Located on the fields of Pattaya in Thailand, the Wonderfruit Festival was more beautiful than what we ever imagined, and more
I’m gonna say this one thing first – Wonderfruit is not Burning Man.
No, it’s not because I’ve actually been to Burning Man, nor do I intend to in the near future. You’ve probably already heard the countless comparisons of the notorious Nevada spectacle to Wonderfruit in Pattaya, Thailand – even I was guilty of proclaiming it as such too, ’til I actually found a chance to check it out myself.
Thanks to Gig Life Asia, I was hooked up with a festival package comprising festival tickets, f&b credit in my electronic wrist-tag, return flights to Bangkok via Thai Airways, a shuttle van to Pattaya, and a four-night hotel stay at Mercure Pattaya Ocean Resort (which included a complimentary breakfast buffet, naturally). Needless to say, this Boutique package from Gig Life Asia (worth SGD 1,100) made my trip much more smooth and stress-free. But I’m not here to talk about my comfy bed or what movies were showing on my flight. Heck, I wanna talk about Wonderfruit. I really wanna talk about Wonderfruit so bad.
We’re not in Kansas anymore
Wonderfruit prides itself on being a sustainable and eco-conscious festival that gives high-fives to Mother Earth. So unlike other flamboyant, over-the-top festivals around the world, you won’t spot any garish steampunk-wannabe theme, or a grandiose entrance with flame geysers spewing as you enter to EDM-fuelled fanfare. On the contrary, the setting of Wonderfruit – sequestered within the dusty, vast fields of the Pattaya countryside – is relatively understated and weathered. You walk down a long pathway flanked by carnival-esque flags, approaching the Wonderfruit gate bearing its iconic, mischievous logotype. Past that, you enter the realm of Wonderfruit… and you don’t really know where to begin.
Like a floating body in space, I felt myself being tugged by gravitational forces in all directions. On one end, I spotted a majestic stage adorned with gargantuan peacock feathers (Living Stage); on another, a towering Thai temple assembled from straw and wood (Farm Stage); and in the distance, an otherworldly vertical structure that resembled alien Lego (Solar Stage) which pumped out muffled thumps of dance music. Not to mention, a magic school bus, a healing village, f&b booths, and countless themed tents which housed everything from pop-up restaurants and bars, to flea markets and even salons that made sure you were dressed for the occasion.
Speaking of appearance, Wonderfruit is pretty much a hippie haven – if I had a shot for every dreadlock, Native American headdress, big beard, kaftan, harem pants and flower crown I saw… Yet, there’s no suffocating air of pretentiousness or bravado amongst the folks you find at Wonderfruit. For the next four days, this was to be my Wonderfruit family. Good vibes all around.
Not just a music festival
It really isn’t. I’ve been telling people back home that you don’t even need to be a fan of music – let alone an obsessive punter of techno and underground house *cough* – to truly enjoy Wonderfruit. You can tell when a festival’s a diamond in the rough if it’s bursting with character, and Wonderfruit has it in spades. An overall immersive experience for all ages – yes, Wonderfruit is family-friendly too – there were vibrant activities to be found in every nook and cranny.
While drifting, I found yoga, aromatherapy and meditation workshops (gongs included), capoeira classes, Muay Thai sessions, shadow puppet shows, film screenings, enlightening talks, art installations, and even a tent for power napping (a festival like this does wear you out). The Theatre Of Feasts was a massive sheltered space that hosted exclusive farm-to-feast restaurant collabs, including Cocotte, and Gaggan (Asia’s best restaurant) with Daniel Chavez of Ola Singapore (you had to fork out extra dollars for this). More affordable grub could be found throughout the festival too – from paella and roast beef, to ramen and Thai street food. And my personal favourite hangout? The Mesopotamian-themed Ziggurat tent comfily decked with cushions and mattresses, and also my go-to spot for a quick Singha recharge. I had lots of those.
That soundtrack, though
Of course, if you are actually a music geek, then Wonderfruit will be paradise for you too. I can’t recall a single moment where I couldn’t hear music, be it spiritual chanting nearby or percussions beyond the horizon. But if you’re expecting Wonderfruit to be a musical marathon of A-listers, this isn’t for you. Yes, there was a handful of top acts like Lianne La Havas, Rudimental, Simian Mobile Disco and Nicole Moudaber; but in my opinion, Wonderfruit is best enjoyed with an open mind keen on discovering new musicians. With that mentality locked and loaded, you’re good to go.
The peacock-like Living Stage hosted charismatic live acts like alternative hip-hop trio, Young Fathers; and the psychedelic Indian music of Junun featuring Shye Ben Tzur and The Rajasthan Express. Likewise, the Farm Stage showed us that Thai ska was alive and kicking, with the wild skankin’ antics of Superglasses Ska Ensemble. For the techno heads, they had to take a 15-minute stroll to the hidden Quarry stage – an isolated, night-time venue that shook beneath gorgeous canopies, courtesy of the pounding beats from the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and Headless Horseman. And without a doubt, the Solar Stage gave everyone goosebumps as it intensified with house choons during the mesmerising golden hours of sunset and sunrise – there’s truly nothing quite like it.
Obviously, I am merely scratching the surface; it is not humanly possible for me to compress my entire Wonderfruit experience into one salvo of words. My suggestion is to simply visit Wonderfruit for yourself, and perhaps, your experience will be absolutely different from mine. What stories will you have to tell?
So again, is Wonderfruit like Burning Man? With a distinguishing identity as strong as the bonds between the Wonderers who call it home, I beg to differ.