Thailand // Southern Thailand: the Gulf coast //

Full moon parties: a survivor’s guide


Even if you’re not the type to coat yourself in day-glo and dance till dawn, a full moon party at Hat Rin is certainly a sight to see, and the atmosphere created by thousands of folk mashing it up on a beautiful, moon-bathed beach, lit up by fireworks and fire-jugglers, is quite a buzz. If you’re planning to get in on the action, first of all you’ll need to check exactly when the party is: when the full moon coincides with an important Buddhist festival, the party is moved one night away to avoid a clash. There’s also a big party at Hat Rin on Christmas Day, and a massive one on New Year’s Eve. An admission fee to the parties of B100 is now charged.

On full moon night, Paradise, at the very southern end of Sunrise, styles itself as the main party venue, sometimes bringing in big-name international DJs. However, the mayhem spreads along most of Sunrise, fuelled by hastily erected drinks stalls and around a dozen major sound systems – listen out for psy-trance and driving techno at Zoom, and tech house at Tommy’s and funky house and drum’n’bass at Sunrise further up the beach. Next day, as the beach party winds down, Back Yard kicks off its afterparty at around eleven in the morning, with the best of the previous night’s DJs; it’s up the hill behind the south end of Sunrise off the path to Leela Beach.

Drug-related horror stories are common currency in Hat Rin, and some of them are even true: dodgy Ecstasy, ya baa (Burmese-manufactured methamphetamines) and all manner of other concoctions put an average of two farangs a month into hospital for psychiatric treatment. The local authorities have started clamping down on the trade in earnest, setting up a permanent police box at Hat Rin, instigating regular roadblocks and bungalow searches, paying bungalow and restaurant owners to inform on travellers whom they’ve sold drugs to, and drafting in scores of police (both uniformed and plain-clothes) on full moon nights. It doesn’t seem to have dampened the fun, only made travellers a lot more circumspect.

Other tips for surviving the full moon are mostly common sense: leave your valuables in your resort’s safe – it’s a bad night for bungalow break-ins – and don’t take a bag out with you; keep an eye on your drink to make sure it’s not spiked; watch out for broken bottles on the beach; and do not go swimming while under the influence – there have been several deaths by drowning at previous full moon parties. There have also been several reports of sexual assaults on women and of unprovoked, late-night gang attacks in Hat Rin, especially around full moon night.

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