Disneyland for twentysomethings (Koh Phangan)

I arrived in Koh Phangan and checked into my roomy bungalow, right off the main street of Haad Rin, the party side of the island. Although I had been expecting something a bit more glamorous for the price I had decided to pay to upgrade to air conditioning, the place turned out to have a fantastically comfortable bed and air conditioning that was just the right temperature, so I ended up not regretting my accommodation decision at all.

After a fairly failed nap attempt I got ready and went to get some dinner, settling on a Mexican place that had a few people in it. However, unlike Koh Tao, which would have been getting busy at this time of the evening, most places felt very quiet and I wondered if I had made a bad choice in coming to the island five nights before the Full Moon Party.

After a tasty Mexican feast of chicken quesadillas that were probably unnecessarily filling, I wandered down to the beach. At one of the ‘bucket’ stalls I opened conversation with a group of British girls who proceeded to invite me to hang out with them. We hung around on the beach as it got busy – which wasn’t until after 11pm – and eventually joined a group of Australians sitting at a table nearby. After a while I decided to go for a wander around, but was ultimately too tired to stay out very late so called it a night at around 1am.

The next day I caught up on some sleep in my comfortable bungalow before eventually grabbing some pad thai at a restaurant. I had been messaging the girls from the night before about their whereabouts, but it was unclear when they would be ready to head out. I was just contemplating my movements when a couple of Israeli guys from a table nearby invited me to join them for pre-drinks at their nearby accommodation. They had also been handed a flyer for that night’s Coral Bungalows pool party, and I interjected to explain that it was good and they should go, as I was planning to.

We first joined their friends to have a drink on the balcony of one of their rooms that was right off the main street. I also went back to my nearby bungalow to grab my speakers so we could play some music. Eventually we jumped in one of the free shuttle buses and headed to the pool party, where I also met a couple of friendly UK guys.

Unfortunately at about midnight I was struck by functioning-preventing nausea: it seemed that one of the mixed drinks I had bought from the bar at Coral Bungalows had included poor or homemade vodka. I immediately understood why people in my hostel at New Year’s had thought their buckets had been spiked: it would have been this same feeling, and due not to spiking but to poor quality alcohol. I waited an hour but the effects did not wear off so when the UK guys went back into Haad Rin to find some food at about 2am I went with them and grabbed a schnitzel that I then took back to my bungalow to consume before bed. Luckily, the nausea had mostly worn off by this time so I could consume my schnitzel and get to sleep.

The next morning I was feeling a bit worse for wear but was determined to head onto the party boat cruise onto which I had booked myself. I was glad I decided to persevere with it because I felt much better by the time I was on board, and found it to be much busier than the one I had taken after the Full Moon in January. It was also beautiful weather and there were many friendly people so I enjoyed the day. Unfortunately, the waves meant we again couldn’t go to the waterfall; but it was a pleasant day nonetheless. Also, on this cruise was a guy who had been on my first Phi Phi boat cruise, and the folks who I had met on my last night in Koh Tao.

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The only downer (or perhaps a good thing for keeping our alcohol intake moderate) was that the provided vodka was again quite dodgy (I got a smell of some of it and it was not like normal vodka) and everyone agreed we couldn’t drink too much of it because our bodies could tell how poor the quality was. I also didn’t hurry to eat lunch and found not a whole lot of options left as many people had piled their plates with quite a rude amount and left the people at the end without as much.

After parting ways with some of the boat people we exchanged details and agreed to meet up for dinner or afterwards at the Coral Bungalows Pool Party – although I thought perhaps they were mistaken about this being held, as I had been to it the previous night (I didn’t realise it happens every night in the lead up to and days after the Full Moon Party!).

Back at my bungalow I managed a nap before getting ready to head out. I tried to get in contact with some of the people I had met on the boat but they proved a little unresponsive. Luckily, my friend Mike who I had met in Bangkok in December had ended up altering his travel plans to take in another Full Moon Party and so had arrived in Koh Phangan that day, so he ended up meeting me as I ate dinner, and we headed together to the pool party again. This time it was a lot busier: evidently a lot of people had arrived on the island that day, and/or everyone at the hostel from which most of the day’s boat trip customers had hailed had been told by their hostel to go there that night. However, the people from that hostel / the boat cruise didn’t arrive til after midnight, so it was a good thing I did not wait around for them.

The next day I unfortunately woke up ill and so spent the day sleeping and resting it off. It was not so bad due to my comfortable and private bungalow, and Mike told me the weather had been rainy that day anyway. I eventually joined him and his new hostel mates for dinner, although I unfortunately did not keep it down: being a bit ignorant of the need to avoid rich foods and cheese I had chosen pizza. However, expelling the contents of my stomach made me feel better again and I was ready to join them at their hostel for pre drinks before everyone on the island was heading to the Jungle Party (which I had enjoyed in January). However, although I made it to midnight at their hostel bar sipping very slowly on a single bucket, I knew as everyone started to walk towards their ride to the party I would not make it so had to unfortunately call it a night.

The next morning I had a bacon ‘bap’ for breakfast at the Zoo bar, which was the bar of the hostel I had stayed at last time. While eating my bap I somewhat jealously eavesdropped on some presumed hostel guests who were regaling each other with their night-long antics from the previous night’s jungle party.

As it was the day of the Full Moon Party, I imagined people would be filling the beach as they did at New Year’s. They certainly were, and I chose a spot and, still feeling annoyingly average, enjoyed the sun. After a while I was feeling better and interrupted the conversation of a friendly group next to me. We ended up getting along well, all got a beer from one of the bars and agreed to meet later. When I said it was my birthday at midnight the crew, especially a Mexican named Pepe and Sydneysider named Sam, said they would ring it in properly and that I needn’t worry that they would abandon me like some of the flaky boat party people.

