Why NOT to go to a Full Moon Party

By on December 22nd, 2015
BootsnAll
It’s the quintessential Thailand experience, for many backpackers. Is there anything better than beaches, music, a full moon, booze, and a bunch of other travelers? What could go wrong? More than you think.

While full moon parties may be a backpacker staple on the islands of Thailand, they are not a particularly ecologically, or ethically conscious choice. In addition to that, they are more dangerous than they look, for those who attend, and for the communities left in their wakes.

The history & current realities


FM party
In 1985 a party was held during a full moon on Ko Pha Ngan as a way to give thanks to a handful of travellers, and word spread from there. The full moon party continued to grow, and soon they were being held on other islands in Thailand — some drawing crowds of 5,000 to 25,000 every time there is a full moon.

Tourism in the islands grew significantly thanks, in part, to the full moon party. Soon there were also half moon parties and quarter moon parties. The attitude of giving thanks was gone, replaced by loud music, backpackers in bikinis or board shorts, free-flowing Thai buckets (a sand pail sized bucket filled with alcohol), drugs, sex, and violence.


“The attitude of giving thanks was gone…”

Now full moon parties are a the equivalent of a cesspool, an excuse to get drunk off your ass and not care what kind of trouble you may, or may not, get into. Casual sex with whoever may be close by is not the issue, it’s the unknown drugs, and the criminal element that lurks in the dark corners, waiting for the perfect idiot to roll along — and they don’t have to wait long.

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The dangers


FM party girls
I’m not one to preach against having casual sex, but we need to be aware of our surroundings and who we’re hanging out with as many people at these parties are predatory — a drunk, or high, girl or guy is a much easier target than a sober one.

If you’re going to attend a full moon party, be responsible, avoid drugs and don’t get so drunk that you’re an easy target. Go with friends or a group from your hostel. Never wander away from the party on your own, always have a group of friends around you — not ones you made at the party, ones you’ve known prior to arriving.


“…the majority of the tourist violence you hear about in Thailand happens during a full moon party.”

Safety sounds boring and lame, but the truth is, the majority of the tourist violence you hear about in Thailand happens during a full moon party. That alone should be enough to ask yourself whether or not you want to go.

The impact & ethics


FM morning
The negative impact of a full moon party goes beyond the party itself. The next morning the beaches and streets are littered with everything from beer bottles, to broken glass, to used condoms, to used needles, and more. It’s not the locals that are leaving these things behind, but it’s usually the locals who are stuck cleaning it all up.

“It’s not the locals that are leaving these things behind, but it’s usually the locals who are stuck cleaning it all up.”

Full moon parties bring out the worst in almost everyone. They feed the stereotypes about farangs (foreigners) being destructive and rude. Yes, the money you spend will benefit the bar where you party, and the people they buy their food and alcohol from, but you’re damaging a community in the process.

Travel should be about exploring new destinations, getting to know new people — both travelers and locals, learning about new cultures. There is nothing cultural about a full moon party. It’s an excuse to get drunk, high, or both, and spending a night not caring.

The alternatives


FM rave
Instead of going to a full moon party:

  • Have dinner in a local restaurant — there will probably be plenty of seats available
  • Spend a couple days on an island that doesn’t have full moon parties
  • Arrange a small party at the hostel or guesthouse where you’re staying so you’re in a controlled environment and can enjoy yourself without worry
  • Look for ways to give back to the community where you’re staying
  • Help clean the beach the following day

    All of these things will have a more positive impact than attending a crazy full moon party. While it may sound lame to someone who is traveling in Thailand for the first time, and who may be too scared to be somewhere that is not overflowing with fellow backpackers, the truth is, the odds are good that you will look back on your full moon experience and say, “WTF was I thinking?!”

    Leave the keg party mentality at home when you travel. I’m not saying you should never drink, that’s not my place. I’m just saying that when you spend your time and money on things that have nothing to do with alcohol, sex, or drugs, and, instead, invest in learning and local experiences, you are more likely to have exceptional travel experiences. Ones that you will remember and cherish for a lifetime — not ones that put you in unnecessary danger, damage the places you are visiting and which you may come to regret.