There’s congealed sand in my mouth and whisky coming out of every pore on my body. I lift my head up to see pink sandcastle buckets littered all over and look down to investigate what appears to be scuba flippers on my feet… It’s one of two things; a seriously messed-up kids birthday party or ‘the morning after’ in the land of the Full Moon.
The sun is just coming up and throwing unwelcome light on bodies scattered all over the place like a war zone. I’d get up if I could but my head is throbbing and I’m momentarily paralysed at the sight of someone laying nearby with a giant clown face freshly tattooed and bleeding on their chest! I hastily check every inch of my body for signs of ink. I’m clean.
There’s laughter behind me – coming from the sea, astonishingly. The three Irish girls have woken up on account of getting washed away with the tide.
A swish of cold water full of litter starts to creep its way towards me. I haul myself up and away from the clown which looks like it’s doing a thumbs-up sign, only the blood and sand have made him look more like he’s very recently been dismembered.
Welcome to Haadrin Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand.
Piecing together the events of the day before is slightly sketchy, forgive me. But I think 24 hours in Koh Phangan goes something like this.
I stayed at Friendly Resort and Spa. Nice place, great location and around 890THB ($30USD/£20) per night for a large double room with a big bathroom. There is access to a private beach and a nice pool and it’s just far enough away from the beach to be quiet in the evening.
The resort is small and you can walk everywhere. Bars and restaurants serve great, fresh food for extremely good value. It’s a little more expensive than other parts of Thailand but it’s very commercial and naturally catering for the hedonistic backpackers seeking the party of their lives.
When it comes to shopping it’s like the very worst of a British sea-side town. Expect rows and rows of shops selling identical garish t-shirts with the words Full Moon emblazoned across absolutely everything. And, of course, it’s the law that you all buy matching fuchsia beach dresses with ‘I Love Koh Phangan’ on the front, for the price of a pint of milk.
The beach is low on paradise and high on grubby and is lined with shacks selling Thai Buckets and Thai boys offering you the chance to drunkenly skip over a rope dripping in petrol and then struck with a lighter.
One friend’s attempt resulted in a burn on her foot with a blister the size of a golf ball and another catching the rope on the top of her head leaving her frantically pulling out clumps of hair and fruitlessly trying to assess the size of the various bald spots under a badly-lit sky. I gave it a miss.
Get away for the day by hiring a small boat and stopping off around the island to snorkel in the clear waters and relax on the unspoilt bays away from the main tourist areas. Fishermen can be found waiting by boats all the way along Haadrin beach. Barter your way to a good deal and leave everything behind for a few hours.
We left the resort in the afternoon to take a short elephant trek through the hills at the near-by Chaloklum.
Rates are around *500TBH and the trek was about 40 minutes. It’s a small place where they let you wash and feed the elephants and there’s a resident monkey that you can play with and feed while you wait for your trek.
*500THB is around 1$17USD or £11.
If you like copious amounts of alcohol, partying until you hit the deck, third-degree rope burns and the surprise of a full-body tattoo, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you want to see it out of morbid curiosity, stay for a couple of nights but avoid the peak times when there is a full moon in full swing.
If you want to go to the Full or Half Moon parties, book accommodation as far in advance as possible as it’s a small island.