Thailand has several names. One of them is the ‘land of the free’. This moniker is partly because Thailand was never taken over by the British or the Japanese, and partly because Thai people tend to value their independence. When first going to Thailand it can be hard to understand how a country with prevalent traditional Buddhist values also is the world center for transsexuals. It is not a permissive attitude like in Western Europe that explains this seeming contradiction, but rather a ‘live and let live’ philosophy – one’s own karma is one’s own business.
The land of the free can also refer to the fact that Thailand remains a fairly decentralized country. In the south particularly they speak their own dialect and tend to ignore or just pay lip service to the edicts coming from Bangkok.
An example of this is the parties around the small village of Ban Tai on the tropical island of Koh Phangan. Ever since the Full Moon Party in Haad Rin started attracting big crowds there has been a general proliferation of all night techno and trance parties on the island.
Ban Tai is conveniently placed on the road between Haad Rin and the main town of Thongsala. It is an area with a long stretch of white sand beach that has cheap accommodation and plenty of jungle. This is also where the turning to Than Sadet and Thong Nai Pan is located. Within 3 or 4 kilometers of this road are 3 parties – Shiva Moon, Jungle Experience and the Half Moon Party. All three parties happen once or twice a month. They typically cost between 300 and 500 Thai Baht to enter and serve alcohol and food throughout the night. The parties are attended by just a few hundred people at the most. This is nothing compared the Full Moon Party that attracts 30,000 people.
The music at all 3 events is hard techno and psy-trance. It is a sound that has become associated with Koh Phangan. The island now has a small cottage industry making dance music. The parties are generally well organized with plenty of fluorescent decoration, VDJs and fire dancing displays.
The problem is that over the years the sound systems have gotten bigger and louder. Despite being in the jungle the ‘bom bom’ noise from the bass can be clearly heard in Ban Tai village. The villagers find it hard to get to sleep as a consequence of the noise coming from the jungle.
The law in Thailand stipulates that alcohol must not be sold after 2am and that parties must shut down at this time. The Shiva Moon Party, Half Moon Party and Jungle Experience all break this rule and finish at 8am the following day. Locals have complained to the organizers and to the police. Neither group has made any attempt to improve the situation for the people of Ban Tai.
It is great that people are able to enjoy themselves and that they are given freedom of expression in Thailand. It is a peaceful country great for traveling. It does seem a shame, however, that this freedom is abused by party organizers who seem to focus on money rather than maintaining good relations with the Thais living in the area.