Saturday, 29 November 2014

Is the Party Over for Thailand?

Negative headlines keep hitting the news everyday. 'Thailand: Most Dangerous Tourist Destination' and 'All Parties Cancelled on Koh Phangan' are two recent danger signals for would-be Thailand travellers...

Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan - Thai Party for Me Photo Report November 2014
So with all the bad press, should backpackers still travel to Thailand?  Or should they just change their itinerary to avoid the party islands?

There will be many nervous tourists who reroute their trip, and choose other travel destinations instead. But party-going backpackers are a quick-witted and sturdy breed of traveller.  They understand the fast-moving nature of events in Asia.  They also know, intuitively, that bad things can happen to
holiday-makers anywhere.

Travellers who show respect to the culture they are in, and to themselves - by keeping their wits about them - will find their trip to Thailand just as enjoyable and wildly fulfilling as ever.  When
disaster isn't intentionally courted, the risks of travelling to Thailand are minimised no end.

Read more: How to Stay Safe on the Paradise Thai Islands

Full Moon Party Photo Reports via Thai Party for Me
But it's not just safety in Thailand... 
Aren't all parties on Koh Phangan cancelled?

The official stance is currently that all parties, except the Full Moon Party, are cancelled. As there are 3 Full Moon Parties in December - plus the 30 year anniversary of this legendary party taking place in January - there seems to be no reason to cancel a trip to Koh Phangan.

It is hard to say how malleable the Military Rules are this time.  Although it would be fool-hardy to dispute the official line, there is an underlying feeling on Koh Phangan that all parties in November only have been cancelled.  High season, and December in particular, is a different kettle of party-goers fish.

Don't be surprised to arrive on Koh Phangan to find business returning to normal
in high season.  If all the major parties still find themselves under restrictions, expect to find a few daytime gatherings - and sunset parties - taking place on a beach near you, instead.

Although it is fair to say that this time it is different, it also a true fact of life that in Thailand circumstances change as quickly as the tropical weather.  After the rainstorm, the sun will surely put his hat on... and come out to party again.

April 12th 2015: Songkran celebrations @ Half Moon Party, Koh Phangan
APRIL 2015 UPDATE:  This post was originally written in November 2014.  High season did indeed kick off with a vengeance, with parties happening at every opportunity.  Now April is here, the clampdown is coming into effect again...

The official statement is that as of April 5th 2015, all parties - except the Full Moon Party - are once again banned on the island of Koh Phangan.

Residents have been complaining about noise pollution, and a recent poll amongst Koh Phangan locals returned a major vote of 85% AGAINST having parties on Koh Phangan.

Mind-blowing figures, especially when you factor in that tourism brings in 7 million baht to the Koh Phangan economy every year.

So the million baht question seems to be: without parties, will the tourists still come? And is noise pollution a more important issue to the locals than revenue streams? 

Only time will tell... And as always, nothing is quite as it appears on Koh Phangan. 
The get-out clause, as reported by Thai PBS, may be this:
"However, special permission would be required for additional parties to be held."

If the photo of the huge crowd at the Half Moon Festival last night are anything to go by, one would have to say... the party isn't over just yet.  Watch this space!

April 13th 2015 

Cultural attitudes and facts from Full Moon Party island Koh Phangan