After a year long hiatus, can Thailand’s world-famous Full Moon Party recover, or will it evolve in the post-Covid-19 era? Before April last year, Haad Rin Beach on Koh Pha Ngan was invaded each full moon by backpackers and partygoers. The beach hummed to the thump, thump of the music and the buckets of exotic cocktails (and plenty of other substances) flowed freely.
The event draws up to 30,000 partiers every month now, after simple beginnings as a hippy beach gathering in the 1980s. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event has been on hold and some fear it may be the end of the line for the iconic party.
While the party has been a cash cow, attracting more than half of million-plus visitors to the island of Koh Pha Ngan each year, critics have become increasingly vocal about the downside of an event so large and so wild. Drugs, alcohol abuse, petty theft and more bad behaviour, along with the ecological damage, have received increasing scrutiny and bad press.
But the event supports thousands of small businesses, vendors and jobs for local people, bringing tens of thousands of customers to bars, restaurants, food stalls, hotels, hostels, taxi drivers, and even migrant workers who help clean the event and resell the gathered and scrubbed buckets from the beach back to bars. P Noi, the owner of Full Moon mainstay Tommy Resort, believes the event is crucial for the island economy but concedes there is room for improvement.
“We accept constructive criticism, but there’s no reason why the Full Moon Party cannot come back when tourism opens up again.”
Calls have increased for a more sustainable and more organised and contained event, or even the permanent closure of the Full Moon Party. Organisers see the need for Covid-19 measures like masks and social distancing for the near future, but also look ahead to a slow evolution of the party. Attracting higher-quality businesses and better regulation could control the wild atmosphere enough to be sustainable and reduce criticism.
The island already boasts a vibrant counterculture seen with parties like Eden and Lost Paradise raging even if Full Moon Party is on hold. Fancy pool villas with stunning ocean views have increased on the island to cater to high-end tourists and families, and Koh Pha Ngan has become a destination for digital nomads avoiding city life, as co-working spaces have cropped up. The north of the islandhas a massive yoga and wellness community in the Sri Thanu area that’s been very profitable, even during the pandemic.
Still, with the amount of tourism supported by the monthly event, a permanent close down of the Full Moon Party is unlikely. Locals are eager to see the party, along with the customers it brings, returning to Haad Rin. Other full moon events have been tried around the world, but nothing has yet to compare to the magic of the massive all-night beach party. Many hope this year hiatus allows for improvements to create a party to evolve and sustain for years to come.
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