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.