Normally we are the stay-at-home, make-a-nice-dinner, have-a-good-bottle-of-wine kind of New Years revelers. Pretty low key…nice and quiet…just the way we like it. But this year we were near one of the biggest New Years parties on the planet (OK, I just saw that Rio had 3 million partiers, so maybe I’m exaggerating)…how could we not go?
The Full Moon Party is legendary in Thailand and this year, with the full moon coinciding with New Years Eve, it promised to be bigger and better than ever with an estimated 40,000 people expected to come from all over Koh Pha-Ngan and the neighboring islands.
We opted to take the last hotel taxi heading to the beach in order to be there for midnight and to catch the height of the action so, at 10:30, we climbed into the back of the pickup truck with 10 other people to be ferried across the island.
The island is hilly, very hilly, and soon there was a line up of trucks and vans waiting by turns to make it up the steepest of the hills. This was hampered by the 100’s of scooters that honked and scooted their way around all the stalled vehicles only to, themselves, stall halfway up and have to push the rest of the way. The end of 2009 was ticking away and we all wondered if we would make it to the party in time for the big countdown.
Soon, people in neighboring taxis gave up, jumping out into the road and frantically running towards the beach intent on making it in time. As midnight drew closer I realized that I just might be ringing in the New Year with my 10 new ‘truck friends’. And then the line-up started moving, we made it to the drop off point and rushed to the beach with 4 minutes to spare.
The music was pumping, there were 1000’s and 1000’s of half-dressed, more than half-drunk, fluorescent-streaked bodies moving to the beat and the DJ was marking every passing minute closer to 2010. Soon enough we were all chanting the classic countdown and then, at the stroke of midnight, the fireworks started.
They fired skyward right from the edge of the crowd, bursting over our heads and illuminating the whole beach even more than the full moon already was. On and on they went, bigger and brighter…some coming closer and closer. Spent material starting raining down on us making it difficult to continue looking up. Some didn’t seem to go high enough and we watched to make sure that burning embers didn’t fall on us. A few didn’t make it up at all and exploded right on the ground…and then it seemed as though one landed on the fireworks platform…and that’s when we decided to run in the opposite direction in case the worst should happen and the whole kit-and-kaboodle blew up. That’s what comes with age…we ran away while others looked closer to see what would happen…it did explode right there on the platform, and sprayed those closest with burning embers, but the worst did not happen and the rest of the fireworks went off without a hitch.
Time to find a drink. The drink of choice at a Full Moon Party is ‘the bucket’…yup, a sand pail filled with your favorite drink…for Thai’s it’s cheap whiskey, Red Bull, and coke, but we opted for vodka and tonic. I could see how quickly one could plow through a few buckets as there was something fun about sipping our cocktail out of a child’s plaything…the bottom comes very quickly!
I have to say that the Full Moon Party was not as crazy as I had expected it to be. We wandered around for a couple of hours and, yes, I did see plenty of dancing, lots of people drunk and passed out and there was a fire limbo contest, but mostly I saw people like us….wandering around just trying to take it all in. I think I expected more ‘dancing’ (rather than the jumping up and down to the electronic beat), I surely expected to see some nudity (I saw not one single nude person) and I even thought there might be some public copulation going on (although we did see one close encounter). It was fun but, just like many a New Year celebrations, the hype outdid the actuality.
Before leaving we lit a lantern and, putting all of our 2010 wishes onto it, released it to float skyward towards the New Year full moon. Our 2010 looks bright as we complete our journey, reunite with our family and friends and look forward to what our next Giant Step might be.
Happy New Year!!