Koh Phangan in Thailand is one of the party capitals of the world, most famous for its Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach, attracting between 5,000 partygoers in the low season and upwards of 50,000 partiers in the new year period.
There are plenty of guides to Koh Phangan’s various parties in guide books like Lonely Planet – Thailand and Lonely Planet – Thailand’s Islands and Beaches, but these are generally out of date, or written by someone who visited briefly – this is my no bullshit guide, written by someone who has actually lived, partied and DJed there.
There is however much more to the party scene than just one night, and one party location, and for those who are looking for something a bit more interesting, there are plenty of parties to go around.
While the “sound” of the island is generally considered to be house from Tech to Deep and Progressive (With foreign resident DJs such as Graham Gold, Rob Gritton, Jourdan Bourdes, Darragh Casey, Inlighten, Absolud spinning different variants), you can find everything from techno, drum and bass, and garage to psy trance if you know where to look.
Note: I’m a bass music head, but enjoy my house, garage, dubstep & drum and bass, I’m definitely NOT a trance fan, so my opinions and recommendations reflect this. If you are a fan of germans with dreadlocks and unwashed hippies taking acid and listing to psy-trance, you’ll probably have a different opinion to me.
Full Moon Period:
Full moon period is generally considered to be the 5 days before and 5 days after the full moon party. Generally hotels, guesthouses and hostels require a minimum of a 5 night stay during this period, and there is plenty to do while you are on the Island. While the Full Moon party is in Haad Rin, you will also find that there are more big fesitval type parties in this period closer to Baan Tai region than the more popular and expensive Haad Rin.
Full Moon Party (Full Moon Every Month):
The original full moon party started some time around 1985, and the stories will change depending on who you talk to, supposedly with around 30-50 party goers there are thousands who insist they were present! Nowadays its a multi stage party on the “main” beach of Haad Rin at the southern tip of the Island. I’m not really a big fan of it, and tend to avoid it considering there are way better parties on the island – but hey, its what Phangan is famous for, and no guide would be complete without it.
The party costs 100 baht which is payable at the entrance to the beach and Stages, Bars & Clubs on the night include:
Trance and House music with resident DJs Graham Gold and DJ Mackie Rose, this is one of the most popular stages during Full Moon Party.
Advertised as the original home of the Full Moon Party, you’ll mostly hear Thai DJs & progressive house here, with the odd guest international DJ around high season.
One of the better stages, plays mainly jump up drum and bass, with some great residents & guests over the new years period. DJs looking to play, remember to bring some fresh vinyl as a present for the owners.
Up the soi from Zoom, this is one of the best places on Haad Rin. Playing House & occasionally Drum & Bass with resident DJs Hawie, Guy Fidelity
Known for its special shakes (make sure you finish them before you leave), this is one of the better bars on the beach, you’ll find it by turning left at Tommy Resort and going to the very end of the beach and up the mountain. DJs include Aaron Fevah and regular international guests. Recommended if you want to enjoy Full Moon Party on the beach but escape the crowds.
Straight up commercial music for the Full Moon Party crowd.
This is a new club in the Haad Rin area, who hold parties all the time. Its the cleanest venue I’ve seen, with good management and slightly more expensive drinks. They have a good selection of local resident expat DJs such as Benoit C & guests on rotation playing deep and tech house. Its also a great place to chill out during the day.
Backyard After Party (Day After Full Moon):
If you are still going from the night before, the place to continue is the legendary Backyard after party. Playing house and techno for the stamina crew its generally a free party, but be prepared to pay a nominal entrance fee (up to 100 baht) during high season. Residents include Thai Dj’s – DJ A and DJ Boyonic, who is widely considered to be one of the best warm up DJs on the Island.
