By Alexandra Ryan
Just after the sun sets I board a ferry boat that is packed to capacity. I sit under the twinkling night sky, the warm December air still clinging to my skin. I twist the cap clockwise, breaking the aluminum seal, cracking open the first of many bottles for the weekend. At one point my friend and I join a giant group of at least twenty people playing King’s Cup. The majority of our new boat friends are Australian. They have all made the journey here just for this party. This weekend is pulling my generation in from around the world. It is pulling me in.
Before we arrive in Koh Phangan, I take a moment to lay back and relax, to collect myself before I am hit with what is coming. I rest my head on my frayed Indian tribal print shoulder bag. The moon has consumed the sky and its giant face is glowing orange with excitement. We arrive to an island where everyone has come to party. All morals and standards of behavior have been left at the ferry boarding dock, if not far before that. We drop our stuff off at a friend’s hotel, since I opted out of booking my own for the night, and we make our way to the Full Moon party.
Total madness begins.
Reality was burning down as the strangest new wonderland was growing with the progression of the night. As I walk down the streets it was as if I was running from anything I knew as normal. I am at the biggest beach party in the world. Hula hoops. Water slides. Sparklers. Fire crackers. People breaking open glow sticks and shaking them all over those who surrounded them, showering glowing neon rain on their friends. Blinking giant plastic bows on top of heads. Indian headdresses. Running shorts and matching neon sweat bands. Millions of shirts with some arrangement of “Full Moon/ New Years” printed on them. Buckets of alcohol. Minimal to no clothing. More alcohol. Stages covered in dancing bodies. People swarming all over the beach. Every street in town leading to the sand. A constant flow of bodies. Movement in every direction. Different music entering each ear. Music competing to be louder than the next. Mushroom mountain. Dubstep pulsing through my body. Bumping into every person I pass. Shoulders brushing strangers’ bodies. People grabbing you. Hugging you. Love everywhere. So many half clothed bodies. Fire signs. Fire jump ropes. Fire works tearing through the sky. Glow sticks. Strobe lights and green lasers cutting through clouds of smoke. Fog machines allowing bodies to hide in the rolling blanket. Painted arms, painted bellies, painted faces. A representative for every country all in one place.
Anything you wanted could be found. Anything you dreamed of somehow became possible. It was as if I entered another dimension and all signs of reality blew away in the warm December breeze. Sprinkles of light falling from the sky. The fireworks left stains against the purple night. They kept coming and coming. A never-ending storm of glittering color lighting up everyone’s faces and making the crowd’s eyes shine.
I squeezed neon paint into my palm and rubbed my hands together so that the entire inside of my hands were glowing as I danced, watching as they left trails in the air. It was for my entertainment as much as anyone around me.
A stranger approaches me as I dance in my own world. He places a giant ring of glow sticks around my neck and tells me, “I can tell you are not like other full moon girls, you are different. You are beautiful. Please keep dancing.” I look at his face and in an instant he is gone. I will never see this man again. I am stuck in slow motion, watching from outside as my body keeps twirling, and everything around me is spinning so fast all focus is lost.
Dance. Dance. Dance. Bass. Bass. Heart is pumping. Glowing lights. Spinning world. Lose yourself in the color. The blur. Turn around again and again and again. Body elevated. Music lifts me off the ground. Floating in this daze of bliss. And then it happens.
The sun is already here. Where did the night just go?
A sunrise revealing the damage of the night. A beach destroyed. The beauty of what just took place fading, as reality of daylight takes over. I leave my sunglasses on.
A boat ride back to Had Yuan, the beach where we have reservations for the following night. Before our boat can dock I jump into the water. Good morning Saturday. Thank you Friday night. You have left me with memories I will never forget.
I swim to the sand, stumble to a lounge chair and pass out under the sun until lunchtime.
This is my recovery from my first night of celebration.
I spend all of Saturday and Sunday on the beach. I have nothing else that is required of me. I laugh and lounge the days away. I drink whiskey as I read American Psycho. When I tire of this I put my ipod in and melt back into another world.
Sunday night I slip away from the bar we are at, Peace and Love, and let my body sink into a damp hammock. I want a moment of solitude to think about this past year. Who I have been. Who I could have been. But more importantly, who I want to be in the coming year. The New Year isn’t about making outrageous resolutions that will fade with the winter weather, but rather about consciously thinking about who you want to be as life evolves. I didn’t make a resolution, but rather a commitment to be more involved in the communities I live in, and to give back to the places and people that are providing me with all that I have.
