March 28th, 2002
Along with me was a beautiful blond girl from California I met in my last South American adventure. The first thing that happened to us was the loss of her luggage and a wait at the Koh Samui airport, which in my opinion was more like a tiki-lounge. If it weren’t so blazingly hot and humid, I wouldn’t have minded languishing there all afternoon. After the retrieval of our lost bag from the next flight we were off to the main town of Chewang. There we found ourselves in the Old West, with tuk-tuks replacing horses and girlie-bars in the place of saloons, the chaotic and unruly arrangement of the town and its local folk were all reminiscent of a cowboy movie blended with a bad porno intro. After a walk around town and the swindling of a red-bull T or two, we were ready to hit the party at Rocky Bay.
I was astonished at the natural beauty of this beach dance venue. In my travels through the nearly 50 countries to date, I have played in only a handful of places that rivaled the pure wonder I felt when I walked over the crest of the hill that opened up into a beachfront with swollen rolling waves orchestrally breaking onto a beach of reclined groovers and shakers. Just at the edge of the surf, were people happily lounging around on blankets waiting for the party to get going. There were several full-liquor bars, and ganja smokers getting irie up on the overlooking rocks to the right of the stage area. I thought to myself that there could not have been more perfect ingredients to what was to be a brilliant evening in Thailand. I was quite wrong.
Many of you may not be aware of the political struggles involved in just about every DJ booth. Timeslots have always been a point of debate in these ‘power struggles’ but having been considered a veteran DJ for the past few years, I did not typically partake in such events anymore. I was suddenly transported back into the boot-camp days of DJing, where I had to pine and beg to play sometime before 9am the following day (even though I was supposedly the headliner that night). Aside from the fact that 9 DJs were asked to play in a time arrangement that would only have possibly allowed for 6, another very famous (and very nice I might add) DJ by the name of Colin Dale arrived unannounced. To bring all of this confusion to a head, some local British bloke who thought everyone was really enjoying his music decided that no one else (including the headliner) should get to play while he was still standing on two feet. After repeatedly being told to get the hell off the dex by the promoter, the dancers, the other DJs and everyone else save Grandma Sue, this wanker was still handing out the bird like candy on Halloween to all of us. About three hours into his delusion of grandeur he was finally arrested by the barrel of a 45 caliber handgun unceremoniously slammed into his temple. That handgun was attached to the arm of a 17 year old Thai, who claimed to be the bodyguard of the owner of the venue (who wasn’t around to sort out the confusion himself). Now this boy was quite nice to me and kept egging me on to play once the asshole was dispatched from the booth saying: “now you play good music, I like very much!”. I fully appreciated his intent on trying to help me but I emphatically insisted that he not do such things. I had played in nearly 1000 venues in various states of organization and never had I ever had to worry about DJ booth politics coming to the point of gunfire (violence was uncommon but definitely a presence in ‘the struggle’ to make everyone happy in the lineup). As I nervously que’d up the next track I couldn’t shake the thought from my mind that someone out there might not like what I was playing, and could possibly decide to take matters into their own hands. The crowd accepted my music with verve and I answered with hard hitting beats, though I never quite found my usual comfort zone that night.
All in all I thought Koh Samui was one of the most interesting and beautiful places I had ever visited. My stay in Coconut Grove couldn’t have been more perfect, and a jeep rental allowed me to circle the island in a day’s drive, which I enthusiastically recommended to everyone I met that trip. Along the way I found quiet fishing villages on the far side from Chewang, visited the Big Buddha, and took an elephant trek through the jungle to a pristine waterfall. I would not have traded my Samui experience for anything else in the world at that point.
A few mornings later I said goodbye to Koh Samui and took a speedboat to Ko Phangan that was crammed with more baggage and people than should’ve been physically possible, safety was not even an afterthought.
Upon arrival I spent the next week exploring the wonders that Ko Phangan had to offer, with its rugged and sometimes inexplicably terminal roads to its colorful reef systems and the brazen nightlife of Haadrin. I stayed up-island quite a ways in a bungalow park called Haad Son, which was the main reason I had such a wonderful experience on the island. The prices were very affordable by any standards, and the staff there were among the kindest and most accommodating bunch of people I had met in all my travels. I compared this experience to that which I had seen of other travelers’ stay in Haadrin and thanked the gods (well actually my mate who set me up there) that I was able to have both the peace and tranquility of true Thai island life and the excitement of traveling to Haadrin for a night out or two (the hills on a moto there are an adventure in themselves).
The night had arrived. It was the famous full moon party in Haadrin, and I was set to play at Paradise Bungalows (apparently the site of the original full moon party, started approx. 15 years ago). Nothing really compares to the gong-show that was the full moon party. A stretch of beach a half mile long lined with about 18 bungalow parks, all complete with their own soundsystems and themes, with everything from Drum and Bass to Trance and Tech House blaring clashingly together in a hodgepodge of musical orgy. And orgy was not far from an appropriate description of the peoples involved as well. Boats backed up onto the shore had boozers hanging off the bows, and boogeyers shook their tail feathers thigh-deep in the calm waters just off shore. Fire-breathing, overdoses, beach sex, and total gluttonous consumption was simultaneously partaken by members of just about every nation on Earth. Oh yeah, and people were dancing too.
From what I can piece back together from that night…. I had a splendid time and paid handsomely for it when I had to wait on standby with a hundred other hung over, drunk or high partyers the next day, trying to get a flight out of Samui back to Bangkok. I was thinking by then that a prime word of advice to our readers would be to book your return flight ahead of time (note that I am invariably a strict subscriber to the policy of playing it by year, with this exception!).
After about 72 hours without sleep I finally made it back to my hotel room in Bangkok and found out with a phone call back to Ko Phangan that the after party from the Full Moon was still going. If I had had the time or the physical ability to consume more alcohol, I would have liked to hang around the islands for a bit longer, but the aircon and the cleanliness (yes I was actually cleaner!) of Bangkok had beckoned me back to the city after a week and a half of what I truly must say was a visit to another planet.
The islands in the gulf of Thailand are a must see for travelers of any age or affluence. The kaleidoscopic facets of Thai life are no more apparent in any other part of the country that I have ever visited.
Entry Filed under: Travel