Sramonara Waterfall Party (2 Days Before Full Moon):
Held at the Sramonara Waterfall in the jungle area of Ban Kai, the party covers a wide range of musical styles from house, electro, breakbeat, and trance. The party is promoted by the Bancha Family & Dj PHB while residents include Dj Bank, Jourdan Bordes, Lin Htut Zaw and Thai-Fi. The venue has recently been upgraded to include a natural swimming pool, comfy chill-out zone, a brand new pumping sound system, all fully under cover dance floor. Apparently they make some rather interesting fruit shakes.
Jungle Experience (1 & 4 Days Before Full Moon):
Located in the Jungles of Baan Tai, Jungle Experience is one of the better parties on Koh Phangan. It hosts a variety of Koh Phangan’s (and occasional guest appearances from Bangkok and International guests) underground house and techno DJs in environmentally friendly and sustainable surroundings. These guys do a great job of sound and light, have proper security and run a professional party. Residents include Darragh Casey & Jourdan Bourdes. You’ll often find warmup pool parties at venues such as Beach Village and Fu Bar, and cheap taxis can be booked on site.
Beach & Beyond/Ku Club/Beach Village (Dates Vary):
Located on the Ban Tai beachfront, the party (Formerly Rhythm & Sands) and venue has been host to a wide range of big name international DJs and producers such as The Freestylers, Friction, Netsky, Goldie, DJ Fresh and tends to host a mixture of house music and drum & bass. This was my main stomping grounds and favourite places to DJ when living and visiting the island. The venue includes a purpose built nightclub, Ku Club, a beachfront Tiki bar and swimming pool with regular pool parties and a massive main stage and sound system.
Voodoo (3 Days Before Full Moon):
Promoted by the same team behind Loi Lay, Voodoo is a new party on Koh Phangan, that kicked off in September 2013, with residents Darragh Casey & Inlighten. The party features a massive sound system and is once again in the Jungles of Baan Tai. Guest DJs have included Ibiza resident Marco Loco
Pirates Bar (3 Days Before & 2 Days After Full Moon):
A little bit out of the way in Sri Thanu, Pirates is one of those parties that I always meant to attend but never end up making it out. Pushing a bit darker vibes of proper techno, its not for the Full Moon Party crowd, but instead proper party goers. Moonset parties are generally three days before and two days after Full Moon, but keep an eye out in local 7/11s for the paper flyers with dates and lineups. Residents include Peter G & Snoopiod
RECOMMENDED (If you like Techno)
Drop In Club Resort:
A foam/pool party that is advertised all over the island during full moon time. One for the gap year, fluro wearing full moon crowd.
Outside of Full Moon:
Theres still plenty going on outside of the full moon period, from regular weekly club nights to massive monthly parties. This time of the month is a haven for the Psytrance fans, or if you venture off the beaten path, true music fans… Minimum stays tend to be non-existent or shorter during this time, so expect smaller, more intimate crowds and cheaper accommodation.
Half Moon Party (One Week Before & One Week After Full Moon):
Popular with those who either a) didn’t plan their travel and missed the full moon or b) Psy Trance its the little brother of the full moon. Easy to spot due to the yellow and black signs all over the Island. It isn’t cheap (500 Baht, including drink) but caters to the hippie crowd who enjoy their 150 BPM repetitive stuff. They have recently started a second stage catering to the house and techno crowd. Turn right at the Baan Tai 7/11 and follow the noise and dreadlocked fisherman pant wearing germans.
Black Moon Culture:
Another Trance party in Baan Tai, this one is held at Mac’s bay and is produced by Magic Phangan productions. Black Moon Culture has a fully covered and open area, an artspace and UV painted walls. Starts early and goes late. Another one that isn’t cheap (600 baht including drink) its still popular with the Germans & Hippies. Residents include Jo Moontribe, Sabaii, Lueng, Jonnie, Oliver & Ping.
This one doesn’t tend to get advertised until a day or two before the party, and is another Trance party catering to the hippie crowd. Held at Mac’s bay this one is a little cheaper than the other parties and will set you back 300 Baht including your first drink. Residents include Venus Vibes and Jo Moontribe.
