Written by Thanita Phuvanatnaranubala
Photo by Kanin Phuvanatnaranubala
At A Glance
We weren’t sure what to expect when we set foot onto the grounds of Wonderfruit. As festival noobs, we were hoping for some mind-blowing live sets and great stage designs. But Wonderfruit offers all that and so, so, so much more. For four days, an empty golf course transforms into a wonderland, a stunning and sustainable community that bubbled up in the middle of nowhere – all this with zero carbon footprint, as proceedings are donated to Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Indonesia.
Much to see and explore already presented itself on Thursday afternoon, before the music had started. Aside from exquisite stages, Wonderfruit is dotted with various art exhibits and interactive installations, and every venue for food, fashion or workshops are well-crafted, with plenty of cushions and pillows to sit (or nap) and take in the atmosphere.
The festival was in full swing by Friday – while activities buzzed throughout the day, Wonderfruit really comes alive at sunset: every piece of artwork and different venue is illuminated with majestic lighting, and music of all genres blares from all directions. Wonderers wander to and from each stage where a DJ or live act is performing something different, and the vibe is somewhere along the lines of everyone’s friendly, all is harmonic, and great stories are about to happen.
Music genre: A diverse range covering everything from experimental pop to deep house, soul-folk-RnB to reggae dub, world music to drum and bass, and all else in between. You could be jamming to orchestral techno one night and a Thai ska ensemble on the next – it’s all that’s interesting and beyond.
Capacity: Small-ish, with over 10,000 attendees across the weekend.
Crowd type: All types. As there’s such a mix of things to see and do, people are drawn in from all walks of life: music devotees, art admirers, eco warriors, food connoisseurs, fashionistas, festival fanatics and counter-culture kids of all ages (literally – it’s a family-friendly festival) and nationalities, gathering just to have a good time.
Water stations: Yes
For the first-timers
Pattaya is easy to get to – you can bus, train, or taxi in from Bangkok – but the festival is located 30 minutes outside of town. A taxi or Wonderfruit shuttle bus from central Pattaya is required to reach its haven, so many opt for the 2-hour drive from Bangkok, though parking and traffic can be painful. (If you’re lacking in the vehicle department, time your departure via shuttle bus well, as the last bus to Bangkok leaves just after 10PM.) You can choose one of Pattaya’s many hotels as your base, treat yourself to a boutique camp, or set one up in the well-tended general camping area.
Pro-tips for first timers, from first timers:
- There is lots to see and do throughout the hot day – if you’re not careful, many wondrous things can be missed whilst hiding under the shades. Stay active, and bring a portable fan.
- Mosquitoes and ants are vicious: bring insect repellent and cream to avoid the swollen ankles I had to endure for four days.
- Regular plastic bottles are banned, and though you can refill Wonderfruit’s own sustainable water bottles, they can get very leaky. Bring your own durable one and save yourself from unexpected wetness.
There are seven stages, each with immaculate designs and distinct vibes. The Living Stage (main stage) sported stupendous peacock feathers, and the semi-fences surrounding the crowd gives headlining shows an intimate feel. Farm Stage’s straw-made, Thai-temple design gives an atmosphere of a modern take on traditional temple fairs.
EDM heads cannot miss the Quarry – aka ‘the jungle’ – where dancing consumes you beneath towering trees 15-minute walk away from the main festival grounds. But the party is non-stop at Solar Stage: imported from Burning Man and designed for the sunrise and sunset, this marvel of architecture is a climbing structure for adults disguised as a stage, with semi-open hive-like chill spaces for you to witness the glory of international DJs from above.
I wish there’s space to write about all the other stages, like Bonafide by Zeight (with awe-inspiring light shows) or Forbidden Fruit (where chill techno sounds can quickly ease you to into spending all night lounging on their uber comfy pillows that dot this area), but I guess you’ll have to come witness them yourself.
- RED-I’s reggae dub at gathered crowds and kickstarted the weekend with bass heavy beats, and Solar Stage was jumping above and beyond by the time Wolf+Lamb’s funky disco/house set began to take the party even further.
- The experiment musical duo Buke and Gase, mesmerised us with an offbeat, indie pop/rock set with homemade instruments.
- Versatile electronic composer DJ Kate Simko, puts brings the class in classical with London Electric Orchestra. Never have we seen a crowd so pumped for something so sophisticated.
- Young Fathers gave an eEpic performance and rocked out the crowd as the first night’s headliner. Their gritty but well-harmonised sound and powerful tribal beats gave pop music a completely different edge – it’s like they just came on, punched you in the feels, dropped mic, and walked away.
- Lustbass brought the Soulection influenced RnB production while Jess Connelly’s beautiful, sensual yet playful vocals serenaded all in a captivating performance.
- Breaking all language barriers, local band Superglasses Ska Ensemble skanked-up the crowd with incredible energy, playful stage antics, and awesomely symphonic instruments.
- Junun came thru with big production and stand out performance of world music; crowds from many different nationalitiesy joined the joy music without even having to understand the words – the music and vibe are that strong.
- Rudimental headlined the second night with drum and bass, mashing electronic drums with live brass, saxophone and vocals. With the hypeman constantly pumping up the crowd, the energy is intense on and off stage: you can see a group B-boying in the fields before a crowd of young kids joined in.
- The local reggae juggernaut, Sriracha Rockers closed the weekend for Farm Stage with chilling vocals and powerful songs.
- We unfortunately missed Liana La Havas – but as with all other headliners, we watched her soundcheck earlier in the day. Her soulful vocals were so incredible she drew in a crowd despite the sun. As people cheered, she said to soundcheck: “they seem to like it, so I’m happy, if that’s ok with you.” Yes Liana – we’re happy, and you’re more than ok for us.
Things to do
Aside from the music and party which last pretty much the whole weekend, you can wander into any of the huge selection of art and music workshops, yoga and Thai kickboxing classes, free-running and zumba sessions, eco-conscious documentaries and talks, or just wander into a corner to find something marvellous to marvel at. Spend your afternoon honey tasting before delving into natural tie-dyeing, and amaze yourself with a talk on the future of art within the next hour.
Notable fun things
- Sit in a boob at Back to the Breast: an organic, inflatable little nook with nipples on top.
- Watch a graphic novel inspired shadow puppet show at Moon by Sight and Storm.
- Get your makeup done for free at NYX cosmetic’s booth (ask for artist Sugar if you can – she’s amazing).
- Join a daily power nap session.
- Eat everything. From traditional Thai street food to innovative international concoctions, everything tastes amazing.
- Enjoy the peace of wind chimes at Wonder Lily Island.
- Get down and funky with Thai traditional folk-rock at Molam Bus
- Take a ride on a horsebike. How great are these. Seriously.
One-of-a-kind, somehow in Asia
So what makes Wonderfruit special? A multitude of things that cannot be contained in one review. Though sometimes described as Asia’s Burning Man, the intimate crowd and distinct Thai character gives this festival its own unique identity, and draws in attendees from all over the continent and beyond. It is refreshingly radical yet humble, grandiose yet welcoming, unlike anything we’ve experienced on this side of the globe. We’re already counting down the days until the next time this Wonderland wondrously appears in December.