Monday is the last day of the year and it is storming when I awake. Waves are crashing against the rocks that our bungalow is propped up on. The rickety stick bridge we have to walk is being smashed and sprayed by the angry ocean. The palm trees on the sand dance with such force that I am convinced they share the same souls as people I met Friday night. The storm is ready to shake the last moments of the year with its relentless power. This presents a small hurdle, since we must take a boat ride again to get back to Haad Rin, for the New Years Eve full moon extravaganza. The storm gets more and more wild until the girls and I are starting to debate if it’s worth leaving our location for a destination that could end up being a disaster. I stand strongly in favor of going. This is an event that people travel to Thailand to attend. I will not miss it.
The sun has just set and we have the last moments of daylight as we jump on a small boat, packed to capacity with foreigners. It takes an entire group of men to push the motorboat into the ocean, where we then charge against waves much too large for this boat to handle. It jumps out of the water, every time leaping over the waves, in danger of tipping over or sinking. This is total and utter madness. My friends are terrified. I am laughing hysterically. Salt water sprays my face, drenches my body, and I am a child again. This is the wildest ride of Splash Mountain I have ever been on. People are screaming. Gripping anything they can. My friend’s hand has a death grip on my thigh. I don’t know if she is aware of this. The boat driver stands on a seat as he steers the boat from a giant metal rod coming out of the engine. The ride is so rough and wild I cannot believe I did not fly out of the boat. The fact he is standing makes him a hero.
We arrive to a scene even more insane than the Full Moon party. We find a bar and I dress my body as well as my two friends’ bodies with neon paint. I am a canvas of glowing multicolored triangles that begin to grow at my feet, crawl up my leg, and twist onto my arm and face. Tiny glowing green dots decorate the area below my eyes. This is my war paint for when I battle reality under the influence of the incoming substances. I am a creature of the night. My friends are wrapped in vines and flowers, twists and twirls. Tattooed in cursive paint is the word, “love,” glowing upon their skin. I have found my passion in life. This is my calling. This is what I want to be doing. A body paint artist with a bag full of neon glowing jars of paint, who decorates people for the wildest nights of their lives. The energy was pulsing through the town. Fire works could be heard blasting over the music. My friend said it best, this is the partier’s pilgrimage. The biggest party in South East Asia. The colors. The noise. The taste. The feel. And most of all, the smell of the ocean and fire and 50,000 bodies.
The sensory overload left me numb. How do you explain taking in so much that you no longer feel anything anymore? Everything is not enough. Excess. Impulse. Where’s the good in being good? I may have well spent the weekend eating diamonds. It was insanity, and in it I found the gravity and focus that I needed to get my new year started. I kiss you goodbye, year of my past. Thank you.
The following morning I arrive at the dock where you buy your ferry tickets. It was packed with people trying to make their way off the island from the night before. Bodies were strewn all across the floor and I quickly searched out an empty spot and went and passed out on the ground against a wall. The concrete was hard, cold and filthy, and I couldn’t have been happier to just stop. Just for a second. To close my eyes. To let my mind go blank behind my eye lids that were glowing from the firework patterns. The never ending party. It takes its toll. Youth is incredible and I thank my body for allowing me to put it through the things that I do.
Traveling home on the first day of the year gives me hours to think about the events that just took place. What was real and what wasn’t? How many amazing beautiful people did I just meet, who I will never cross paths with again? How many times was reality lost as music took a hold of my world? How many times was I hugged and squeezed as someone shouted “Happy New Year” in my face. I am still covered in body paint, but I have ditched any glowing jewelry. I have a headband of yellow daisies wrapped around my forehead, holding down hair that is full of sand, and glitter and gold that fell from the sky. I look down at my feet. Neither of the shoes on them are mine. Neither match.
Hello New Year. May you be as sweet, kind, exciting and as full of adventure as this past year, and life in general, has been to me.
Allie combined her love of foreign cultures, spontaneous adventures, working with children and art, and let it carry her to Thailand, where she worked as a kindergarden teacher. After finishing the year in Thailand, she moved to Japan, and currently works at an international preschool, where she started the school’s first blog. Her blog, Blue Eyed Sensei, documents a foreigner’s experience in a Japanese school. She documents her other adventures at Taking Up Your Precious Time.