Baan Sabai After Party:
The after party for the hippies that haven’t finished after the previous three trance gigs, its once again at Mac’s bay in Baan Tai and is free entry. Features residents from the other trance parties on the island.
Loi Lay Floating Party:
My personal favourite club night, Loi Lay is a great party with a more mature crowd. You won’t see idiots in fluro singlets and shorts here. Lots of long termers and DJs attend the weekly crowd, playing a great mix of deep and tech house, with some classics thrown in for good measure. Just to make things interesting the whole club is on a floating pontoon that is moved to different places in the Baan Tai lagoon depending on season. Look out for the burning beer bottles on the side of the road for the location, and expect to pay around 100 baht entry fee. Residents include Darragh Casey & Guests.
Merkaba Beach Club:
One of the nicest clubs on the Island, but one of the hardest to get to due to its location on the corner coming over the mountain into Haad Rin, and down a very long flight of stairs to get to the beach. This place is absolutely amazing, beautiful pool, insane tiger mouth DJ booth and huge dance floor. Because its a bit harder to get to it doesn’t tend to attract much of the Full Moon Crowd, and has more of an up for it crew. I only made it to one party as it was closed during most of the low season, but I understand its back up and running again. Residents include Graham Gold and guests.
A reasonably new weekly club night, Oasis has weekly house on the main road in Baan Tai. Its a great new club, with decent lineups, a nice bar and lots of locals, theres a pool out back as well. Entry is free. Residents include Rob Gritton & Rory Gallagher with regular visiting guests.
Guys Bar (Friday Nights):
This party is legendary around the world, only accessible by boat from Haad Rin, this party goes all night long, and has a very interesting menu. A must attend for serious party goers, but definitely not for newbies or tourists who don’t know how to behave. Make sure you take cash as there aren’t any ATMs around. House and techno till the early morning, you’ll see lots of long term residents, island hippies and people from all over the world.
Eden (Saturday & Tuesdays):
For those who haven’t stopped partying from the night before, the Eden after party continues where you left off. With a similar vibe and culture to Guys bar (and some similar resident DJs) this party is again only accessible by boat, and for the serious party goers who know how to enjoy themselves and behave.
Fu Bar (Monday Sessions):
With regular free parties every week, Fu Bar is one of the few places on Haad Rin I’ll voluntarily go to. Its a great little bar, currently run by a kiwi (Richard) with a decent sound system, safe drinks, good food and of course great resident DJs such as Guy Fidelity. Music ranges from house to garage to drum & bass.
Motorbikes & Driving:
Koh Phangan is pretty notorious for the motorbike accidents (and deaths) involving locals and tourists, as well as a combination of alcohol, drugs, inexperience, steep hills and speed. Taxis are generally no more than 100 baht per person each way ($3-4) and are generally a safer way to get to a party. Its simply not worth risking your life driving to a party at night, while you might be an amazing driver, the person driving 50kph drunk on the wrong side of the road in your way might not. Helmets are also a legal requirement, and while you might not see many people wearing them, they could save your life.
Drugs & Alcohol:
The island is also well known for its reputation of drug fuelled hedonism, though due to an increased police presence and influx of tourists has calmed down a lot nowadays. Drugs are illegal in Thailand and can carry strong penalties, you do NOT want to be caught with them in Thailand. A quick google will fill you in on the likelihood of getting in trouble. There are plenty of undercover police on patrol at parties, and even rumours of drug dealers who report their customers to the local cops – to stay safe, don’t touch substances as a tourist.
If you do insist on partaking in naughty treats make sure you get the advice of a long term local foreign resident, and not a fisherman pants wearing tourist – they know the safest places to enjoy oneself on the island.
Avoid drinking the cheap buckets and instead stick to bottled, sealed drinks. There have been countless stories of drink spiking or alcohol related incidents, usually involving cheap or fake alcohol, or white spirits which can be incredibly dangerous. Again, its not worth risking your life for the sake of 100 baht.