There has been a lot of uncertainty over the last few months regarding the fate of the numerous parties in Koh Phangan. Many people visiting Haad Yao hope to attend at least one big party during their stay on the island. In order to clarify the situation I have summerised the situation as I see it.
The party scene peeked in 2014 prior to the military take-over. At that time Koh Phangan had a big outdoor event virtually every week. Near the Full Moon Party the parties were coming thick and fast (especially around the jungle at Ban Tai) as people sought to cash in on the increased visitors, many of whom were forced to stay in Koh Phangan for a few days due to compulsory minimum stays at hotels and resorts.
At that time the Full Moon Party, Half Moon Party, Black Moon Culture, Jungle Experience, Shiva Family, Rhythm and Sands and Sramanora Waterfall Party along with club events at Ku Club, Club 9 and Merkaba vied for the raver crowd Baht. 2013 and 2014 seemed years when any bar, club or dance event could be introduced into the Koh Phangan dance scene with a fair chance of success.
Then in the autumn of 2014 the Thaksin government was ousted and the new military regime soon embarked upon a self-imposed crusade to clean up Thailand. This was given more urgency by the tragic death of a British couple on the neighbouring island of Koh Tao. The young couple were at an all-night party. The party culture of drugs and laissez faire island politics was exposed and the loss of international face meant the junta imposed a ban on Koh Phangan parties (excepting the Full Moon Party).
The ban was lifted for the peak Christmas / New Year season in 2014. Encouraged by the seeming softening attitude by the authorities in Bangkok, the organisers of the Half Moon Party published a full schedule of parties complete with DJ line-ups booked until autumn 2015. They also increased their entry fee to 1,000 THB (expect reductions during the low seasons). It is telling that Black Moon Culture, Jungle Experience and Shiva Family have both remained silent about their next all-night, outdoor parties.
Recently the municipal authorities organised Koh Phangan’s first ‘Colour Moon Festival’. It was a show case for Thai culture and local crafts along with food stalls. It was a far cry from the booze and drug fuelled parties normally associated with Koh Phangan. It was part of an on-going (and poorly financed) attempt to re-brand the island and attract a different type of tourist.
Thailand Authority of Tourism has always been keen to attract a certain type of tourist – ones that spend big, stay just a few days and stay clear of the illicit attractions of the Kingdom. Rarely does the ideal actually tally with reality. Russians have seen a massive drop in the value of the rouble, and cases of Chinese bad-behaviour on an airplane to Thailand (www.thenanfang.com/blog/land-of-smiles-turns-to-frowns-after-more-misbehaving-chinese-tourists-at-historic-bangkok-site) have meant the right type of tourist stereotype is just that – a stereotype.
Don’t expect those in power to discontinue pushing for re-branding in order to maximise profit and improve image. But also don’t expect the party scene to vanish from Koh Phangan. Money is slow to be spent by the oligarchs on things other than high-end resorts. One sure bet for Koh Phangan is that the Full Moon Party is the golden goose who will be allowed to lay eggs until it dies. Too many livelihoods are connected to the party. At the same time don’t expect a return any time soon to the normal ‘lunacy’.