If you’ve ever backpacked in Southeast Asia or have undertaken casual research into the global party scene, you’re familiar with Thailand’s Full Moon Party. Whenever that lunar ball is all lit up in the heavens, alcohol and travelers wash ashore on Ko Phangan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. Even well into the evening, vehicle headlights bear witness to the masses streaming down the steep mountain road from other parts of the island. Out to sea boat lights stretch like planes lining up at O'Hare, ferrying the anxious pilgrims from Ko Samui and the mainland. From the east and west they come: prostitutes, undercover cops, sexual predators, Russians, Thais, Europeans, and on and on and on. By midnight a stretch of sand a few hundred meters wide will fill with thousands of revelers.
And so it was that while reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, my mind fell back for a moment to the sights and sounds of Ko Phangan. I'm aware that Conrad is speaking here about the upper reaches of the Congo. Yet I couldn’t help but think, even if a little in jest, of the Full Moon Party:
The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there—there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly, yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of their being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend.”