Koh Phangan was an island that slowly developed a tourist scene mostly as a result of being next to the more famous Thai island of Koh Samui. As Koh Samui developed and put up its prices many backpackers and travelers gave up on the island and instead took the boat to Koh Phangan. At that time Koh Phangan was a sleepy island with a basic infrastructure, a lackadaisical police force and a wealth of beautiful white sand beaches. For many Koh Phangan was heaven, and the bad roads, basic hospital and lack of an airport very much guaranteed that the place would continue to be heaven.
What nobody saw coming was the party culture that was soon to overtake the island. In 1987 house music hit the mainstream with Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s number one record ‘Jack Your Body’. The same year a birthday bash was held for a friend in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan. It just happened to be on the night of the full moon. This innocent party changed everything. The Full Moon Party was born. Within a few years all the cheap resorts on Haad Rin beach had been replaced with bars reaping in the profits of the monthly party.
When it was seen how much money party culture could bring to the island other parties started to sprout up, mostly in the peaceful village of Ban Tai. Now locals have to put up with sleepless nights caused by the Jungle Experience, Black Moon Party, Shiva Moon Family and Half Moon Party. If that wasn’t bad enough Ban Sabai on Ban Tai beach started a day after party. So a night of noise would be followed invariably by another day of techno and trance noise. Not being able to sleep for a 24 hour period can quickly run the nerves ragged.
The lackadaisical police force decided to do something. The discreet use of soft drugs had been replaced by the blatant use of hard drugs. It was bad for the reputation of the island. For several years in the 90s and early 2000s they did their best to discourage the use of drugs on the island. What they didn’t do was enforce the 2am national curfew on the selling of alcohol. It seemed the parties were just too lucrative.
It is interesting to note that the party goers that come to Koh Phangan don’t have the same notions as the backpackers and hippies who used to be the mainstay of tourism on the island. They want better accommodation and are prepared to pay for it. Thus, most of the rooms in Koh Phangan went from $3 a night to $40 a night. Again that was great news for many people on the island.
Today in 2011 the parties go on, they are still proliferating and the party scene is getting bigger. There are many fed up locals. Many of the hippy regulars to the island have moved on to different islands such as Koh Phayam. The good news is that the roads have improved and mains electricity has reached most of the beaches. And of course the beaches remain beautiful.