Saturday, 25 July 2009

Full Moon Party... Glastonbury meets Ibiza, every month...

I've avoided all mention of Koh Pha Ngan's notorious
FMP in the year since I've been writing this blog, simply because I've had no direct experience of it, nor a desire to acquire any. But I've seen my children, various younger relatives and innumerable hotel guests return from the event, wasted and daubed in florescent body paint, having lost their shoes or shirts or phone. I've heard their stories and seen their blurry photos to have a much better idea of what goes on than most of you reading this. I'm qualified.

What was popularized by backpacker visitors to the islands has since become a right of passage for many hedonist travelers to SE Asia and depending on the season, between 10,000 and 40,000 can attend the monthly FMP.

Koh Pha Ngan, the island silhouette visible across the bay from any of our rooms, has been hosting the FMP for over twenty years. In the late eighties it was a very different affair with small groups of dread-locked free spirits (that a decade earlier would have been called hippies), a guitar or two, cassette-player and a bonfire on Haad Rin beach. The ninety's saw the FMP grow and commercialize and in the past decade the introduction of professional, often international, DJs.

The event is a major, perhaps the principal source of income for Haad Rin's commercial community who, in recent years have attempted to exploit the concept with Black Moon and Half Moon parties for those sybarites that missed the boat (sorry).

The event kicks-off shortly after dusk, as the moon rises. Small tables are set out on the beach before the dance action starts and it gets too crowded for safety for a chance to watch the fire-twirlers and jugglers.

Drinks of choice are beer or buckets - vodka or Sangsom, a Thai rum, with Coke or Red Bull. After a couple of these, and in the swing of it, it's probably time for a bit of luminous body paint.

So adorned and sufficiently anesthetized, next, a wander up the beach to get one's brain fried by the wall of competing sound. Don't get me wrong. I like drinking, partying, beaches and being around young people. For me the awfulness of the FMP is the thought of the 15 or so competing sound stages belting out psy-trance, techno, hip-hop, drum/bass and house (whatever they all are) simultaneously. Each bar determined to be the loudest. Beaches in general offer very little in the way of acoustic properties, so the sound systems consist of large powerful walls of speakers which throw sound out towards the beach dancers, and fill me with horror as I imagine the cacophony.

The party ends, theoretically, with sunrise. But so many partygoers are still left on the beach awaiting a speedboat back to Samui the following morning, without a pair of sunglasses between them, a torpid, squinty-eyed version can still continue.

Party schedules for 2009 - 2010, tips, important do's and don'ts, ferry or speedboat details and much more information can be found here and here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

CNN poll rates Thailand best value for money, but is it safe?

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reports on CNN International's recently announced results of its Online Consumer Survey (OCS) on Travel and Tourism which reveals that Thailand was chosen as representing the best value for money for travellers in the Asia Pacific region. The survey conducted across CNN English websites had more than 5,000 respondents globally. Thailand came out as the best value in Asia-Pacific for respondents over China in second place and India in third.

The comprehensive survey also revealed that although times are tough, the recession hasn’t reduced people’s desire to travel. On the contrary, people are trading down, but not trading out, and not compromising their experience.

In 2008, Thailand welcomed a total of 14.5 million international visitors, of which 60 per cent were repeat visitors. According to the US Department of State, the crime threat in Bangkok remains lower than that in many American cities and violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare, but when such crimes do happen they seem to generate an inordinate amount of negative press and we are frequently asked by friends, relatives and prospective hotel guests
"Is Thailand safe?"

The overwhelming majority of these trips were safe and without any negative incident. However, foreign governments do urge their citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while travelling overseas and use the same common sense and sound judgement when abroad as they would at home.

TATs recently published comprehensive -
Personal Safety & Well-being FAQs is as complete a guide and source of safety, security and scam avoidance information for visitors as I've seen anywhere and hope that prospective vacationers to this beautiful country recognize its value and adopt TAT's suggestions.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Samui's infrastructure - finally some investment...

Welcome news this week that Thailand’s Ministry of Finance has allocated a budget of Bt 900 million (US$25.7 million) over three years to redevelop and upgrade Samui's infrastructure.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij and his deputy both visited Koh Samui recently to observe for themselves the perpetual round of repairs and reconstruction of the 70 kilometre ring road that circles the island. Most damage to Samui's roads is caused by the unimagined growth in vehicle traffic in recent years aggravated by frequent flooding and the accompanying soil run-off that fills the drains faster than they can be emptied.

Deforestation associated with tourism related developments that themselves often obstruct or divert natural watercourses cause flooding after just a few hours of monsoonal downpour.
We've seen jet-skis used in waist deep water just up the road in Bangrak and many parts of the ring road can quickly become impassable by anything other than trucks. A day's heavy rain turns Chaweng into an open sewer.

Investment in Samui's infrastructure cannot arrive too soon.
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