In the absurdity of the moment it was hilarious. “Oh shit, we are going to flip over”. Probably could not have drunk another drop even if I tried. Passengers fought soon over the few remaining life vests. Alan looked near the passing out stage and even Corneel noticed what was worrying the others and quieted down after a few minutes.

Another 20 minutes and we could see the shore of Koh Pha Ngan being very close. Everybody, including myself, eased up significantly. Then the next startling event happened. Passing the tip of Hat Rin, the beach where the full moon party was being held another boat appeared behind us. It was approaching our boat fast from an angle and had spotlights aimed at our boat. It looked official, probably either a Thai navy vessel or a police boat. Over the roar of the engine I could hear the loudspeakers of the other boat yelling incomprehensible phrases in Thai but our boat did not slow down. Hence it was that we were literally chased onto the shore by the military patrol vessel. They simply were not close enough to catch us. Although I seriously welcomed the idea that they came to close down a potentially hazardous vessel not fit for the oceans, it seemed highly unlikely that was the reason why we were being flagged down. Not only were we stopped entering the speedboat pier, but also they appeared to want to board us on the open ocean as well to check for, or maybe even, plant drugs. The captain of our boat thought differently and accelerated instead. Under the light of ignorance we continued to watch as the other boat steadily narrowed the gap. Our boat had the bigger lead in the end as we quickly approached Hat Rin beach where the full moon party was starting. Ramming the speedboat ashore our captain quickly ushered us ashore with all our belongings. By then the naval patrol had given up and stopped just outside the beach. Grateful to get off one the worst boat experiences so far I had barely had a moment to think about the full moon party since leaving Koh Samui.

At Hat Rin people were everywhere, after a rough approximation judging both ends of the beach I guessed around 5,000 people. Along the beach different bars and bungalow villages arranged miniature dance floors or dancing areas, playing various forms of rave and dance music from multiple stereos, every area played their own distinctive type of dance music. The people that weren’t dancing or moving around were sitting in groups along the beach, or simply sleeping or passing off in droves. Arriving around ten pm, we could see a large number of completely decked out backpackers on the beach from all backgrounds. Randomly placed along the beach were artists painting body art in bright colours on people, something which shown brightly in the neon blue lights located everywhere on the beach. Feeling the atmosphere, I dragged Corneel and Alan to the first bar, ordered a round of tequila, then a round of beer. “Let the full moon party begin!” Corneel, by now in full swing spotted a couple of girls he fancied and ran into a pub that was playing late nineties techno without saying a word. Alan and I went straight to the body art section. I had some aboriginal like designs painted over my face. Alan decided to have “fuck me” written on both arms in massive letters. I later heard that he spent big parts of the evening going up to girls and having them read the text on his arms as a means of trying to pick them up. Feeling the alcohol and the madness of the whole place I ran off to find Corneel and join him on the dance floor. Alan disappeared along the beach to look for Mike. I arrived inside the bar in time to see a chubby girl wearing some spice girls look alike top, completely turn around in disgust and give Corneel the cold shoulder on his attempt to perform some dirty dancing with her. Pacing myself I stayed back to not display any recognisable connection with the flinging Dutchman. Undeterred, Corneel continued unabated to dance behind her until both she and her friend gradually were dancing their way towards the exit, chased by a drunk, sweaty and blond Dutch guy who was as optimistic as ever. On the other side of the bar I pitched my lot in with the crowd and quickly found myself imitating Corneel with some girls in their early 20’s. Upon doing this and realizing that their surprised look read like something taken from the movie “the return of the creep from the underworld” if there ever was such a film, and that they were moving backwards, I turned around and started dancing by myself in the middle of the room. Feeling and enjoying the music vibrating even in the air breathed inside it, dancing came across as a natural expression. Two minutes later, one of the girls previously moving away grabs me from behind and starts rhythmically moving her body in par with mine. I turn around and move very close to her, suddenly optimistic. A few minutes later we were still dancing and I was about to start talking to her when Corneel appears from nowhere. The other girls he was chasing had unsurprisingly decided to give up, move somewhere else and he had spotted the girl I was with. This guy really was unstoppable, despite the fact that the girl and I were trying to dance together, Corneel made a point at getting between us without giving us a break. Both she and myself gave him the cold shoulder several times, blocking his entrance and even moving away, but to no avail. Shortly after I took him aside three times to tell him to find someone else. The first time politely, he still tried his luck with her, the second time firmly, he returned about one minute later and finally I yelled at him to show move away and pushed him gently backwards. Corneel being severely pissed from the alcohol by now would probably not remember this the next day anyways. Man that guy was persistent! Suddenly realised that what we had thought so funny at Koh Samui could be a royal pain in the neck. Shortly upon shoving Corneel away I turn around, only to find that the girl I had been dancing with had disappeared with her friend. The magical moment was gone and the dispute with Corneel had made her lose interest. Corneel found some other girls to chase shortly after.

We stayed on for half an hour longer and then moved outside, sweaty and full of energy. Alan spots us coming out and comes over with a blond girl. He’d found his Mike and his friends from Nepal and was holding some blue/white capsules in his hand. Showing them he produced a giant smile. At closer inspection, Alan’s eyes have the wide look of someone buzzed on something. We were introduced to the girl and told that she is a Scottish university friend from his time in Scotland. While Corneel spoke to the charming Scottish girl (Kate, I later found out her name was), Alan offers me one of his pills. I decline so he downs it by himself and proceeds a few minutes later to take his second pill in a short period of time. Not long after I find myself dragged towards a section of the beach where there are massive groups sitting stoned out of the skulls or in deep discussion. In the middle of one of these Alan leads us to a group of about seven guys and girls from all ages sitting in a serious discussion. This is the Nepal backpacker group catching up again in Thailand after a two month long interval. In the middle and leading the discussion is Mike. I present myself and am introduced to everybody. After a few minutes discussion I tire of listening about Nepal and yearning to move back to the dance floor proceed to find Corneel wherever he may be. Alan jumps up and joins me. Am guessing that he has heard most of these stories before.

