Just one drink at Phi Phi Don’s half moon party

Another day was winding down on the tiny island of Phi Phi Don in Thailand. Joe and I were beginning to turn in for the night (only at about 9PM), when we grew restless due to thumping beat in the not-so-far distance. This piqued our interest because up until now, this island was exceptionally quiet and the nightlife, to our knowledge, was zilch.

We got dressed and scurried out of our poolside bungalow, trying to figure out where this music could possibly be coming from. Our accommodations were a tiny backpacker’s haven, just steps from the beach and virtually just a few dollars a night. It was also off-season, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Or so we thought.
As we traced the sounds of the blaring tunes, we came across a half-soaked flyer lying in a puddle on the ground, just steps away from the festivities.

Half moon party, it read. 2nite. 8PM – ?

We turned the corner and much to our delight, there was a tiny beachfront bar that was more crowded than an IHOP on free pancake day. Up until that point, I’d heard of Thailand’s full moon parties, but never a half moon party.

“What do you think?” I asked Joe. “Should we stay?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’m a bit tired. Maybe for just one drink?”

“Just one drink,” I agreed.

Shortly after arriving, a kid that probably couldn’t have been older than 8-years-old emerged from the back, with an expression on his face like he wasn’t screwing around. In his right hand, there was a large ball attached to a small chain on a long stick.  Then, even without an introduction or a brief speech on what we were about to witness, he used one of the lit tiki torches to ignite this ball he was carrying.

He suddenly began swinging, jumping, and even flipping through this large ball of fire, and for about 10 minutes or so. There were a couple times that he burned himself, let out a tiny howl, and then proceeded as if he only stubbed his toe on a coffee table. While highly entertaining, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was even legal. This kid wasn’t even as tall as my leg, but perhaps that gave him an extra skill set and made him more limber or aerodynamic or something. And he was so young. And there was nothing protecting any of us from getting hit in the face by a big ball of fire, should his little swingy device go rogue. But in Thailand, pretty much anything goes. When we noticed some of the embers hitting people in the face, we decided to cautiously take a few steps back to watch safely from a distance.

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Just when I thought the fire shenanigans were winding down, an announcement was made that it was limbo time. Excited at the opportunity to see how low I can go for the first time since I was maybe 12-years-old, I eagerly got in line.

And then they set the limbo bar ablaze.

Like a bunch of drunk moths to a flame, way too many people got excited to get in line for this potentially life threatening activity. I was pretty excited as well, but to observe, and not to partake.

Perhaps there weren’t enough 3rd degree burns occurring, but the limbo bar was quickly ignited and replaced with something even more ambitious: an extremely large, flaming jump rope that was being operated by two of the bar’s employees.

All was going well for a few minutes, and I was amazed at not only of the bravery of these intoxicated partygoers, but the incredible skills they seemed to possess. It’s like they were all part of some professional flaming jump rope team, and they were in town for the championship.

Suddenly, those thoughts were extinguished faster than that fiery jump rope when one pour soul got his legs tangled, screamed bloody murder, and collided with a tiki torch as both he and the torch toppled over. He certainly remembered to stop, drop, and roll, but that doesn’t do much good when you’re just rolling in more fire. Like I always say, it’s all fun and games until someone is burning to death. No problem, though—a quick dip in the ocean and he was golden.

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“Well, you certainly don’t have parties like this back in America,” I said.

Suddenly, a girl with frazzled blonde hair and thick glasses turned around. “You’re from America?” she asked. She sounded way too excited.

I nodded.  “What about you?”

“Sweden,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Amber,” I told her.

Before I could ask her for her name, she grabbed my hand and swiftly pulled me through the crowd.

“Hey guys, meet my new friend, her name is America!”

“Well, no, I’m from America, my name is—“

“Hey there, America!” they began greeting me. Well, okay. So I guess this was my designated name for the evening. Since I never did catch her name, I suppose I’ll just refer to her as Swede for the purpose of this story.

I noticed that Swede and most of her friends were drinking from these large buckets that you might see a kid build a sandcastle with. I was intrigued.  

Thai buckets
“Whatcha got there?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s a Thai bucket, the best thing ever,” she said.  “They come in different ways, but this is a shitload of whiskey, a shitload of rum, some Thai Redbull, and a little bit of cola. Meant for sharing with a lot of people. And it’s only like 300 baht.” (Note: Approximately $9 USD).

“Here, have a taste,” she insisted. “But this one is all mine.”

“Oh, that’s quite tasty,” I said. “I’m going to get me one of those.”

After Joe decided to get a much more wimpy modest drink for himself, I was left with this enormous, potentially lethal Thai bucket and with no one to share with. To be fair, I didn’t ask anyone if they wanted to share, but whatever. I didn’t have intentions of consuming this massive thing by myself, but it just sort of happened.

The rest of the night was a bit of a drunken blur, but I can tell you this—I’ve been to a lot of parties, yet nothing like that one. Thailand sure knows how to throw a terrific party, regardless of the current moon phase.  I remember a lot of dancing, a lot of late night swimming surrounded by people in their underwear, and a lot of people calling me “America.”

As people begun to disburse and the sun peaked over the horizon, we eventually found ourselves being some of the only people remaining, sprawled out on a large, chipped wooden swing that was loosely tied to a palm tree.

“So much for a quick visit,” Joe said, laughing.

“To be fair, I did only have the one drink,” I said, pointing to my empty Thai bucket.