Thursday, March 24, 2005

Take one beach, fifty thousand revellers, a bucket, and stir

The Full Moon Party occurs at that time of the month on Koh Pha Ngan and is in all likelihood the largest outdoor event anywhere within a thousand kilometres of here.

Great fun indeed. As the sun goes down and the lunar light brightens the sky, the place fills with foreigners and locals of all shapes and sizes (but mostly wearing ridiculous hippy clothing and sporting cheap wooden jewellery). There is no space left for the beach-dwelling crabs as every spot on the sand is accounted for. More alcohol is consumed over the course of this evening than in one entire hour at any bar in Ireland. More drugs are taken during the course of the night than by Californian Prozac-munchers in a whole month. The music pumps. People behave, because no-one's practising the Friday evening gotta-get-off-my-chops-as-fast-as-I-can methodology and instead all seem relaxed and enjoying the fact they they won't be donning a shirt, tie and hangover the following day. And instead will opt for the ridiculous hippy clothing and cheap wooden jewellery again.

Being a slightly classy event, the aptly-named bucket is the star of the evening.

The Koh Pha Ngan Bucket may not be the most original invention on the planet and one unlikely to have a patent pending, but it is however very clever marketing indeed.

Take one sandpit-sized bucket that you owned as a kid (unless you're from England where there is no sand. Read: pebbles). Add a litre of soft drink, 200 ml of Red Bull concentrate and a bottle of Samsong, Asia's not-so-finest tipple. Or you can spend the extra baht and get JD or other quaffable libation. Stir. Add six straws and sip slowly, savouring the gentle bouquet and hint of strawberries, chocalate and cinnamon [by the way, if you get the chance to see Sideways, you must. Funniest thing to come out of America since Drew Carey].

Anyway, after you and your temporary mates have shared the odd bucket or two, you feel the need to dance. The musical choice is as wide and varied as the new McDonald's menu, but without the Health Choice options. It's Jungle, Drum 'n Bass, Progessive House (the stupidest term in the Queen's tongue) and assorted nefarious tunes to wipe your inhibitions and make you shake ya thang. It's a true belief of mine that people who don't dance are as dull as dishwater. Repressed too. So I dance, 'cos suddenly I'm gorgeous and carefree and loving life more than ever. My hair looks fantastic.

I lose Tayler and my other Spanish temporary mates, the English girls who bummed smokes from me for hours and the Israelis who thought I was one of them. I made several successful escapes from those sirens of Siam, the ladyboys. These creatures are predatory. I saw many a seventeen year-old European dancing far too close to one than he would certainly like to remember the following day, but hey, alcohol is the best tool the freaks and the ugly have for getting into relationships. I've been using it for years ... Couldn't find the interesting lassie from Ipswich who was talked with me about the frescoes in Siena and della Francesco for quite some time, nor the guy from Nice who shared my view that the International Phonetic Alphabet appears biased towards English speakers. I'd talked a lot of crap but had the best night in ages. And I was still standing and able to get home OK this time around.

It's been a great night as I grab a falafel roll (well, how dumb would red curry and rice be at this hour) and tuck myself into bed. Tayler showed up about three hours later when the sun was also making its appearance ... and his innocent face had a slightly more diabolical look to it at this hour. There was a Swedish looking girl standing coyly in the background.

Being a amenable chap, I spent the next couple of hours sitting on the beach again, talking to the revellers who kept me laughing for quite some time until I desperately needed some sleep. I returned to the room and all was silent. The necessity to slumber was overbearing and more important than maintaining good manners. I crept into the room and was really happy that they had left me enough space to curl up on the tiled floor at the foot of the bed ... I slept surprisingly well.

Koh Pha Ngan is a lot of fun if you take it as it is. Look any deeper, and it's a glaring example of Westerners acting in a completely unacceptable manner with no deference to local culture or habits. But these old arguments are as tiresome as a Dannie Minogue recording, and certainly as facile.

I had a great time over the following days, recovered my senses but not my wallet, bid my single-serve friends adieu and realised that after almost three weeks travelling I was starting to adopt the slower pace necessary for my next destination; the subcontinent.

Easily excitable at the best of times, India has me by the short and curlies. There's no place like it and I cannot wait to return. SE Asia is always good, but you only have to head a few more hours west on a plane and you actually disembark onto another planet.

Time for bus-bus-ferry-tuk-tuk-ute ride to return to the capital. Excellent.

Will upload some more photos very soon.

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