Sunday, 18 May 2014

I'm Still Dreaming Koh Phangan

When I first arrived to Koh Phangan in 1993, Haad Rin was a little piece of raver's paradise that kicked until dawn a few times a week…

Chilling out in paradise and going feral on the islands.

On Full Moon Party beach and all along Haad Rin's sunset coast, travelling hippies gathered in coconut palm bungalows by the sea. Living under the tropical sun, we came for days and ended up staying for months. We spent our days lazing in the hammock, chilling out in paradise, and going feral on the islands. Our nights were spent at intimate parties in the palm groves.

We'd come out of the Koh Phangan woodwork - nocturnal creatures of the night - to dance the night away at hedonistic venues such as Harmony, the Back Yard and Palm Beach.

On energetic days we'd leave our secluded piece of paradise on sunset beach behind, to stroll through the thick palm-grove forest into Haad Rin town. 

We'd walk along the sand-lined path meandering through the palms, passing the old buffalo ring by Haad Rin's lotus covered lake as we went. 

This was a time before roads and concrete, and on sandy tracks by the Outback Bar, we'd head down to Haad Rin's crescent moon shaped beach.

Drowning in endless amounts of fine white sand and turquoise water, and set in a jungle-clad bay, we came to play in the surf of this most beautiful beach - and to watch the young and alternative 'farang' travellers congregating for the Full Moon Party.

Haad Rin's beach bungalows soon filled up as full moon approached, their occupancy waxing and waning with the cycle of the moon. In the evenings leading up to full moon we'd sit around candle-lit tables, mingling with the gathering crowds on the beach. 

With no fire shows or drinking games we came together, to tell the thoughtful tales of our travels under the clear bright light of the moon. Later, we'd wander homewards down the moonlit path, in wonder at the palm-silhouetted, starry night sky above us. 

And then came the night of the Full Moon Party.

Along the length and breadth of Haad Rin beach, revellers began to gather. At the quiet far end below Mellow Mountain a few people would be stretched out on the sand: a quick catnap before the action started, or sleeping off their stupor. Along the five or six beach bars, small parties went on simultaneously. But only a handful of people at each, socialising with each other from bar to bar.

Finally down at Paradise, we'd find ourselves within a massive sound system and a crowd of a few hundred, where people raved into daylight amongst the bodies on the floor! After weeks of partying together, we'd know many of the revellers this time around. The faces would all be well known and familiar, as we came together in massive party spirit. 

We were partying on with a posse of well liked and like-minded people, generating energy, and we felt alive...

I'm still dreaming Koh Phangan.

All this was twenty years ago, so how much has Haad Rin changed today? The Full Moon Party now attracts much more than the 300-500 people it did back then: try an estimated 50,000 due at the Full Moon Party this New Years Eve 2013/14.

True, Haad Rin is no longer covered in palm groves, being replaced by the advent of concrete buildings and roads. The modern world has caught Haad Rin up, with its electrical instant gratification overtaking the intuition of the natural world. But stop for a while, and how can you not see the beauty? 

An artist friend said recently that us old-timers see Koh Phangan through rose-coloured glasses, and I couldn't agree more. We see the beauty: that's why we're still here, all these years later...

I know I still see the sunsets and the turquoise ocean and the jungle backdrop, and I still see the beautiful people shining their light on the Koh Phangan dance floor!

Yes, there are plenty of full-mooners lying face down in the sand; a metaphor for the drunken youth of today, trashing the beauty in their path. But they are here today, gone tomorrow, while the Koh Phangan community continues to exist - on our tropical island out of some paradise dream. 

Twenty years later, we are still here, wearing our rose coloured glasses... and we're still dreaming Koh Phangan!

Based on the transcript from my 1993 Koh Phangan Diary

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