It doesn’t matter if you have a confirmed VIP table — at 2 am, there is a long queue to enter Pacha, the legendary nightclub in the Spanish isle of Ibiza. A cavernous space of psychedelic lights and coloured smoke, entry is via a complicated labyrinth of bustling kitchens. Menacing looking bouncers lurk everywhere. Professional dancers in leather catsuits and masks gyrate alluringly to thumping music. It’s a different universe altogether, where the mood is set to fantasy and exoticism.
Ibiza (pronounced Eivissa) looms large in our imagination as an infamous, hedonistic island where anything is possible. Its reputation of being a sun-kissed utopia with a dark side endures, luring in those seeking new thrills. The wild clubbing scene overshadows the island’s breathtaking beauty and picturesque coastlines. It is, after all, where Arab princes and French playboys choose to anchor their yachts with names like “Pretty Gal”. Steeped in its own myth of crazed abandon, this is the world’s foremost destination for the well-heeled looking to play hippie-chic for a weekend. The kind of place best visited single or with friends, so you can fully soak in the easy, manufactured decadence.
The only issue, if you’re from India and in your 20s, Ibiza might seem rather unaffordable. At least, it was for me. So I landed there two decades late, determined to experience a little of its 24-hour party scene and other high life essentials. I found myself on the island for a friend’s 40th birthday in a group of tepidly enthusiastic women, who had yet to slip into rockstar mode.
Even though nobody bats an eyelid when men friends holiday on their own, it still feels a little weird when women go away together. Gentlemen’s clubs have been a tradition, the going-ons of which were made known to us, courtesy writers like PG Wodehouse and Georgette Heyer. There are places where they play cards and billiards, drink, conduct business and discuss golf or whatever it is that men talk about. Those clubs may be from an era long over, but it has made the concept of “male bonding holidays” perfectly acceptable.
Women’s holidays, however, are different in the sense they’re without an agenda and there’s rarely a sport involved (besides shopping). There’s not much alcohol involved either, in fact, there’s almost a disheartening devotion to healthy eating. After all those decades of fighting for equal rights, shopping still trumps the itinerary on a holiday like this, nine times out of 10.
Like most of continental Europe’s islands in the summer, Ibiza wakes up at sunset. The days are hot and humid, the nights breezy. The cobbled streets fill up towards the evening and within a day, you fall in with the party buzz and like Elvis, start living by night. Our table at Amnesia, another landmark nightclub is for 2.30 am, the earliest time slot available. There are guests in turbans, shirtless or in tiger-printed leotards — there’s a very open minded attitude to clothing, skimpy or otherwise. Historically, free style in mixing music took off in this club in the 1980s when disco mingled with David Bowie and music genres as we understand them began to blur.
The excitement peaks at 5 am in Amnesia when the club unleashes cannon loads of soap suds into the crowds, famously known as the foam party. Soon, the entire dance floor was covered in frothy white. You can’t see your legs, with bubbles flying everywhere. The DJ, Paris Hilton, friendly and accessible, is driving the crowd deliriously wild.
The revelation: almost nobody drinks alcohol anymore. The nights are made crazy by the alphabets M, D, M, and A, or C and E. If, just for a night, it’s nice to embrace extreme youth, even the dopamine induced low. In reality, the enforced dissipation is merely a talking point, leading to much shrill excitement and animated views flying back and forth. The real conversations on holidays like this happen over a lazy breakfast, once the night is over. The retrospective appeal of Ibiza is huge since it’s an experience so unlike anything else. The destination of fashion and style is influential because its secret is the promise, however brief, of freedom. Youth this time is not wasted on the old-er.
Leher Kala is director, Hutkay Films and a columnist with The Indian Express