Beats, drinks and body­paint: Full moon party de­fies Thai trou­bles

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

For many ravers on the trop­i­cal oa­sis of Koh Phangan, the ori­gins of the Thai is­land’s de­bauched full moon par­ties are as hazy as their mem­o­ries of the beach bash the next morn­ing. Yet Sutti Kur­sakul, a mid­dle-aged is­land na­tive with a dis­tinc­tive black mous­tache, claims he not only re­mem­bers the first moon­lit party but or­ga­nized it. “I held the first full moon party in around 1988. It was a farewell to my Aus­tralian friend,” Sutti told AFP as neon-clad tourists flowed in and out of his bar, vib­ing to house mu­sic. What started as a monthly gath­er­ing for spir­i­tu­ally in­clined trance fans in the 1990s has since ex­ploded into a world-fa­mous mon­u­ment to he­do­nism.

Up to 30,000 peo­ple, mostly young west­ern back­pack­ers, de­scend on Haad Rin beach each month to guz­zle buck­ets of drinks, knock back drugs and jump through hoops of fire-an in­creas­ingly per­ilous beach­side ac­tiv­ity as the evening’s in­tox­i­ca­tion takes hold. Now thump­ing elec­tronic dance mu­sic has re­placed the psy-trance beats of the 90s, while a cot­tage in­dus­try of neon cloth­ing and body paint ven­dors has turned the beach into a one-stop shop for the party faith­ful. And they keep on com­ing. That is de­spite junta-run Thai­land’s po­lit­i­cal woes and the Oc­to­ber death of beloved King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, which was fol­lowed by a month-long “ton­ing down” of the king­dom’s nor­mally wild nightlife.

Through a decade of mil­i­tary coups and cur­fews, Thai­land’s buoy­ant tourist in­dus­try has kept the econ­omy afloat. Thai­land has al­ready wel­comed more than a record 30 mil­lion tourists in 2016. They are ex­pected to rake in more than $68.5 bil­lion, a fig­ure that will rep­re­sent 17 per­cent of the econ­omy.

Can’t stop the rave

Over the years the full moon party has of­ten been cast as a de­praved, crime-rid­den drug fest where for­eign­ers trash their idyl­lic sur­round­ings and take ex­ces­sive risks. “The west­ern me­dia is so neg­a­tive,” said Sharon Ka­hatai, an Is­raeli hos­tel owner who made the is­land his home nearly a decade ago. “I think the full moon (party) is an amaz­ing project. I don’t know if there are other projects like that which bring young peo­ple, 18 to 22, from all around the world to be to­gether.” Some old­school ravers say the no­to­ri­ety and com­mer­cial­ism are chang­ing the event for the worse. But Sutti in­sists the spirit is the same.

“Noth­ing has changed about the full moon party-just more peo­ple,” he told AFP, stress­ing how the rev­el­ers bring cru­cial cash into the pock­ets of lo­cals. Thai tourism au­thor­i­ties want to lure wealth­ier visi­tors to the king­dom. But he­do­nis­tic fix­tures of Thai­land’s nightlife such as the full moon party ap­pear safe. Cycli­cal crack­downs on Thai­land’s free­wheel­ing party scene never seem to stick and the beach rave shows no signs of slow­ing down. “It’s ob­vi­ously pop­u­lar with many peo­ple,” said Chat­tan Kun­jara Na Ayud­hya, the public re­la­tions di­rec­tor of Tourism Author­ity of Thai­land.

He said bud­get trav­ellers still have an im­por­tant role to play, de­spite ef­forts to de­velop Thai­land as a lux­ury travel des­ti­na­tion. While back­pack­ers may be short on cash, they have pull es­pe­cially on­line. “In this world of so­cial me­dia, they see a lot, they share what they see, and we’re happy,” he told AFP.

Par­ty­go­ers duck­ing un­der a fiery limbo stick dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

Par­ty­go­ers on Haad Rin beach dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

Thou­sands of par­ty­go­ers danc­ing on Haad Rin beach dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

This pic­ture shows a rev­eler walk­ing through a hoop of fire dur­ing a Full Moon Party on the south­ern is­land of Ko Phangan. — AFP pho­tos

A par­ty­goer light­ing a cig­a­rette on a fiery limbo stick dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

A par­ty­goer get­ting caught by a fiery skip­ping rope dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

A par­ty­goer wear­ing a mask dur­ing a Full Moon Party on the south­ern is­land of Ko Phangan.

Par­ty­go­ers tak­ing self­ies on Haad Rin beach dur­ing a Full Moon Party.

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