It wasn’t really the plan to go to spend New Years on Koh Phangan, a big part of me knew it wasn’t my thing. I came to Koh Phangan for the first time over two years ago, during off season. The island was bland, it rained a lot and seemed to be a western’s playground rather than anything authentic. Two years on, not much has changed although it’s considerably more built up. There’s a lot of the island I haven’t explored and there are definitely beautiful sides of it to be found, but I ended up here on New Years just wanting somewhere to party and say goodbye to a year that was full of a lot of highlights and a lot of heartache. And Koh Phangan was my drug of choice.
So it was decided: I would spend New Years on Koh Phangan.
New Years Eve was one of those days where it felt like everything was a challenge. I was staying on Koh Samui at a luxury resort (the result of an accommodation miscommunication). My friend and I had decided to rent out scooters for two hours and drove around the island soaking in some serious sunshine and some local markets. We came home to have a nap and then to get ready to head to Koh Phangan. As we were walking to our room, I turned to my friend and said “it’s going to rain soon” before pausing for a second and continuing “it’s going to really rain” and not a second later it was as if the clouds separated and oceans fell out of the sky.
It was late evening and the rain hadn’t subsided, so I decided to call my hotel’s reception to ask for more information about ferries to Koh Phangan, when I was told it was simply too dangerous and there would be no ferries, period – unless the weather cleared up. So, I waited an hour and called back, same story. But this time I decided to stress to the hotel staff that I had to get to Koh Phangan because my friends were there. They suggested we head down to the “Fisherman’s Wharf” to take a speedboat across, but emphasized it was dangerous and they wouldn’t suggest it.
We were dropped off at Fisherman’s Wharf and the rain belted down, the roads had flooded mildly and both our clothes and shoes were drenched right through. I hadn’t even arrived at the full moon party and I was a mess! After some confusion, we finally found the guy selling tickets to the boats and parted with a cool 1,500 baht.
The boat ride was terrifying, I’ve never been on a boat where the journey has felt more like a severe cause of turbulence than a ferry ride. As thunder roared and lightning shook the sky, there were a number of times where I questioned my decision and wondered if the little boat would actually make it. As we pulled up to the dock a policeman photographed the boat – any captains who were crossing during the stormy weather were losing their licenses. We were soaked, but we’d made it to Koh Phangan by about 10.30.
We headed straight to Mellow Mountain to meet up with some people – If you’re not familiar with Koh Phangan, Mellow Mountain is a seedy bar perched on the edge of the water, a steep staircase up the side of the hill. This is where you can buy mushroom shakes (legal) and one of the seediest places on the island, but most people end here at some point or another.
After a few shared shakes, we set off to explore the rest of the party. Walking along the beach there were hoards of people, crammed in front of zones playing their favourite music. There was fluro Koh Phangan shorts, girls wearing bright bikinis, fire poi, painted people and almost everyone was carrying an obligatory bucket filled to the brim with their poison of choice. I couldn’t help but think this was some kind of twisted theme park for 18-25 year olds who like to drink a lot – it didn’t feel real.
As midnight rolled around, a clock counted down the end of 2012 – a deal breaker of a year for me. As the clock flipped over to 2013, I began to feel excited about the possibility this year will hold. Then started a fire work show quite unlike any other, that lasted for a solid five months, before being mimicked at another location further down the beach.
It was just like any other beach party I’ve been to before, but times a thousand. By about 5am things got a little seedy; the hoards of guys who hadn’t managed to pull yet seemed to focus their attention more aggressively and the ocean washed up a thick belt of bottles and buckets, drawing a sharp line between the sand and the sea. Regardless, I danced right through as the golden sun clawed it’s way back into the sky, marking the first day of the year. While New Years on Koh Phangan was never a great priority for me, I’m glad I did it and it will probably go down as one of the craziest New Years of my life.
I’ve been in Thailand almost a month and I’m done! I’m really struggling to maintain a good work/life balance and I’m feeling really disconnected from myself, which means it’s time for one of my favourite places in the world: Cambodia.
Tomorrow will see me heading back to my Kingdom of Cambodia, via Bangkok. Taxi. Ferry. Minibus. Train. Train. Minibus. This is all that stands in the way from being back to the place that changed me most.
And next month I’ll be home.
How was your new years?!