TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2006. HAAT RIN NOK (SUNRISE BEACH), KOH PHA NGAN, THAILAND. I've arrived at the epicenter of the Full Moon Party. My accommodation is the new Sunrise Resort, just a few steps from the beach, but right in the thick of things (1500 THB; $40). My accommodation is on the high side, but I decided to splurge a bit. Also, prices skyrocket near the date of the Full Moon Party. My room would normally go for 1000 THB. Haat Rin is just as described in the guidebooks: Khao San Road on the beach. At the moment, it's populated by mostly young Western Europeans--no families or strollers here.
I'm up at dawn tomorrow to do two dives at Sail Rock (Lotus Diving 2300 THB; $61), a spectacular rock formation that rises out of the sea north of Koh Pha Ngan. This wall dive is considered the premiere dive site in Thailand.
On a sad but related note, Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter, died yesterday after being stabbed by a stingray while diving the Great Barrier Reef. He was a great educator and entertainer. My fellow Aussies and the world are saddened by his loss. For many, he was the face of Australia. Mate, you changed the world for better and will be missed.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2006. KOH PHA NGAN, THAILAND. I decided to switch accommodations early this morning due to the noise at Sunrise Resort. I have moved to Phangan Bayshore Resort, just next door (2,000 THB; $53); It's a little more expensive, but you get a separate bungalow, refrigerator, satellite tv, deck, and a/c. Also, the location is more secluded and quiet.
After switching accommodations, I went diving at Sail Rock, a pinnacle formation that rises out of the sea north of Koh Pha Ngan. My buddy diver was Ido from Israel and our dive master was George from Scotland. On the dives, we saw lots of different coral and fish including Angel, Grouper, Scorpion, and Puffer, to name a few. Visibility was quite good at about 20 meters. The highlights were swimming through the famous "chimney" (a narrow vertical cave) and taking a breath of fresh air from a small underwater alcove (big enough to fit your head). (First Dive: Max. depth 30.0 meters; 100 feet; Dive time: 42 min; Second Dive: Max. depth 15 meters; 45 feet; Dive time: 42 min.) Sail Rock is definitely worth diving, but it was a little boring after the excitement of my dives a few days ago off of Koh Tao (Champhon and White Rock).
Switching accommodations turned out to be a good move as heavy monsoonal rains came down in the evening causing a power outage. My new accommodation apparently has a backup generator. So while most everywhere else was dark (including my old accommodation), my resort was operating business as usual. The rains did, however, put a damper on the usual raucous evenings here. Hopefully, it will clear up for tomorrow night's Full Moon Party.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2006. HAAT RIN NOK (SUNRISE BEACH), KOH PHA NGAN, THAILAND. At Tiger Leaping Gorge, China, I met Stephanie and Caroline, two Belgiums. We kept in contact as we were all heading to Thailand, Stephanie and Caroline via Vietnam and me via Laos. Last night, Stephanie and Caroline met me at my bungalow and we headed out to the beach for the Full Moon Party. It was pretty much wall-to-wall people drinking and dancing on the beach, and generally having a good time. Various venues along the beach played a variety of music from trance to pop to hip-hop. This party was not unlike ones on Mykonos, Greece, except in Mykonos the party is nonstop 24/7 whereas here it's once a month at night. The Belgiums partied with me until 2 a.m. before returning to their accommodation on another part of the island; I lasted until 4 a.m. before calling it a night. Based on the number of bodies passed out on the beach, many did not last as long.
Tomorrow, I head to the west coast of Malaysia, specifically Georgetown on the island of Penang.