First published 9th September 2010
In this week’s G2 magazine Patrick Kingsley wrote an article surrounding Thailand’s Full Moon Party in connection with gap year travellers, and I really wish he hadn’t.
The article draws attention to the differences between tourists and backpackers, which is huge, but the differences were mostly stated by interviewees – all backpackers. It’s true, it takes a backpacker to define one as different from a tourist, and these differences need to be hammered home sometimes. All this article did was blend the two together, as if Kingsley himself was just reporting what he was told, not was he believed to be true.
Summed up, the article basically says that travellers who attend the FMP aren’t real backpackers, just tourists claiming to be so, and that real backpackers are only interested in the culture of a country, not a beach full of bars likened to Ibiza. The fact is, if someone accurately described themselves as hardworking; a lawyer for instance, but then felt like going out for a few drinks on a Friday night, that wouldn’t strip them of being a lawyer, it’s just a form of relaxing. It’s the same for backpackers, they see the Full Moon Party as a perfect way to end their travels after long months or a year of travelling and taking in as much culture as possible in that time. The people interviewed here weren’t tourists who’d spent a week lying on a beach reading Hello magazine, they simply knew their travels were coming to an end and knew this is the one place in Thailand they could meet up with the friends they’d made one last time before going home. More to the point, once they are home they must settle back into English culture again, which can be a major shock to the system.
Going out once you’re back home can leave you standing in your city centre at night looking around at drunks being sick outside shop windows, starting fights or simply putting on a brilliant display of looking like an uncivilised idiot, walking barefoot because their feet hurt while their dresses are gathered around their waste, having failed to contain both top and bottom parts of their bodies, while you’re there simply longing for some culture again. The Full Moon Party can be seen as a way of easing yourself back into this garish scene.
I wouldn’t go to the Full Moon Party myself, but when I am travelling I wouldn’t want to be condemned as a tourist for wanting a night off to meet up with friends and have a few drinks, and if for others that means waking up on a beach the next morning with the remainder of a shroom milkshake next to you, then why the hell not, it’s their year off after all.