So, while I’m still catching up on my ridiculously delayed 2016 travel recaps, I just can’t wait to start sharing my big trip (thus far) of 2017. So I’ll be jumping back and forth a bit again. Apologies for any confusion, my friends!
As we near the halfway mark of 2017, I look back and already can pull out one of the clear highlights: finally attending Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand. Combing my passion for festivals with my favorite home-away-from-home destination? Pure bliss!
Like Burning Man, I really can’t define Wonderfruit as a simple music festival. I didn’t know a single act on the lineup before arrival – and it didn’t matter. What did matter was gathering eleven of my nearest and dearest fellow Southeast Asia expats for four days of amazing art installations, creative food, funky music, sustainability-focused workshops, and fruit-filled good times.
This was Wonderfruit’s third edition, with the fourth is coming up already this December — the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej postponed the festival from December of 2016 into February of 2017 due the legally mandated country-wide mourning period. It also affected some acts who couldn’t reschedule, and was rumored to affect attendance numbers, though we had nothing to compare it to personally having never been before.
While there were some stumbling blocks along the way that I hope Wonderfruit will be striving to improve for future editions, we had an overall fantastic experience.
After kicking around Pattaya for twenty-four hours, we arrived at the Wonderfruit gates not long after the camping area opened at 4pm on Thursday. After a brief foray though security and sign in, we made our way to our chosen tents. We’d all decided to splurge on boutique camping, which I was thrilled with — no hauling tents or sleeping bags, and all kinds of fun glamping perks!
I’ll have more details about the boutique camping in my upcoming budget breakdown, but suffice it to say I would book it again in a heartbeat.
As the sun set, we couldn’t wait to get out and explore the festival grounds. However, we found that much of the festival was still being set up and the crowds were so small it was hard to get that festive feeling. There were no scheduled activities and very few musical acts on the stages.
Later, we’d reflect that Friday was the perfect warm-up size crowd, while Saturday was wild and Sunday was hot on its heels. In retrospect, I’d strongly encourage Wonderfruit to take a page from Tomorrowland’s book and host a small gathering for on-site campers the first night, either in the campgrounds themselves or in a small sectioned-off area of the festival grounds.
That said, we didn’t regret arriving Thursday in the slightest — because it meant we got to wake up in our tents Friday morning! We got up early, threw on spandex and headed over to Guavafruit, a tent sponsored by the Classpass-esque GuavaPass.
Unfortunately, we arrived to find… a bunch of other people in spandex, and a photographer who insisted on taking photos of our disappointment as it slowly dawned on us that this Bootcamp class was not happening. One of the girls in the group told us she’d also come an hour earlier for an alleged Tabata class that also didn’t happen. We were bummed because we would have happily gone to yoga with some of the rest of our crew had we known that the morning classes were cancelled.
After that failed attempt at activity, we gave up and went to the lake!
After watching Wonderfruit promo videos and talking to past attendees, I was super excited for the lazy day parties at the lake. However, they never quite happened — the water levels were really low, which I think maybe kept people away? I’m not sure exactly the reason, but we had fun cooling off there for a few hours, even if we had it totally to ourselves.
Later, we continued our day of chill with a quick trip to the Wonderfruit spa — more on that later! — and donned spandex again for our second attempt at fitness. This time, we were headed to Liv Lo Yoga.
While the class was pushed back half an hour and the location was changed, we were just thrilled to finally be moving as we flowed through a sweaty and funky vinyasa class led by our energetic Singaporean instructor inside the Rocketfruit tent, one of my favorite spaces from the festival. It was great!
After, we rushed over to the Solar Stage, where our larger group had made plans to congregate. This would become our afternoon meeting point for the next four days, with shady spots all over the playground-like structure and some of our favorite acts performing beneath us. The music of the moment was the Filipino reggae artist Red-I, who would become one of my top discoveries of the festival.
That night, we started to take our dress-up duties seriously. After all, we had packed fruit flair for days!
Wonderfruit had so many amazing spaces to explore at night, and they really started to come alive on Friday. The Moon Shack was a speakeasy-esque, hidden-away little gem sponsored by Sangsom, where we listened to a live jazz band and split a hammered-metal bucket of Thailand’s favorite whiskey.
