Every year Chiang Mai hosts their version of the famous Haad Rin backpacker right of passage, the Full Moon Party. There’s no beach in these here mountains so it’s hosted at the lake out of town.
Ann, the lovely manager of our guesthouse, loves to take Farang with her on outings around town. I’ve tagged along for Thai herbal steam, dinner in the night market and a massage or two. Despite my slight misgivings, an invitation was extended to ‘it’s like a full moon party but not really’ Smile Party and accepted. I checked online and it didn’t sound so bad. Boy Blues Band, an awesome group from a blues bar I’ve been known to frequent in Chiang Mai was billed, along with a bunch of other Thai bands I’ve never heard of. And a fire display. I love fire.
A red flag would have been waving high in the air screaming at me if I had taken note of just two small things:
1) We were leaving for the party at 10pm
2) Ann is 25 years old and I’m, well…not 25 years old
I have never been one to start a night after 10pm. Even at university, my friends and I preferred to hit the pubs for happy hour, followed by dancing, clubs or whatever, and hit the sack around midnight, to wake nicely at 10am with no hangover whatsover. But I’m older now so in preparation for Smile, Barry had a nap after dinner and lay around reading my book.
At 10pm we duly met Ann, her brother, two guests from Lebanon (who were very cleverly already trollied) and a guy from Germany. Ann was very excited about us joining her so I threw my misgivings aside.
Possibly the best part of the night followed – two shots of Thai whiskey and cramming seven people into one tuk tuk. The tuk tuk made it about 500 metres before the engine packed it in and we were kicked out.
But our lovely driver returned with a colleague to get us all into town to Zoe’s bar. We exchanged 300 baht each for a ticket and piled into a free Songthaew (red taxi) for the half hour trip to the lake. Our German friend had a kebab. It looked like a really good one and not having one myself (and a beer or two for the ride) is still one of my biggest regrets of the night.
You know, and going.
We got to the lake, our tickets were punched, our wrists were stamped and we had a plastic Smile Party wristband clipped to us. No mistaking what we were doing for the night then.
We exchanged money for coupons for the bar, exchanged coupons for beers and got coupons in change. Really? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to buy a coupon for a beer? Chang in a can was the only beer available. Not my favourite but needs must and we put a few away over the course of the night. Probably should have drunk vodka buckets instead.
The party area itself felt like a (very) mini festival. Two bar areas (not enough people that you had to queue for a long time though so that’s a plus), a DJ area (if you were on the edge you could hear the band), a stage for the live band and a spot for the pyromaniacs.
The pyro stuff was actually pretty cool. A limbo bar on fire and drunken Thais and expats bending their way underneath, escaping near death or burning, lighting cigarettes halfway through. Health and safety? Bah.
The band. Well, the band were truly awful. Kind of like bad karaoke but louder. And with drums. More Chang required. The DJ area was not an improvement. But the lady with the baby in her arms must have thought it was educational.
The second band, the reggae dudes were better. Downed another Chang and started to sway with the music. Sometimes you just have to roll with it and tell yourself you’re having a good time. Mostly, you will. Or at least not a miserable night.
We did our best but called it a night around 2pm and exchanged our leftover 20 baht coupons we received as ‘change’ for actual baht (really, could they have had a more convoluted system?).
Red taxi. Tuk tuk. Bed. Chang-over.
Ann and the other farangs, however, had an awesome time and dragged themselves home around 5.30am.
I believe they were drinking vodka buckets. About eight of them. Each. Next time I’ll learn. Go for buckets or go home.
Sorry my pictures are truly awful. You get the idea.