Koh Phagnan & Full Moon Without Music, RIP King Bhumibol

Happy US Election Day!  I know election day is technically over, but in Thailand I was watching it all this morning(I’m 13 hours ahead of Chicago).  Which was nice, because I don’t have to stay up all night to know the results.  One time a student here at Banhan3 told me he was really interested in American politics.  He thought it was interesting because we all vote, and we all have a say in what happens in our country.  So I really hope you took advantage of that freedom and went to the polls.

What a historical week in history.  The Cubs won the World Series last week (bummed that I missed the opportunity to burn Wrigleyville to the ground) and our next president is either a woman or a reality TV star.  Well I should say historical month for the entire world, explained further in the next few paragraphs.

Koh Phagnan.  Full Moon Party. Did you even backpack through Thailand if you didn’t go to Full Moon?  Of course, when I found out that I had a month off, I scheduled my arrival back into Thailand just in time for the Full Moon Party on Monday, October 17 in Koh Phagnan.

Then, I was sitting in my hostel in Penang, Malaysia when I received the news that the King of Thailand had died.  Not only did this mean the death of my school wardrobe, as I now have to wear black for a year, but it meant that the country was going into mourning for a month.  This meant no live music, most bars and clubs were closed for anywhere from a week to a month, and most importantly to me, the governor of the Surathani Province had decided to cancel the impending Full Moon party.

Yes this is very selfish of me, being upset over a Full Moon Party being cancelled when the king has died.  But come on, I’m only human, and my time in Thailand is limited.

The King dying is a REALLY huge deal in Thailand.  The Thai people love him; he did a lot for the country.  He spent a lot of time with his people, traveling all throughout Thailand and really getting to know them.  He even came to little Dan Chang where I live for the opening of Krasiao dam, and paid a visit to the school I work at.  I discussed this in an earlier post but my boss/Thai mom P’nga was the student selected to give him flowers.  He spoke to her, and the school made his words into the school song that they play every morning.  There’s pictures of this all over Banhan3.  He also engineered some kind of water system to put oxygen into the rivers and such in Thailand.

There are pictures of the King EVERYWHERE.  In front of every major building, in every classroom, in every shop I’ve gone into, EVERYWHERE.  And this is before he even passed away.  My students wear necklaces with his picture on them.  Every Tuesday (until he passed) we had to wear yellow to go to school, because he was born on a Tuesday, and in Thailand if you are born on a Tuesday your color is yellow.  That varies by day of the week, for example the queen was born on a Thursday and her color is blue.  Father’s Day is also on his birthday, December 5th.  So in case that isn’t enough evidence, I swear, the Thai people love their king.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej came into power in May of 1950, after his brother was assassinated.  He was only 18 years old, and he’s been king ever since.  So, after sitting on the throne for 80 years, until he passed he was the world’s longest reigning monarch.  He’s to be succeeded by his son this month, and his funeral is set to take place in about a year.

Now that I’ve given a bit of background, I hope you grasp the gravity of this situation.  As soon as I landed in Krabi after leaving Singapore, I noticed that everyone was wearing black.  EVERYONE.  A lot of the King’s pictures had been replaced or were within the process of being replaced with black & white versions(Thai mourning colors) and decorated with black & white bunting.  And this was just a couple days after it happened, in a country that is always running late by Western standards.

Then began my trip to Koh Phagnan.  Even though the Full Moon Party had been cancelled, a couple of my friend were still going, and I intended to do so as well.  So, after rolling back into Thailand around 4PM and missing the last 6PM ferry to Koh Phagnan, I caught the infamous night sleeper-ferry from Surathani Ban Rai pier to Koh Phagnan.

The day ferries to Koh Phagnan go from Don Sak pier to the island; and apparently if you go at night from Don Sak you can hire a speedboat to take you to the island.  Being that I was alone at this point(meeting my friends at the island), I had been planning on finding other backpackers looking to get to the island and tagging along with them.  However, after landing in Surathani an hour away from the pier, I decided that going to closer Ban Rai pier and taking an overnight boat.

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I had read many horror stories about this sleeper boat online.  However, to be honest, it wasn’t horrible.  The sleeper boat was exactly that; a little ferry with a small indoor deck covered in mats and pillows that served as beds.  And by small I mean I couldn’t stand up all the way because the ceiling was too low.  There was no air-conditioning, the beds were maybe 3 feet wide maximum, probably a little less, and there were no blankets provided.  Not that I would’ve wanted a blanket anyways, something tells me this boat doesn’t put much value on hygiene.  It was filled with other backpackers and a few young Thai people.  I slept on my belongings to ensure that no one would touch them, popped on a podcast and an eye mask, and slept for the entire 6-hour trip from Ban Rai to Koh Phagnan.  And I’d do it again; it cost me 400 baht(a little overpriced considering it was 6 hours) and I saved money on a hostel.  WIN.

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Then I hopped on a songtaew to Haad Rin beach(where you have to stay if you’re going to Full Moon) and wandered around until I found my hostel – and by hostel I mean Fellini Dorm.  As in an Italian restaurant that shoved some plywood bunk beds and mattresses into their attic and called it a dorm.  And by plywood bunk beds I mean two extremely long sheets of plywood serving as massive beds with mattresses separated by curtains.  But it was comfy, there was air-conditioning, and it only cost us 400 baht, which is cheap for Haad Rin.

So what was Haad Rin like during Full Moon?  It was still crawling with tourists and backpacker-types.  There were still vendors selling buckets(drinks served in little sandbuckets that are common in backpacker areas in Thailand).  However, I was told that it’s normally even busier during Full Moon, a lot of people changed their plans.

My friends & I still did body paint and wore neon clothes for the day of the actual Full Moon.  We were the only ones, but if I’m going to still try to Full-Moon without the actual Full Moon, I’m not half-assing it.  I regret nothing.

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The only real bummer of Full Moon being “cancelled”?  There was NO MUSIC.  NONE.  ZERO.  ZIP.  ZILCH.  I think if Koh Phagnan was a little less popular, there might have been, but they were probably watched more closely because of the originally-planned Full Moon party.

People still brought their own personal speakers to the beach, people still drank, and the usual fire-shows still happened.  But there was no bass-bumping music to be found.  But of course, we still danced, music or not.

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Other than the partying that the island is known for, Koh Phagnan is actually a really pretty island.  My friends & I rented motorbikes and drove all around the island to different beaches.  Unfortunately, Haad Rin is pretty far from a lot of the nicer areas of the island, but we made it work.  Definitely still worth the trip.

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Overall, 9.5/10 still had a great time, even though Full Moon was “cancelled.”  Subtract .5 for the lack of music.  10/10 would do again.

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