When I arrived in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party I instantly felt the party vibe, even days before the actual event. It was beautiful and sunny out, and thousands of people were arriving daily leading up to the big night. For those of you who don’t know, the Full Moon Party is a party on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan that is held (shockingly) every full moon.
Prior to arriving in Koh Phangan I contemplated switching my plans last second as I had thoughts of heading to Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Pai) instead. I originally wanted to check out the Full Moon Party, however after all of the cultural experiences I had in Vietnam there was a hunger for more authenticity then was to be expected from Koh Phangan. However after some thinking and speaking with family I decided to stick to the original plan and give this crazy party a shot (while I’m still young enough to justify going).
The owner of my hostel (Marysun Hostel) Marysol and her partner Mikewere extremely nice and laid back. The hostel was empty the night I arrived so we had a chance to hang out and enjoy some amazing Thai food. Marysol’s sister was in town and we all had a great time getting to know each other and telling stories. The beach was only feet away from the front door of my hostel, which was convenient for access to the party as well as just chilling on the beach. Even days leading up to the party there is a pretty cool scene on the beach, so I walked all 15 steps from my hostel and went to check it out.
I got a chance to meet a few people, and do a little bit of dancing. As the night went on you can see the younger kids who were partying getting more and more wasted, as a sand bucket full of liquor only cost a few dollars on the beach. To my disbelief I ran into 2 friends whom I had met in Vietnam, and we spent a lot of time talking and catching up. When we parted ways it was around 4 am and the scene was starting to fizzle out.
The next day I woke up and walked around the beach a bit. I was informed that my hostel was to be filled with a group of 10+ friends from Chile that day, so after a while of tanning I headed back to the room to introduce myself. The second I walked in and met this awesome group I instantly knew that these people were special. They all had the biggest smiles on their faces, and were beyond nice to me. We instantly hit it off.
They knew I was a solo traveler, and went above and beyond to make me feel like part of their group. We hung out on the beach, grabbed dinner, and really got to know each other. With it being the night before the Full Moon Party there was an even larger party scene on the beach, however I had to spend a lot of that night away from my new found friends from Chile. Instead I had to sit for an interview I had been preparing the last month for…
This was the email, the email that I re-read over 100 times leading up to this night. I had made the decision months prior to apply for a position in the Peace Corps. When I had applied I knew it was a long shot as it is extremely competitive, however when I received this email stating “Macedonia” as the country under consideration, I truly thought it was fate. I was enthralled at the chance to help the youth of Macedonia grow as individuals and as a community, as well as the chance to spend time volunteering in the country in which my father was born and raised. When I received that email I thought it was the next step, the reason behind the numerous things that had occurred in the past leading to that very moment, the “call to adventure” in a heroes journey.
Since I only received my interview time slot 2 days prior, I had to improvise a bit. It was a Skype interview and my wardrobe was nowhere near suitable. I was also situated right by a beach with thousands of drunk kids partying, yet I couldn’t venture too far because I needed reliable wifi. I ended up using an abandoned garage right next to the hostel that was still in range of the hostels wifi. I borrowed a button up shirt from Mike, sat with the cleanest of the 4 walls behind me, and proceeded to have a 2 hour long interview with the Peace Corps. The interview went absolutely amazing and I left that garage certain that come this September I’d be heading overseas to Macedonia. It was 2 a.m. when the interview concluded (2 p.m. Washington D.C time), and my friends from Chile were on the beach having a blast. We celebrated the fact that the interview went so well and partied all night. I met tons of great people that night and was able to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life.
Due to the fact that I was awake until noon there isn’t much to share about the day leading up to the Full Moon Party. I spent most of the day sleeping, dreaming about all the lives I will be impacting, and how my own personal life will change once I join the Peace Corps. When I finally got out of bed my newfound Chilean family and I began preparing for the big night. We got some food in our bellies and covered ourselves with body paint as if we were warriors preparing ourselves for battle.
The Full Moon Party was above and beyond what I expected; 30+ thousand people occupying one beach with the occasional kid being burned thinking they can jump rope while the rope is on fire. Thankfully the owner of my hostel (also from Chile), threw a Latin Party in front of the hostel that night, so most of us spent the night just partying it up there. A much smaller, more chill vibe than the insanity on the beach. Throughout the night I had met an awesome friend from Canada who told me about an after hours spot up in the woods overlooking the ocean, so I concluded my Full Moon Party adventure there.
The next day was a day of recovery and rest for us all, yet we did manage to go out that night for dinner to celebrate a birthday. We blasted Spanish music, sang songs, played pool, and told stories. I remember sitting back in awe when the clock struck 12 for Vito’s birthday. The raw, unabated love between everyone had for each other was like nothing I had ever witnessed before.
The beauty about backpacking is there are always opportunities to learn about other cultures. Yes I did miss out on the culture of Northern Thailand, however I learned so much about the kindness and love of the Chilean people. It blows my mind to this day as to how this huge group treated me so much like family, and even now almost a month after parting ways we all talk frequently. I am counting down the days until I see my Chilean family again!
Luckily for me upon leaving the island I was able to get some much needed recovery in Phuket for the weekend, and spend some time with my family that I was staying with in Hong Kong.
Sherif (The Trailblazer) got me my own private villa with its own infinite pool; a HUGE step up from the 16 room dorms I had been staying in. We hung around most of the weekend and relaxed, and with me being all partied out I was more than willing to babysit at night so they could go and do their own thing.
The weekend came and went and it was time for us to part ways; they were heading back to Hong Kong, and I was off to experience the Kingdom of Cambodia. Unfortunately for me the self induced insomnia I had endured during the Full Moon Party had lingering lethargic effects, and led me to oversleep and miss my 6:40 a.m. flight. Instead I got to spend the better half of a day inside the airport waiting for my new (and far more expensive) flight. In that time I wrote a blog, went over tons of pictures and videos. I reminisced about all the people I had met in Koh Phangan, and most definitely sent some gratitude to my cousin for taking such good care of me.
When I finally took off for Cambodia it was Monday around 8 p.m. (8 a.m. Washington D.C time), and I found myself updating my email feed repeatedly awaiting news from the Peace Corps. When we took off and the “no service” sign finally appeared on my phone I placed the phone in my pocket, closed my eyes, and tried my hardest toenvision how the rest of my travels would play out… Oh how wrong I was!