Psytrance on Koh Phangan: A new start after years of challengesThe Psytrance scene in Thailand experienced a tough four-year dry spell during the pandemic because Thailand was practically closed to foreigners for an extended period of time.
Travel was subject to extreme restrictions and parties did take place, but not with the usual number of people. Unvaccinated people had to live in quarantine for up to 17 days in a hotel room for a horrendous amount of money before they were allowed to travel freely. Vaccinated people were able to leave the hotel since 2 years ago with one night in quarantine and were able to travel around Thailand. Nevertheless, there were severe restrictions, like almost everywhere else in the world. The scars from this time can still be seen in many places in Thailand and also in Koh Phangan – closed bars, resorts and locations that no longer exist. The jungle quickly overgrows everything.
There has been a lot of renovation, construction, renting and letting – and the psytrance hotspot Koh Phangan is experiencing a new spring, not least due to the war in Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians are seeking escape from the madness going on in Europe and ways to survive in paradise until this senseless war is finally over.
The Psytrance scene in Thailand has not only recovered in 2023 but is fully relaunched and thriving like never before. The recent legalization of cannabis, even for recreational stoners without a medical reason, has certainly played its part. It is still unclear how long the end oft he cannabis prohibition will last in future.
Unfortunately, the Experience Festival in Ko Tao had to pause for 4 years and it is not yet certain whether it will take place again in 2024/25, say Leung from the Ban Sabaii family and Jo Moontribe in Koh Phangan. The Blackmoon-Festival on the beach at Mac’s Bay Resort in Ban Tai and the Shivamoon are also history for the time being.
The moon parties of Koh Phangan: Psytrance as the highlightBut there are still many other moons: Fullmoon, Halfmoon, Acidmoon, Bluemoon, No Moon… Yes, even at the Fullmoon party, hated by psy-fraggles, where dozens of music styles mixing on the beach, Psytrance is still the best music that comes out of the speakers.
Beach parties and psytrance: the Koh Phangan lifestyle in the 2023/24 winter seasonIn the winter season 2023/24, the Psytrance scene in Koh Phangan was amazingly lively again – hardly a day without a Psytrance event – the spirit of Goa is everywhere. It was also the origin of the island’s myth, which still endures up to now. It all started in the 80s with the hippies, the Sanyassins and then with the early Psytrancers who came from Goa. The boom then came with Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach” and the movie with Leo di Caprio, which attracted millions to Thailand. Incidentally, the book was partly written in Koh Phangan. I’m certainly not saying where exactly it was supposedly written in order to keep the location as pristine as before.
Special highlight: On December 24, 2023, the new Ban Sabaii on the beach in Ban Tai reopened its doors after a 4-year break. A brand new dance temple was built for the island’s most popular Psy bar, right next to the old location, which has now been converted into a cocktail bar by Ukrainians and serves as a chill-out place during Ban Sabaii events. Ban Sabaii is usually open after bigger parties the day before and attracts not only farang resident DJs and producers but also many international Psy musicians and the whole Psy crowd. This is where the island’s Psy insiders meet for a small entrance fee and dance right on the beach from the afternoon to early morning.
From downbeat to psytrance: the musical journey of the Halfmoon eventKoh Phangan is THE center of Psy culture in Thailand. The biggest EDM festival after the Fullmoon Party in Haadrin is still the Halfmoon-Festival in the jungle behind Ban Tai. It is now organized over 2 days. On the first day, there is an introductory event at the Harmony Beach Club in Ban Tai with dancers and downbeat music, where travelers from all over the world get to know each other.
The next day, the party continues at the jungle location. The music on the main floor starts with downbeat/house/melodic techno and then Psytrance hits the turntables at a late hour for the guests who have stayed until then.
There are now also two other floors. Liquid Soul, Neelix, Ghostrider and many other familiar faces played around the change from 2023 to 2024 at Halfmoon Festival. A separate VIP area is also intended to make the festival an experience for “over 40s”, says organizer Jao, who has been running Halfmoon together with his own label for more than 20 years. Nevertheless, the average age at the parties there is 25. For Jao, Halfmoon is a holistic concept designed to appeal to as many travelers as possible.
Moontribe: A must for psytrance fans on Koh PhanganEvery Friday, the lovingly decorated Chill Up Bar on the road from Thong Sala to Ban Tai is the place to go. This is also where the insiders meet around Jo Moontribe, who organizes the weekly event Psy Days. Jo is a veteran of the scene in Koh Phangan and knows the scene like no other. Together with his wife Sandra, who runs fasting workshops, they are both bursting with energy. Moontribe Fashionshop is now the best store for psywear in Phangan, which Vincent took over from Sandra and Jo some years ago.
Hidden treasure: The great Soundgarden in Thong SalaAn insider tip that many people don’t know about is the hidden but large Soundgarden – a huge location tucked away between stores in a small street opposite the popular Pantip market in Thong Sala. In the middle is a giant red mushroom and the interior is reminiscent of a psychedelic living room in San Francisco in the 1960s, which couldn’t be made more cozy.
Koh Phangan’s magnetism: DJs and producers move to the psytrance strongholdThere are many other venues in Koh Phangan where Psy music is played. The events at Samsara Beach Club of Kia Goa are well-known, where Guiseppe from Parvati Records paid homage to Koh Phangan for the first time at the beginning of January 2024. Goa veteran Tristan is also expected in Koh Phangan for the first time in January. Chicago of 1200 Mics has given up his home in Anjuna/Goa and has been living in Koh Phangan for several years, like many other DJs and producers who escape the cruelly cold winters here for at least a few months every year or live here.
A hidden but stunning location is the Vow Viewpoint party in Ban Kai, from where you have a breathtaking view of the south side of Koh Phangan and Ko Samui. But beware: the road is so steep that it is only suitable for experienced bikers.
Discover Moonrock: The new psytrance location in the north of Koh PhanganA brand new location is Moonrock in the north near Chaloklum. And other locations such as Eden or Guy’s Bar also play Psytrance once in a while. But everything is constantly changing, almost daily, and you just have to find out what’s in at the moment.
Koh Phangan’s tourism planners intend that the festivals (regardless of the music scene) will only be part of the island’s concept and will be expanded. Koh Phangan is a one-stop-shop, a full spectrum place – an eco-island, a diving island and a healing island in addition to the party scene. The last aspect in particular is developing more and more rapidly – for fans of yoga, tantra, detox/retox, ecstatic dance and is increasingly getting similar to Arambol in Goa or Bali or Kerala.
On the road to discovery: The diversity of the Thai psytrance sceneWhen I left Koh Phangan in mid-January 2024, everyone was talking about the 4-day Ligor Spirit Festival – Rise of the Naga, which will take place in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat from January 18 – 21, 2024. The lineup is impressive – from Parasense, Jo Moontribe, Apnea, Boom Shankar, Lars Lee, Leung, Note, Mike Akida, Scotty and many other fantastic acts from Thailand and internationally.
There is still so much to discover in the Psy-tornado eye of Koh Phangan and the Thai Psy scene. But you’ll have to discover it for yourself, because what I write today could be over next week. Keep your eyes and ears open – everything is constantly changing.
About the author:
Tom Rom has been traveling to Koh Phangan since the early 90s and has been there countless times. He has been the author of Mushroom Magazine and Trancer’s Guide for more than 20 years and was also a Goa festival co-organizer and promoter in Europe for many years. Together with Pascal Querner he published 2 books about 20 years of Psytrance in German and English as well as 2 DVDs produced by El Geko and Buzz-T. He lives in Vienna/Austria and is still active in the Psytrance scene.