Saturday, November 28, 2015

Following the Moon Cycles in Koh Phangan

My plan for Koh Phangan was to volunteer at a party hostel, go to the infamous Full Moon Party and stay there for a week, what I didn't plan for was finding a group that became my family while I was there. Carlota and I arrived at Vagabond hostel which seemed fairly nice and waited around for the owner until we were told we would be volunteering at one of his other hostels that I'd never heard of called Wanderlust which had only recently opened. We arrived at this amazingly cool looking bright red hostel with dozens of creative drinking games in the common area and a wide open common area but the best part of the place hands down were the other two owners. The first guy we rarely saw but Ramona and Nenad were what breathed life and fire into the place. They are the most big hearted, generous, fun, and passionate couple I have ever met who would one moment be arguing in Italian then yelling 'Amore' to each other across the room, and their passionate nature extended to their work too where I am pretty sure they would break their back to help someone. Ramona is this absolute sweetheart with a wild side and Nenad is this crazy inventor of drinking boardgames who would often yell out "Wanderlust shot!" and proceed to pour dozens of free shots for everyone there. When I arrived there was games like the obvious beer pong but then Plinko (or Drinko), Battleshots, drinking roulette and by the time I left there seemed to be a dozen more. I had expected to party in Koh Phangan but while I was there I felt like I had a family and a home because of Ramona, Nenad, Carlota and a few other amazing people who were staying here.

Our first night at Wanderlust we were invited to a Thai birthday party at the restaurant across the street where the family who ran the restaurant was incredibly sweet and shared their food, and drink and cake with us, then became less sweet as they kicked our asses at beer pong back at the hostel! The work at the hostel varied and at times I'd be helping behind the bar and other times I could be doing anything ranging from helping make pieces for a new drinking game to cleaning bathrooms or having 4 person super secret laundry parties when the laundry lady suddenly quit leaving us with bags and bags of unwashed sheets and towels. After the Full Moon Party we ended up with an amazing group consisting of Ramona, Nenad, Carlota, Tyer - possibly the most colourful person I've ever met, Elias - the guy who is good at everything he tries, Craig - the crazy forest firefighter/my cooking buddy, and Franzi - the absolute sweetheart.  Together we would hang out, have drinks, play games, and for several nights in a row we shared big hostel dinners that fed everyone here. One night Carlota made a pasta dish, then Craig made Cajun dirty rice with seafood, Ramona made chicken schnitzel, and I made chinese sauteed greens with tofu and mushrooms. I also managed to make myself the sous-chef in every single meal, not cooking for months has been driving me crazy so chopping and stirring and all of that was such a relief and a lot of fun.

After nearly 3 weeks I had to leave the island to head up north to meet  my mother in Bangkok but leaving Wanderlust was no easy thing. By then the hostel had emptied out a bit but that just meant more time with Ramona, Tyer, and Nenad. The night before I left we headed back to the beach reggae bar for one last time and the next day the Slip n Fly had a free day so we headed there for my last day goodbye thing. We arrive an hour after opening and were the first ones there, meaning we were able to go off the giant slides first without people seeing how terrible we were at it! Eventually it filled up more and it was almost more fun watching other people shooting into the sky than it was actually going down. So as Ramona and I are sipping beers we decide to make score cards and sit at the end of the bridge and judge people as they came down. We had little paper so everyone got a 7 or higher (until the staff told us they actually had real score cards). It started off just us giggling and scoring the jumps but by the time we left nearly the entire water park had joined us on the bridge and was joining in on the scoring - everyone wanted to be the mean judge for some reason. Before leaving they finally convinced Ramona and I to go one last time so we did a double jump and fearfully looked up to see our score, at this point only the mean judges were on the bridge, one judge gave us 10 points and the other two combined theirs to give 1,010 points. Since I had a ferry to catch we had to rush off and soon I was at the pier with a belly full of pad thai from my favourite restaurant and was hugging Ramona and tearing up. On the ferry I was so sad at leaving my Koh Phangan ferry that I was trying to hold back tears and watching the island become smaller and smaller when this one guy yells out "You're on the wrong side". He thought I was looking for the sunset so I headed over and ended up talking and listening to ukulele music for the next 2 hours. Thank you Universe for the wonderful distraction!

