For the ultimate old-school raves, dedicated party-lovers make for India not Thailand
NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Goa is on the Malabar Coast of India, south of Mumbai
WHEN Parties take place regularly on full moons from October to March, and at Christmas and New Year things go into overdrive
VISITORS PER YEAR
About 2 million, but most people go to Goa for the beaches, not the beach parties
You can’t announce a party on a billboard and expect it to be a real party. The best ones take place at secret locations. Invitations go out by word of mouth, and everybody in the place has to be united in pursuit of the same bacchanalian goal.
So it is with Goa’s famous full moon parties. You won’t find listings for them in the entertainment section of the Goan Herald. These are proper raves, in the old-school tradition. If your only experience of full moon parties is the touristy ones of Thailand’s Ko Pha Ngan, prepare for the real deal.
The venues for these hedonistic dance extravaganzas are kept secret until the last second.
News of the next party filters along the Malabar Coast, from Anjuna to Arambol, by phone, email, and text message, moving from guest house to Internet café to beach bar. Then, come nightfall, a convoy of mopeds and motorcycles sets out into the steamy Indian night, to gather at a secluded beach, a clearing in the mangroves or a cluster of beach huts. The music starts up, dancers begin to swirl and the sound systems are set to throb till dawn. Fortunately, the beach is at hand for you to relax on the next day.
The DJs at Goa’s full moon parties are masters of Goa trance, one of India’s greatest contributions to the world of dance music. The genre can trace its origins back to the early 1990s, when the trippy sounds of local DJs reached the ears of their big- name counterparts in Britain. But the trance movement was simply building on the groundwork of the hippies who’d dropped in and blissed out in Goa in the 1960s. Along the coast you’ll still see veterans from the original “Summer of Love” raving with the crowds of young European, Israeli, Russian, Japanese, and Indian partygoers.
Finding a full moon party is largely a process of trial and error. The day is easy enough to predict, of course, but you’ll have to talk to likely-looking people on the beach to discover the actual location. Nine times out of ten, though, you’ll end up immersed in a sea of pumping bass, somewhere around Anjuna or Chapora. The secrecy is partly out of necessity – the local police periodically make raids on the parties in search of drug-dealers and drug-takers. But for many of Goa’s partygoers, being underground is part of the appeal. After all, how much fun is a beach party that has its own website?
FORGET KO PHA NGAN?
THE BUILD-UP In the early 1980s, travelers started to arrive on the shores of Ko Pha Ngan island, following a whispered rumor of all-night raves on the silver sands. The rumor turned into a scene, which went on to become a phenomenon. Two decades later Ko Pha Ngan’s full moon parties are up there with Ibiza on the international party circuit.
THE LETDOWN Hat Rin may have been the epicenter of the beach-party scene in 1995, but these days Ko Pha Ngan is as mainstream as Starbucks coffee in Bangkok’s Siam Square. By becoming an established tourist attraction, the full moon parties have lost part of their mystery and – some would say – their soul.
GOING ANYWAY? Accommodations around Hat Rin fill up days before each full moon party, so arrive a few days early, or rent a moped and stay at one of the more secluded beaches on the north coast of the island. Hat Khuat and Hat Khom are two of the old favorites.
Getting There and Around
Getting to Goa by air involves a charter flight to Dabolim airport or a 1-hour flight from Mumbai.
By train the journey from Mumbai takes 6–12 hours or 14 hours by bus. Local buses and taxis run to Anjuna and other resorts along the Malabar Coast.
Where to Eat
Vendors selling chai (spiced tea), omelettes, samosas, and water set up camp on party nights. The resorts are packed with restaurants serving global traveler food, as well as Goa’s signature curry: vindaloo made with pork, wine vinegar, and plenty of chilli. New York-trained chef Saleem Agha cooks up a treat at Sublime (tel. +91 982 248 4051), near the flea market in Anjuna.
Where to Stay
Anjuna is the center of the trance scene and the best place to get information about upcoming parties. Ravers also head for Vagator, Chapora, and Arambol.
One well-kept secret is Siolim House, near Chapora, a glorious 300- year-old Portuguese mansion with a secluded pool. It’s well worth the splurge.
Oct: 88°F (31°C); Jan: 88°F (31°C); Mar: 90°F (32°C)
Budget per Day for Two
Bank on US$220, including accommodations at Siolim House, food, and moped rental.