Next, we hopped around the stages that looked totally transformed in the evening’s colorful lights before making our way over to Forbidden Fruit, Wonderfruit’s first LGBT party hosted by one of Thailand’s top drag queens. Yes! Wonderfruit is fierce.
Eventually, we hopped on over to The Quarry, which is a brilliant idea — a hidden jungle late-night-only stage that is short shuffle away from the rest of the festival grounds, keeping the most intense beats from from the camping areas, and lending a cool “afterparty within a festival” vibe to the whole affair.
Though I have to say that personally, I hated it. Deep house is so not my vibe, and I fled quickly after both my short forays down the quarry. That’s just a me thing, though — tons of Wonderfruiters were obsessed with The Quarry! I was much happier back at Forbidden Fruit, joining a catwalk contest cattily-narrated by a drag queen — though nope, I didn’t win, ha ha.
The third day of a festival is always when recovery starts to be really essential. Luckily, Wonderfruit had us so covered with its onsite massage tent. Heather, Amy and I went straight for the full hour of indulgence and sat back to relax, recharge, and — duh — gossip about the festival so far.
After, we felt ready for a few hours of exploring. We were pretty much melting while doing so — the normal festival month of December is a bit cooler than February, and we were definitely feeling each of those extra degrees of heat.
One really fun moment of the day was wandering by the Living Stage and hearing the night’s headliners — Rudimental! — doing a sound check. How often do you get to have such a behind-the-scenes experience at a major US or European music festival?
Eventually, we sought refuge in the Rainforest Pavilion; by night, an intimate dance party, by day, ground zero for sustainability workshops and talks. I chilled in the shady space while enjoying three brief presentations: Plastic Detox by Bangkok-based Madeleine Recknagel, Shark Tales by Andy Cornish, and The Fourth R with Indonesian entrepreneur Kevin Kumala, who invented a plant-based but plastic-like substance that gained notoriety when a video of him dissolving a “plastic” looking bag in water and drinking it went viral. After the festival I went on to Bali where I saw his #iamnotplastic straws being used everywhere — which made it even cooler to have heard him speak!
One of my favorite thing about Wonderfruit was the amazing amount of workshops, talks and classes. While I think their greatest area of improvement would be to facilitate them running more on time (or alerting festival-goers to cancellations and schedule changes via the otherwise-excellent Wonderfruit app), they really did represent amazing value as all are included in your festival ticket.
I’m so bummed I didn’t make it to workshops on silkscreening, raku ceramics, wood carving (which I tried to go to, but it was pushed back an hour and I had made plans to meet friends), mandala making, beadworking, hand lettering on plants, and more. If I returned for another year, I’d love to focus on making it a creative, hands-on festival for myself!
Many of the art-based workshops took place in The Sharing Neighborhood, which along with Rainforest Pavilion were two of the areas that were most consistently running on-time and as-scheduled.
Soon I was back at my favorite afternoon spot, The Solar Stage, this time for Thai-filipino artists Jess Connelly + Lustbass. This was one of my favorite sets of the entire weekend — there was so much great music to discover, and I loved how many of the artists were Thai or, more largely, Southeast Asian.
We also learned from chatting to fellow Solar Stage fans that the structure was built by regular Burning Man artist Gregg Fleishman, and had actually been transported all the way from The Playa to Pattaya just for Wonderfruit! The stage was made entirely out of sustainable wood panels slotted together sans screws.
And then we were off to prepare for a big Saturday night… and a surprisingly eventful Sunday. Stay tuned!
Does Wonderfruit sound like your kind of festival?
I received a press pass to Wonderfruit, however all other expenses were my own, and I will outline them in an upcoming budget breakdown.
I really enjoyed this article, even though I still do not understand the fascination with Burning Man.
Ha ha 🙂 I hope I get to go again some year and write about it… maybe another year will help explain it!
Wow! I had no idea Thailand had parties like this. Thanks for sharing!
It’s definitely a pretty new and unique concept for Thailand! However there are several festivals popping up now that have a similar vibe.. hoping to check out another one next year.