By the time Alan gets into his third pill I am working on my fourth beer since arrival and feeling good. On the dance floor at the far end of the beach I encounter a blond Swedish guy who hands me some Swedish tobacco. Known as ‘snus’ to the Swedes and apparently completely legal. Poisonous material and dangerous to outsiders and people unused to consuming concentrated tobacco products as I quickly learnt. Not used to it I still proceed to take some snus, feel great for five minutes whilst my gums are burning up and then suddenly the nicotine inside the snus activates the body like an electric shock. Meanwhile my gums are aching from whatever is in the tobacco substance. Shortly after I am completely buzzed and with the beer inside my body I lose control. Breaking from the dance floor and leaving Alan without another word I find myself walking down the back alleys of Hat Rin feeling and looking completely stoned. Resting for long stretches of time. Bought some water from somewhere or somebody on the way. See myself holding a bottle or water one moment, then the next time I look at my hands it is gone. I feel generally horrendous and spinning, pass out on the grass next to a bungalow and fall asleep. I wake up what felt like days later. Its still dark but the party is going on by the sound of the noise from the beach. Gradually I start to feel better from the shock of trying the ‘snus’. I buy more water and strugglingly walk back down to the beach to see what is happening. Feeling more alive I seat myself on the edge of the beach with a bottle of water. Not long after, at the edge of some bushes a male suspiciously similar to Corneel steps out with another person who resembles Alan’s blond university girlfriend. They pause for a second to adjust their clothing, say something briefly to each other and then blend back into the crowd going their separate ways. Wanting to speak to Corneel and to be around someone I recognise in this alien territory but not in the mood to walk around, I stay seated on the ground devouring some soft drink bought along with the water minutes ago. The thought of drinking anything but water is appalling at this moment. An hour later I get up and walk along the beach to see if I can find Alan and Corneel or even Mike.

It is around this time that I look at my wrist and realize that my return ticket to Koh Samui is gone. It was one of the most terrifying feelings ever! Prior to boarding the speedboat we were provided with a green arm bracelet, which we are to show in order to board the speedboat back in the morning. In two seconds flat, all fatigue, headache and alcohol vanishes. Looking through my wallet I see that I have managed to spend almost all my money during the night as well. Somebody could easily have yanked the ticket off my wrist or it could have fallen off bumping into someone else. I yell out a cry of despair and frantically pace up and down the beach to find either Alan of Corneel. Notice a passed out Mike along the beach on the way and run into their friend Alex, who is looking for his group. Not interested in conversing I point him in the direction of Mike and run off to find my mates. Alan and Corneel are nowhere to be found. The sun is rising in the horizon and the time is five fifty am in the morning. At six the second last speedboat back to Koh Samui is set to depart. Distressed I find the right boat going back but without a ticket back the crew will not let anybody onboard. Looking at the boat from shore there is no sign of either Alan or Corneel. They are either not onboard or sitting below deck out of view. If I was worried before this is when the true fear sets in. In a rash of irrational paranoia brought on by the nicotine still in my system I see myself stranded on the island without any funds to make it back to my belongings in Koh Samui, stranded and starving on an island full of decadent hippies. Punching the air once in irritation I try to figure out some way of making it back. The idea of looking for the ticket along the beach area is quickly discarded. The thought of begging some stranger for a loan is tempting but are discarded since the risk are greater then the benefits. But is kept in mind if things take a further step for the worst. In the end a natural solution was found. Walking along the beach where small and large boats are picking up their passengers heading back I spot a smaller canoe-looking vessel heading towards the beach to pick up a group waiting to board it. Further out is a very large boat half full by now. A quickly crosscheck with some of the people boarding the boat confirms that the big boat is heading to Koh Samui. Somehow in the hustle and bustle to get onboard the small boat I manage to sneak onboard with the help of a girl standing next to me. A few brief and very sincere sentences about what had happened and she became a willing accomplice. The girl intentionally distracted the ferryman letting people onboard on one end whilst I climbed onboard the canoe from behind. None of the partiers on the boat say anything. Everybody looked too wound down from eight hours of non-stop dancing. Apart from the blatantly drunk driver of the boat somehow inexplicably colliding head on with another stationary boat on the way to the ferry, waking everybody up in the process, we make it onboard safely and I blow a sigh of release. Close call. Feeling encouraged and no longer overly tired I move over to thank my benefactor. Meadow, was an American with Thai origin whom I instantly fell for there and then. At those moments and for what Meadow had done to a stranded stranger, she came across as a vision of messiah saving a lost soul. It lasted a brief period though, after a few minutes conversation at the top deck of the boat the general impression I related must have been that of yet another uneducated European in Thailand. Meadow started going through the process of explaining Thai culture and traditions as to a young child. But at 6.45 am in the morning I ready to pass out after fifteen minutes of listening and subsequently ceased paying attention to Meadow after about five minutes. The adrenaline circulating in my blood settling down by now, causing renewed drowsiness. Mumbling a drooling “Thank you again” I excuse myself. Tiredly, feeling like sleepwalker drifting to front of the boat where the Swede who handed out the tobacco earlier in the night lay snoring, and fell asleep next to him. When the ferry docked at Koh Samui I jumped out quickly from the ferry and onto much desired ground again, completely forgetting about Meadow. Back on land I managed to continue my practice of covert operations when I sneaked onboard a waiting taxi heading back to chaweng beach. This time however, the driver saw me climbing onboard in the back but a collective effort from the others in the back of the taxi saved me from being booted off.

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