Just as with the great chicken argument in Missoula, there is a split in the local community on the Thai island of Koh Phangan about the famous (or infamous) Full Moon Party that sees an invasion of young people descend upon the usually sleepy Thai island for a week of sex, drugs and trance music. There are those who welcome the shot in the arm that the party gives the economy of the island, and there are those who bitterly oppose how the party has changed the island.
Every month between 20 and 30 thousand people descend on Koh Phangan. Many come 3 or 4 days before the main party to get a cheap bungalow in Haad Rin. The parties start a week before the Full Moon. There is the famous foam party held by the Drop in Club. All the bars along the beach crank up the music to draw in the punters.
On the night of the party, the small town of Haad Rin becomes inundated with fluorescent paint daubed youngsters getting drunk, taking illicit substances and displaying a remarkable lack of embarrasment. It is like New Year’s eve every month.
The bars on Haad Rin Nai and Haad Rin Nok beaches take a lot of money as do the small ’bucket stands’ between the bars. The prices for accommodation not only in Haad Rin but all over the island go up and so the resorts also do very well from the party. And then there are after parties that go on until the following night that also do very well.
On the other hand, those who do not want to party but live in Haad Rin find it imposssible to sleep for 48 hours. The beach and town are inevitably left with lots of litter, broken glass and passed out bodies to deal with. The one hospital on the island cannot cope with the numerous injuries and ’psychological’ problems the party causes.
The police force have a field day collecting tourists who break the law and throw them in the cells. Their fate is usually a hefty fine and sometimes jail time. And of course, Thailand is traditionally a conservative Buddhist culture. The party is an affront to the traditional peaceful and reserved way of doing things in Thailand.
The debate between those who want the party and those that don’t is one that cannot be easily resolved. One small step in the right direction is the recent move to charge entry for the party. Some of this revenue is used to clean up the beach.