Before I reached Koh Phangan I approached the thought of The Full Moon Party (FMP) with strong ambivalence. The FMP is affiliated with horror stories of drug over-dosing, rape and even death which had left me wondering whether I should avoid Koh Phangnan altogether in order to eliminate any chance of my face appearing on BBC News with the heading “Taken by Thailand’s Tourism”. Yet, as I travelled through Thailand meeting people who had either been or planning on going it was difficult not to push these stories to the far depths of my mind, slap on some glow paint and just.go.crazy.
I caved in, and there’s three reasons I’m glad I did…
…1: The FMP is actually a lot of fun. I was being a complete snob about it before my Thailand trip, I was adamant I wasn’t going and cast it away as a huge chav gathering. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of said species and other irritants taking mushroom shakes whilst losing control amongst a beach packed with up to 20,000 people. I didn’t take into consideration that the party would attract a myriad of people no matter the age, cultural background or acquired state of mind, making it more of an immense world gathering. And if you’re sensible, you’ll avoid any mishaps and just have a bloody good time. That said, I still jumped through a ring of fire (just the once, though)…
Reason 2: It is a stunning island in it’s own right. There’s plenty of secluded spots to explore and you’ll surely be able to find a beach just for yourself, feel like a castaway for the day and watch the sunset over Koh Samui.
I particularly enjoyed joining the locals rejuvinate at the local Herbal Hot Sauna at Waat Pho in Baan Thai. Here, you’ll inhale and absorb thai spices such as lemon grass and turmeric in a seemingly unbearable heat. Top tip : SIT DOWN, you’ll feel the heat more standing, and soak yourself in cold water prior to entrance. If you think the most you can sweat is when amongst the thick, sweaty humidity… think again. Thailand’s heat is a cool relief compared to this place.
Reason 3 AND THE MOST IMPORTANT: During Full Moon Party there is an inevitable influx of tourists so you’ll need to book a month in advance if you want accommodation near Haad Rinn Beach. Being late with our decision, we had to stay 20 minutes north at Thongsala. Fate had clearly paved way for my arrival here in order to find the local food market. Something those in Haad Rin were deprived of.
I can’t even say I tried everything over the course of my 5 days on the island as new stalls would appear each evening. I often demonstrated a juggling act balancing kebabs, pad thais, sushi, spring rolls and thai sausages to my table as I attempted to sample EVERYTHING. Here’s my top picks:
The Fruit Shakes
I know these are in abundance throughout Thailand but Thongsala’s were a cut above the rest. At only 20THB you can create your own iced tropical fruit concoction using as many fruits as you wish for no extra cost. My preferred choice was a strikingly pink, red Dragon Fruit, Banana and Mango Shake. These were wonderful pick-me-ups during those dirty, sweaty hangovers that you’ll only feel in Thailand.
Marinated Chicken and Glass Noodles
I don’t normally go for ‘buffet’ style stalls, but this one was an exception. Everyday this lady laid out huge bowls of curries and stir-fries in a pick a mix style. Her curries weren’t for the faint hearted, she gave me a pin-prick taster of her green curry and my mouth became that ring of fire I jumped through the night before. However, her sweet/soy marinated tender chicken for 40THB with glass noodles was mouth-watering. She’ll then let you help yourself to salad, mint leaves and pickles.
So I know we like to put fruit in our salads and bread in our puddings, but Thais make no effort in separating their sweets from their savouries and put in every effort to blur the line and trick out tastebuds. At the sweet stall in Thongsala I did try everything. My first taste wasn’t something to be repeated, I opted for a white opaque jelly in a cup case as I was told it was ‘coconut milk and corn’, popcorn I thought… as I looked closer I came to realise this was congealed milk with bits of sweetcorn buried beneath. I can bare most things, but not this. However, this stall served glutinous rice in coconut milk served in cubes (10THB) and in two different vibrant colours…purple and green. Small but filling these rich and creamy bites prove to be a tropical version of our beloved rice pudding.