Rest and relaxation on the beaches of Railay had to end because we had to travel east. Ko Phangan to be exact.
Such is the site of the infamous Full Moon Party, an event that draws thousands of backpackers to this beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand to party as though there may never be another full moon. (To keep the tourists coming when the moon is a sliver, there’s also half moon and quarter moon parties as well).
We figured we would probably never get another chance (or be at the right age) to enjoy such a party again, so off we went taking a bus across Thailand, spending a night in a shady hotel in Surrathani followed by an uneventful two-hour ferry ride across.
Rather than stay right at the heart of the party region, we stayed in a nice bungalow on the beach on the other side of the island. Here, we enjoyed a couple days reading, snorkling and sitting in the sun.
Beyond backpackers looking to party, celebrating the full moon is actually pretty important in Thailand. Before heading off to the festivities, we watched some locals lighting floating lanterns on the water while others sent them flying high into the night sky. Such a pleasent start to the evening.
By 11 p.m. we were sitting in the back of a pick-up truck flying across the rolling hills of this pitch black island. It took nearly an hour to get across and my hands were pretty sore from holding on to a bar along the ceiling. We eventually switched vehicles (our truck apparently couldn’t handle the last hills for some reason) and arrived at our destination.
It was a town overrun with backpackers. They seemed to flow from all directions covered in bright neon paint and bright neon clothes. In their hands were brightly coloured plastic buckets with four or five straws hanging out the side.
A word on buckets. Across Southeast Asia, Thailand specifically, they sell these things called buckets. Cheap and potent cocktails, these concoctions are the drink of choice for backpackers ready to party.
Want to make your own? Go to your local liquor store and buy the cheapest whiskey or vodka mickey you can find and dump it in a bucket similar to that you would use to build sandcastles at the beach. Next, throw in a bunch of ice, then a can of Red Bull or Coke (or both). Stir it around, throw in a handful of straws, and that’s it. You’re ready to take on the night.
Other useful ingredients include a giant bottle of water and Tylenol for the inevitable headache you will suffer the next morning.
These are sold everywhere at the Full Moon Party and generally cost under $10 each. We were told that it was best to get it made in front of you at a 7/11 as some shady places tend to throw in unwanted chemicals and scary substances.
Armed with our buckets, we steeled ourselves to celebrate the full moon on a beach packed with neon, bodies, music and fire. It was a gongshow. No doubt.
We had a good time at the party and were still dancing on the beach at 7a.m. as we watched a beautiful sunrise. However, I do not think I will return to see this messy spectacle again. Yet, it is a definite stop on the backpacker route and I am happy we can check this off the list.
After a full day of rest, we left on a rocky ferry to the island of Koh Tao. Here, we would embark on a four-day open water scuba diving course followed by an additional two-day advanced diving course (since we liked the first course so much). Sara has some interesting background about our dive school here (a tale of murder, might I add).
We are now certified to dive up to 30 metres deep and we have learned underwater navigation and experienced the thrill of night diving (something that still sort of terrifies me).
Learning to scuba dive was a definite turning point in our trip as we fell hopelessly in love with a new (and expensive) sport.
As part of our classes, we took a lesson in underwater photography. Naturally, I was quite excited about this. Underwater photography is tricky as you have much less light the deeper you go (the photos below are 24 metres deep) and getting a good photo can be hard when you’re trying to float completely still. It’s something I want to practice more. Below are a few shots from one dive in Koh Tao (and a photo Sara took of me on a second dive).