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Back at my bungalow I actually managed an hour or so nap before getting ready and indeed meeting up with Sam and Pepe for dinner in the affiliated restaurant near their hostel. I was still not feeling the best and unfortunately the albeit tasty chicken pie I ordered was a bit rich and creamy and I felt worse after dinner (it didn’t even occur to me at the time that this also coincided with me taking my antibiotic). I was feeling so rough suddenly I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to party much again that night.

Luckily it wore off gradually so that by the time Pepe, Sam and I joined a group of people they knew at another hostel I was feeling OK and enjoyed a couple of hours of painting and socialising, including when Pepe and Sam produced a bottle of (absolutely terrible, as always in Thailand) champagne to celebrate my birthday early at around 11. I also enjoyed people being quite surprised that I was turning 28 and considered jokingly telling people it was my 21st before deciding against it. We took some merry photos and then headed off to the beach at around quarter to twelve.

We spent the next four hours dancing and socialising on the beach, and at one point I led a party to my bungalow to use the bathroom as the queues for the public ones were long. Although I enjoyed talking to people I found the vibe to be a bit aggressively meat markety compared with the other nights, and also was unable to drink much due to my general feeling of slight unwellness not allowing liquid to sit too well. Ultimately I grabbed a ham and cheese toastie from 7 Eleven before having to call it a night at 4am (I shouldn’t have gone for cheese).

The next morning I received a message from Pepe at 11am stating he was just getting home (!) and felt immediately jealous that I had not been able to stay up past 4am due to my sickness – it is meant to be part of the experience to stay up until sunrise. As it was still my birthday and I was determined not to completely miss out on the experience, I decided to go to the after party, as I had heard of some like Mike at New Year’s Eve who had managed to party there into the afternoon.

When I got there at around 11:30am there were only people who were clearly still partying from the night before and were also clearly on mind altering substances: it was particularly disturbing when a mentally incapacitated man who was balancing on a wooden log fell directly backwards into the rusty metal spike of a nearby bin and it pierced his flesh very deeply. Barely seeming to notice this awful wound, he simply sat down for a bit, mildly dazed.

I was still feeling annoyingly under the weather but chatted mildly with a middle Eastern man before eventually deciding on a shot of gin, which actually did the trick of making me feel better. At that moment I ran into a young man I had met at Mike’s hostel two nights previously and some of his friends: people who had actually gone to bed had started to arrive to party in the afternoon. However, the group I met agreed it was still too quiet so they would head to the mountain top bar on the end of Haad Rin beach first for a drink. On the way we collected Mike, who had been walking to my Bungalow to use the excellent wi-fi that was apparently utterly lacking at the hostels. Eventually, Pepe joined us and we enjoyed a beer over looking the water in what turned out to be quite a pleasant afternoon as I was feeling much better.

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On the way back along the beach one of our number, an Englishman, ran into the whole group of people from his hostel sitting around on the beach so I joined them before they all went to the same bar we had just left, at which point I went back to my nearby bungalow to take my antibiotic. I still hadn’t eaten, afraid of feeling sick (as the sickness feeling seemed to coincide with meal times); and so began to suddenly feel awfully nauseous after taking the antibiotic. It was then I realised that it was the antibiotic that was making me feel so sick! I even wondered if it was the real culprit. I then remembered the Thai pharmacist that had given me more when I ran out of my Australian antibiotics mentioned eating them after food if you couldn’t eaten them before food and now I understood why.

Mike and Pepe had agreed to meet me at my bungalow at 8pm, which Mike promptly did. However, I was on the fence about going out and thought I would eat some dinner and see how I felt, and that going out was not likely. He headed back to his hostel to see the situation there.

I promptly went to get some food, stumbling into the restaurant closest to my bungalow and ordering a noodle soup dish for something plain. At that moment I started to feel quite rough, and as I had been messaging Pepe about plans I told him this: he came right over to join me and see if I was OK. Then, Mike walked past, ostensibly on his way to the after party and/or to see if we would do something. He joined us and before long I felt better and although I had almost decided I would have to just go to bed, I decided I would go with Mike for one drink at the after party just to see what it was like and try to salvage a small amount of the day/night. Somehow I persuaded Pepe, who was also planning to stay in, to come for one drink too. He got Sam to join us – although apparently she thought she was coming to look after me as I hadn’t been feeling well – at the veranda of my bungalow and all four of us had a great time sipping cocktails we made from the store attached to my bungalows, listening to the music I played on my speakers and just gabbing.

1:45am rolled around quickly so we decided to head to the after party, in thoroughly good moods. Although it was Mike’s scene it wasn’t really either of the rest of ours, so we just had a drink and took some photos – the same man I spoke to at 11:30am and who had been up all night was still there, but swore he had been home in between! – before heading down to the beach. Although it was the night after the full moon party there was actually a good crew of people partying; although only at one of the bars, the Drop In bar. Pepe organised some bottomless shisha and we ended up having one of the best nights of my life dancing, talking and partying – it was actually better with fewer people as we had heaps of room to dance around and talk – until 5am when the bars shut.

Not to worry: we went to my bungalow veranda and kept going, after collecting a friendly Canadian, who wanted to keep partying too, in the street. It occurred to us we might have been disrupting the residents of the other bungalows, but at one point a couple came onto their veranda. We invited them to join but they merely smiled and nodded: they clearly weren’t bothered by us (after all, it was Koh Phangan!).

We were having such a good time we barely noticed it was already 6am. We rushed out onto the beach only to see that the sun had already basically already risen. However, we danced around on the beach, waded into the sea and posed on boats. I felt certain that that night had made up for my failure to get past 4am the previous night, and indeed was one I will always remember.

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