Brande saw them arrive when he was a young boy in the mid-80s. “Haad Rin was a small community then, just a few coconut huts and turtles on the beach,“ he says. “Travellers arrived on a longtail boat from Thong Sala. A buffalo carried their luggage to their bungalows.”
“It just got bigger. More musicians showed up. Bars opened, sound-systems appeared.”
Many of the visitors stayed on and on and brought music, heady conversations, and drugs.
“People came to party. There was a lot of weed and Sangsom and Mekong whisky. Some of our staff were from the mainland and brought heroin. My father tried to help these kids, but some died. A few foreigners also got addicted, but generally the islanders and travellers smoked weed. The hard drugs always came from the mainland. There seemed to be a lot of LSD and magic mushrooms around in the 90s.”
All this anarchic merry-making eventually moulded into what was to become the Full Moon Party.
“My father organised concerts. We had musicians from around the world performing in our restaurant. There was one disco at the time, set back from the beach, popular with local kids.”
By the end of the 80s, numerous full moon bonfires accompanied by live music made for other–worldly events.
“It just got bigger. More musicians showed up. Bars opened, sound-systems appeared. By 1992, the live music had all but stopped, DJs took over and the event changed into what it is now.”
A tropical right of passage
Sharon Kahati first visited Ko Pha Ngan in 2001—friends in hometown Tel Aviv had told him about the island—and the parties. Today he runs The Phanganist, the island’s primary media platform, which started as a digital newsletter covering the island’s party scene.