Sounds fun! How would you compare the size of this festival to others like Burning Man? Are there single day passes available? Cause if it’s too huge or I had to do the whole weekend I know I would burn out xD
This one is tiny compared to Burning Man! I didn’t get a reply from the organizers when I asked about the attendance this year, nor did I hear back about single day passes — I know they’ve done them in the past but I believe they did not offer them this year (at least in pre-sale) due to the shake up with the dates for the mourning period. I asked if they are planning to do them for the upcoming edition, and I’ll update this answer if they get back to me!
Sounds like an interesting festival … would love to give it a try at some point in the future!
It really is awesome… I would consider going back a second year! Seems they are working kinks out every year.
Haaa, at least it’s not Full Moon Party (again!)I think Bali Spirit Festival is more to your liking. There’s another party in KPG, The Jungle Experience. Have u or your Koh Tao friends been there?
I’ve been to the Half Moon Party which is in the jungle, but I think different from The Jungle Experience. And I’d LOVE to go to Bali Spirit Festival someday!
Looks like a lot of fun! Glamping is always a good idea; I love the convenience and comfort. Nice to see you embraced the hippie spirit!
Ha, if you can’t beat ’em… join ’em!
It looks like a fun festival to attend – it does sound like you have to go with a bit of an open mind to avoid disappointment if activities are cancelled. Your photography is amazing as always!
Absolutely, or you just have to be flexible and wander around however I’m one of those people who refuses to work out unless I’m wearing proper workout attire ha, which made trying to go to the yoga and workout classes somewhat of a challenge.
There should be more drag at festivals!!
Right? I kind of can’t believe it took this long for me to go to a festival drag show, but, well, Thailand was the very appropriate place for this to happen 🙂
This festival sounds awesome! I love that they have so many workshops available, and that so many of them deal with environmentally friendly sustainability. We need more of that in the world. I was also hoping to see some fruit-inspired clothing in this post, and I wasn’t disappointed…I love your banana hairband!
Ha, we were collecting fruit wear for WEEKS! Dressing up is one of my favorite parts of a festival… I can’t wait all year for Halloween!
Without the dope nothing can be as good as burning man ! especially when Thai organize it…
Obviously they don’t have the same experience levels but aside from snafus I listed in my posts (and I’ve rarely been to a festival that doesn’t have any) I think the organizers did a good job. Nothing can compare to Burning Man but this is a cool alternative for those who flying across the planet isn’t an option.
And what about talking about the stupid rules there, as well as overprice entry ticket and drinks ?
I thought the entry tickets were fair for what was provided. The only rule I really strongly disagreed with was not being able to bring a small amount of personal alcohol into the campgrounds as is allowed at most major festivals. I did write that in my post.
I agree, how stupid is it not to be allowed to bring food and drink.
You should also compare the entry price to Thailand income… It can be half of a month salary for some people, it is not just $100 as in USA, it’s a lot more for most Thai.
Anyway, I was there yesterday and it was so quiet, which they deserve in my opinion !
Well, if you are referring to the festival itself, I haven’t been to a single festival anywhere in the world that allows you to bring your own food and drink into it. If you mean the campgrounds, then food was allowed starting last year. The first year they didn’t allow it but there was an outcry so they changed the rules. Last year it got busier every day — I’m sure if you went on Saturday or Sunday it would have been packed!
I love this post 🙂
And I love you! Are you considering going to Wonderfruit?!
Yesssss!! I really wanted to go to this last year but couldn’t make it – hopefully next year… you make it look even better than I thought it was! Thanks for the insight & tips – glad I stumbled across your blog 😉
Aw, so lovely to hear. I’d love to go again someday.
I finally got to go in 2019. Will you be going 2020?
I’m not really sure yet what December will bring! We shall see… How was 2019?
I don’t know…I wrote a post about it but to be honest, I didn’t know what to write. I can’t explain it. It wasn’t like omg it was the best / memorable, but it wasn’t bad either. It’s not those festivals you leave like WOW…cuz not there wasn’t a single thing you remember. I think its more about just being there…and experiencing a bunch of things. Some pretentious, some exciting. some mundane.
Well, too bad you didn’t fall in love but sounds like it was worth the effort 🙂 I’d definitely recommend camping (or glamping) next time — it takes it to the next level I think!