The Parties
The main reason people seem to come to the island is partying so I definitely have to mention that! While normally I don't go out to big parties, I'm more of a house/apartment party person, I ended up going to my fair share of parties while I was there. I went to the Full Moon Party which I had had on my bucket list for ages, and then I also made it to the pool party, the pre full moon Jungle Party, the Half Moon Party and the Loi Lai Floating Boat Party which I had not even known about.

Pool Party (free) - My first party on the island, we were supposed to go to the party at Sandcastle but then a friend heard that the cover is 300bht and the club next to it was free so of course I opted to go to the Pool Party club. Glad I did because this place was basically one giant massive pool with people partying and dancing around and in the pool.

Jungle Party (500bht) - I'd head mixed reviews about whether to go, some people said it was better than the Full Moon Party, some people said not to go because people end up so destroyed from it that they miss the Full Moon Party. Personally I'm glad I went because it was pretty amazing, held in the middle of the jungle and I was still able to volunteer and make it to the Full Moon Party the next day. The place was filled with neon painted travelers, firedancers and other crazyness and it did seem to be better than the Full Moon Party. Plus afterwards on the ride home my friend Andrew and I ended up meeting up with some of my friends from Wanderlust on the songtheow ride back and once we got to Wanderlust we decided to watch the sunrise on the beach and thanks to Alicia we almost got to hitchhike to the beach on the back of a garbage truck. Almost! 

Full Moon Party (100bht) - The day of the full moon party I was sleep deprived from the night before and that evening we spent hours preparing a hostel meal so by the time I started switching to my full moon outfit and applying body paint I was dead. This is where I made my mistake of the night, I drank many many vodka redbulls and I am not sure what was more deadly, the vodka, or the Thai redbull. Probably the amphetamine laced redbull. The prepreparty at Wanderlust and preparty at Nomad House were great and the Full Moon party was pretty amazing to see too. You enter and there's dancing everywhere, people on the beach, buckets of booze everywhere, everyone is in neon everything and most amazingly you look up and the giant full moon is looming above you. Sadly the vodka thai redbulls caught up with me and I had to leave early so no watching the sunrise for me. Even worse, my poor friend left early with me to make sure I got back okay, fantastic guy who just had the bad luck to have been around me that night.

Loi Lai Floating Boat Party (300bht*) - Once again we found ourselves having drinks at Nomad House and Carlota and I found out about a floating boat party nearby that was 300bht entry. We were debating whether to go and while at the bar I overheard some guy saying "Well I'm a cheap Canadian so...." at which point I jump in saying I'm a cheap Canadian too! *This is where we found out how to get to the party for free. Everyone said arriving before midnight was idiotic BUT arriving before 10pm meant free cover. So Carlota, Tyer, Jon (cheap Canadian buddy), and Daisy and I missioned there, got our stamps, went back to Nomad and then went back to the party - which was fantastic. It really was on the water and you had to cross a sketchy wobbly bridge to get there. I loved the music and dancing and Tyer is an inspiring person to dance near since he dances wildly and freely without any inhibitions. After a little while it was Carlota and I and we ended up meeting another group of people. While hanging out with them I pointed at their water bottle since I was dying of dehydration and asked to have some. They said of course but after I started chugging it back they all started saying "No! No! No! That's too much!". Turns out it was not water, it was mdma, so that was a bizarre first for me and taught me a lesson that even water can't be trusted. Luckily it was still a great night and we ended up at an afterparty at their house in the middle of the island in the jungle where we talked, drank, and danced barefoot in the rain and puddles as the sun rose. It wasn't until one moment I realized the time and Carlota and I hitched a ride on the back of a motorbike back to the hostel. We arrived at 3pm. Ramona said we had set the hostel record.

Half Moon Party (1,000bht) - This was a party I had planned to skip, mostly based on the price, but the crazy Carlota of course succeeded in convincing me to the taxi was about to drive off. While I'm glad I went I still feel 1000bht was a steep price for the night since the jungle party was almost in the same location and was just as great I found. Still it was cool being around all the different dance floors and walking through the jungle amidst crowds of neon people.

Lesson learned: Koh Phangan is an awesome place for partying but there are so many other amazing parts to it, like the people, the waterfalls, the beaches, the treks, and it deserves more than the standard 2 nights most people seem to spend where they stay for the moon party and then leave almost immediately after.

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