Thailand's Full Moon Party 25 years on

Once a peaceful gathering, the wild beach extravaganza now attracts 20,000 hardcore backpackers looking to party.


Koh Phangan, Thailand - According to those there in late 1988, the first Full Moon Party on Thailand's Koh Phangan was a peaceful gathering of travelers from around the world, the full moon providing the only light available at night on the remote island.

Today, 20,000 people regularly cram the shores of Haad Rin beach, attracted by cheap alcohol, readily available drugs and, of course, the lure of a party often referred to as a backpackers' rite of passage in Southeast Asia. 

This month's party was typical of what it has become 25 years later. A tawdry scene of increasingly intoxicated 20-somethings, each holding onto their buckets of booze as they stumble along the beach for hours on end. As the sun rose, hidden behind a grey blanket of clouds, the night's excesses were laid bear. Bodies littered the beach, semi conscious, surrounded by broken bottles and plastic buckets. 

Over the past few years there have been multiple reports of murders, sexual assault and widespread theft. Nothing serious was reported at this month's event, but the police tent on the beach - a new development recommended by the British Embassy - saw a steady stream of revellers in various states of distress throughout the night.

The following images are of one night on Haad Rin beach. Despite its many issues, Thailand's Full Moon Party remains quite the spectacle.