“Celebrate we will, because life is short but sweet for certain.”
— Dave Matthews Band, lyrics from “Two Step”
Because it’s our birthday here at the Displaced Nation, I’ve been having a think about my favorite parties from around the world. I’ve been to quite a few!
There are some I’ll never forget, some I wish I could forget — and some I’m still hoping to experience…
So today I present my top five picks of parties that I wish could be held every year in my own back yard, as it were, for my immediate attending pleasure.
For my first choice, there is simply no contest:
1) The Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan, Thailand)
This Full Moon Party is the bash to end them all. Upwards of 20,000 crowd the Haad Rin beach, on the southern tip of Koh Phangan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. The party is so epic it has spawned imitators all around the world (especially in Thailand). There are people twirling fire sticks and jumping through fire hoops. Bars line the beach, and vast amounts of alcohol in plastic buckets fuels frantic dancing right through ‘till dawn — and beyond.
By the morning the survivors, usually the most party-savvy (or those who’ve paced their drinking), head off around the coast to start the after-party!
Everyone else falls into two categories:
- Those who made it home before they passed out, in which case they’ll have nothing worse than a hangover and the occasional burn mark as souvenirs.
- Those who collapsed on the sand mid-party. These unfortunates most likely will have been robbed of everything — including clothes. They face the unenviable task of getting home with no money, no car/bike keys, a raging headaches and a crippling sunburn. That, and the scorn of local taxi drivers, who tend to frown on naked passengers. (You only make this mistake once!)
And if this Full Moon bash is slightly too hard-core and crowded for your tastes, the enterprising organizers have come up with lesser parties for every week of the year: Black Moon, Half Moon, Blue Moon…along with the occasional Jungle Party scattered between.
Go there. Do it. Your liver will never be the same again!
TONY’S TIP: Don’t do drugs. Plain-clothed cops roam the beach, and have been known to try and sell drugs to unsuspecting tourists — and then arrest them if they agree to buy!
From one that’s free to all to one that’s recently become very hard to get to:
2) Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)
Burning Man, a week-long event that pays tribute to radical self-expression, began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice. It is now so popular that it’s running a lottery system to see who gets to go. If you get the chance, it has to be one of the best New-Age festivals around: a mix of art, performance, story-telling, meeting, camping and surviving, all under the relentless desert sun (or the freezing desert night!).
Oh, did I mention? It’s in the desert.
Self-sufficiency is the key. Leave no trace. Meet up with like-minded, free spirited people from all over the world, and burn a gigantic man-shaped bonfire with them. Then cover yourself with body paint and go do something arty.
Sounds like heaven, eh?
Alas, my friends at Technomadia (a pair of technology-enable nomads) couldn’t get tickets this time, despite being an organizational hub for a whole “sect” of attendees over the last few years. As far as I know, the policy of offering tickets via lottery has been universally hated, and is under review.
The festival starts the last week in August, and the namesake (giant burning man) event takes place on the Saturday night before Labor Day.
And now to one that’s still just about doable:
3) Glastonbury! (Glastonbury, Somerset, UK)
Depending on your point of view, the Glastonbury Festival can be seen as one of the most famous music festivals in the world, with five days of top acts for every taste … or a deafening week camping in a muddy field in England!
I had to include it, because (to my shame) I’ve still never been — despite the fact it’s held less than 15 miles from the house where I grew up! Yup — I lived close enough to smell the unwashed hairy hippies! (I’ve been to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan but not to the Glastonbury Festival — now is that displaced, or what?)
But tickets are very expensive, and you’ve got to be quick. I happened to be home visiting someone in hospital on the day the tix went on sale in 2011. There was a whole ward full of people sitting there on laptops, hitting the refresh button constantly, trying to buy them — only three (out of 14) managed it!
Those lucky few contended with the notoriously poor English weather, which turned last year’s festival into a filthy quagmire — but I expect they were far too stoned to care!
TONY’S TIP: Get in FREE as a volunteer litter picker. It’s getting tougher though — you have to join a festival staff agency and convince them you actually plan to pick up litter, instead of doing what most of the staff end up doing: watching bands and getting high!
Moving right along…is it cheating to have another one from Thailand? Well if it is, I don’t care, as this one is unmissable:
4) Songkran (Thailand)
The Thai New Year festival, known as Songkran, is the most fun you’ll ever have with your clothes on. (Anyone who’s traveling in Southeast Asia, hurry up: it’s held this week, April 13-15.) Just don’t expect your clothes to survive the ordeal! This country-wide water fight comes to a head in the cramped city streets, where tourists and locals stand toe to toe — and try to drown each other! Traffic snarls every road, and from the back of every truck buckets of water are being flung.
The year I attended (I was living in Bangkok), I drove up to a policeman and threw a water balloon right in his face — the only time I’ve done that in my life! You gotta watch out for those cops, though — they’re usually packing…super-soakers! The long squirt of the law should never be underestimated; not least because these guys have more practice at firing!
Drinking is a big part of the fun in the touristy areas of Bangkok, as is the throwing of flour, food coloring, dyes and pastes of many kinds — hence the clothes warning. But even if you ruin your clothes, believe me, it’s worth it!
And then, there is the granddaddy of them all…
5) The celebration to mark the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar (Belize)
This has to be most exclusive event on the planet. Attend this year’s Maya Winter Solstice in Chaa Creek, Belize, and you’ll own ultimate bragging rights — it’s as simple as that.
Brangelina wedding? Pah, there’ll be another one. Maybe two.
Meteorites will strike, popes will die, entire nations will rise in triumphant revolution, and then fall — again and again and again.
But the end of the Mesoamerican/Maya/Mayan Long Count calendar will only ever happen once, because a) the first one has taken 5,200 years, and b) there’s no ancient Mayans left to do another count. So even if you live to be a million, you still won’t get to see this party again!
Not to mention, the world is going to end.
Joke! In fact, no one knows what the end of the long count signified to the Mayans — other than it being time to buy a new calendar. There is NO apocalyptic event prophesied in their culture, and never was. But it does make you think — just why did they pick the winter solstice, 21st December 2012, for the end of their five-millennia-long cycle?
Don’t you want to know? I do!
So that’s where I’ll be. Although I may have to sell my house to afford the ticket. And…I don’t own a house.
So what have I missed out, eh? This is a great big world full or parties and festivals — what are your favorites? And why are they so great?
Let me know in the comments!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad interview with author Wendy Williams (she recently contributed a popular guest post to The Displaced Nation).