The very word lunacy is derived from the Latin for moon sickness, a concept pondered by philosophic luminaries such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder in ancient Greece, perhaps even under the enchantment of a moonlit beach.

Fast forward to the present time, and the beach at Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phagnan is the very embodiment of 'lunar madness', as an accumulation of many thousands of foreign tourists gather every month to indulge in the total excesses of the Full Moon Party.

Copious quantities of alcohol, often served in buckets, are consumed in a nakedly commercial mega-binge to the accompaniment of loud techno music, which attracts young ravers, mostly from Europe, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand.

The precise origins of the now globally famous monthly international festival are vague and lost in the clouds of marijuana smoke which at one time used to be the form for backpackers visiting the island during the 1980’s, with various dates ascribed to its founding from between 1983 to 1988, subject to varying mythologies.

Whatever the truth, all accounts essentially agree that a small group of ‘hippies’ began the hallowed event in modest and sincere style with hand drums, guitars and a battery powered radio on what was then a supremely quiet, little visited, island with no electricity, amusing themselves under the full moon.

One legend relates that the ocean during this first party turned a serenely beautiful bright ‘phosphorescent’ blue during the night, giving a special dimension to the event, which marked it out as a happening worthy of repetition.

Whilst it would be easy to dismiss this tale as either a drug induced hallucination or an attempt at giving the party a ‘miraculous’ mythology, it is in fact the case that periodic bio-luminescent events do occur in Thai waters, where the night time rolling waves turn bright blue, a truly awesome and almost mystical sight.

Often when walking Thai beaches at night, one will see occasional bright blue squiggles emitted by tiny single-celled creatures at the water’s edge, which at certain times of year amass in a vast visual spectacle.

By the 1990’s the monthly event had begun to draw several hundred travellers to Ko Phagnan, and was still at that time largely a celebration comprised of inner-seeking international travellers, imbibing marijuana and the hallucinogenic ‘magic’ mushrooms which grow all over Thailand on water buffalo dung.

By the end of the 1990’s however, the scene began to dramatically change as its fame spread, in high season achieving attendances in excess of ten thousand people. With this ever increasing word of mouth transmission, coupled with a Time magazine article, published in 1999, the stage was set for a mass gathering of fifty thousand to usher in the new millennium.

The character of the party has irrevocably changed and is no longer even remotely a ‘hippy’ event, but now draws many thousands of wealthy gap year students, and other young people, in high season typically numbering around thirty thousand, largely intent on getting as drunk as possible in search of sexual encounters as a rite of passage.

In modern times, the parties are highly organised, featuring multiple staging along the beachfront at Haad Rin, and attracting many internationally famous DJ’s setting the tones of musical trance to pulsing light over the glow-painted revellers as they frenetically dance the entire night away.

Whether this binge-drinking rave-up can be construed as fun depends entirely on your personal predilections and on who you speak to, but regardless of subjective impressions, attending the Full Moon Party can be dangerous, with injuries such as cuts from drunken falls and broken glass commonplace, and its later history is punctuated by several deaths as result of falls, drowning, motor-cycle accidents and the likes. Theft and drink-spiking as a prelude to sexual assault are also quite common.

Although rarer, there have also been a few murders, and the shooting of a twenty-two year old British visitor on New Year’s Eve in 2012, prompted the Thai authorities to act, establishing a highly visible police presence.

Although the hippy innocence has long since gone, surreptitious drug use remains a feature of the parties, though open use is not tolerated as it once was, and plain clothes police entrapment of the unwary is rumoured to occur.

Another sad feature of the hedonistic event is the inevitable debauchery and bouts of vomiting that accompany such uncontrolled alcohol abuse. The environmental impact is locally severe, with numerous bottles, plastic straws, discarded items of disco paraphernalia, and uncountable cigarette butts, typically littering the morning-after beach.

Although in recent years, clean-up squads have been called in to tidy up afterwards, by daylight much of the debris has already been swept out to sea.

The outstanding commercial success of the Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan has led some other resorts to emulate the phenomena, notably on Ko Phi Phi, though these events are much better supervised and considerably smaller in scale.