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!
When I last left off, it was Saturday afternoon at the third edition of Wonderfruit, Thailand’s innovative art and music festival inspired by international events like Burning Man in the US and Secret Garden Party in the UK. If you haven’t read the first part of my festival recap yet, find it here.
As the sun set on Saturday, we were ready for a night on the town — er, on the festival grounds!
Walking out of the glitter tent with a fresh application of forehead sparkle, it felt like the number of our fellow revelers had doubled. The energy was perfect, though we were definitely glad we’d had the previous night to play and really explore the space before the big crowds moved in.
Wonderfruit is just so beautiful at night, and three nights in, there were areas we still hadn’t explored.
One of my favorite day-to-night transitions was The Farm Stage. Based on traditional Thai ceremonial structures, the entire work was created from bamboo and rice harvested from local farmers’ fields. Post-festival, when the stage was dismantled, the rice was milled and used for a feast. How cool is that?
Our crew of twelve had been splitting off in various sections and running around in all directions for the first few days, as is to be expected with such a large group. But we all came together for the festival headliner event: the UK band Rudimental.
To be honest, I didn’t think I knew who Rudimental was, but seeing how excited the British faction of our crew was to see them, I was pumped. Luckily, it turns out I was familiar with much of their music — though even if I had been hearing it for the first time, it would have been a great show. I can’t remember the last time I danced so hard. There was such an intense enthusiasm both on the stage and in the audience, it was a highlight of my festival-going experiences.
I have to give Wonderfruit major kudos for being one of the cleanest festivals I’ve ever attended. When we left Rudimental, there was a small army of cleaning staff waiting to pounce on whatever debris had been left on the field — and I have never seen more sparkling festival toilets (they flushed!) It was an unexpected treat.
Still high on dancing our faces off to Rudimental, we ran around to various stages, and I ended the night at Rocket Fruit, a café by day and one of the festival’s best underground dance parties by night.
The next morning we rallied our last dregs of energy for a fabulous final day of the festival! Day four is usually when I really start to drag, and so I was glad we had some big things to look forward to so I didn’t just doze the day away in a nap tent somewhere.
A few of the ladies decided to coordinate our outfits for an extra bit of pep in our steps — matching headdresses, one of the world’s greatest natural hangover cures! We tried to kick off the day with a workshop on mindful gratitude, but the teacher didn’t show, which we joked was supposed to be some sort of obscure lesson on being grateful for what you’ve got… even when what you’ve got is not the activity you rushed out of bed to get to.
Backup plan: giggle and gossip sesh in the pillow tent.
And then we were off to the big moment of the day: The Reggae Brunch!
The Reggae Brunch was one of four Wonder Feast options.Wonder Feasts are, in my opinion, one of the coolest things about Wonderfruit, in theory. Unique, al-fresco banquets prepared by some of Bangkok’s – and Asia’s – top chefs. There was also a dinner by the head chef at Gaggan (a Silom restaurant I’ve been trying to score a reservation to forever) that I planned to splurge on — but the Gaggan Dinner sold out within about six hours of the tickets being posted. Which broke my heart when I tried to purchase on hour seven.
The Reggae Brunch, unfortunately, was a bit of a bust. It started over an hour late, and the staff seemed to try to be making up for lost time as they ran around frantically throwing various plates of food on our table. There was no explanation or presentation of the dishes, and it was a really chaotic atmosphere. For one of the most expensive booze-free meals I’ve had in Thailand, it was a letdown.
I should note that several in my crew attended the Cocotte brunch on Saturday and said it was on another planet in terms of organization, presentation, and overall experience, so perhaps our meal was an anomaly. This was one of the festival moments I was most looking forward to though, so I have mixed feelings about recommending it for the future.
Execution aside, I love the idea of taking a breather for a sit-down meal with friends amongst the typical chaos of a festival.
Post-brunch, we took advantage of the quiet mid-day festival grounds to have some photography fun.
Speaking of photoshoots — wow. I have never seen so many big dSLR cameras and DIY photoshoots going on at a festival, ever. As someone who is constantly asking someone to take a photo of myself for my blog or Instagram I really can’t complain about this without being hypocritical, but it’s something that will stand out if you haven’t spent time in hip Bangkok cafes where there are about a billion shutter clicks a minute.
Yes, at Wonderfruit you will encounter thousands of beautiful, trendy Thai women in elaborate festival getups with dutiful boyfriends/husbands contorting themselves into crazy photos to get the perfect pouty festival post. If you’re the kind of person who gets annoyed by that and wishes people would just put away their cameras and just “live in the moment,” well, just roll with it and enjoy the show. And scroll through the Wonderfruit hashtag on Instagram — the results are amazing!
In the end, one of my favorite aspects of Wonderfruit was the people watching. It was an incredible crowd, with career festival-goers from around Southeast Asia and in-the-know expats, but mostly just the most Thai hipsters I’ve ever seen in one place. There were tons of families, too, with perfectly dressed tots that looked like they came out of an Anthropologie catalog. Most of the vendors and other festival-goers we spoke to assumed that we lived in Thailand, which was a really refreshing change from constantly being assumed to be a tourist. It gave the festival a really strong community feel, which I loved.
Sunday was fast fading. A few of us retreated to the Rainforest Pavilion, where we listened to a talk by the Thai-organized Trash Hero team, who in true festival fashion delivered an inspiring speech with beers in hand.
Janine and I then rushed over the the Muay Thai workshop with Thai boxing legend Buakaw. We had promised our boxing instructor back on Koh Tao that we’d get a selfie with the big guy himself, and fretted over whether or not we should wear our workout clothes. Ha ha — luckily we didn’t. The workshop was more of a demo with one festival-goer picked from the audience to embarrass themselves for all of our amusement at the end, but the real highlight was seeing the festival cleaning staff gathered at the edges, excitedly peeking around every corner with their cell phones poised to snap a pixelated photo of the celebrity in our midst. It was then that it really dawned on me what a big deal Buakaw is and how lucky we were to snap that selfie at the end (our Muay Thai teacher loved it!)
Buakaw’s hype guy 😉
And then we retreated to the Solar Stage for one last big group sunset. We’d heard there was going to be a big fire show, and we were pumped after missing it the day prior (we’d showed up at the time listed on the app — silly us!)
I kind of assumed things would wind down a bit on Sunday as people headed back home for work, but there was a huge crowd gathered which only seemed to mushroom in size as a local marching band fired up, and an official Wonderfruit parade began.
With no real idea what to expect, the excitement of the parade kind of snuck up on us. One minute we were casually chatting about the marching band and snapping selfies, the next we literally didn’t know where to look as the fire show fired up, the Trash Hero sculptures were on the move, the music kicked up a few notches, one of the ladyboys started breathing fire, and costumed characters started a dance party.
A microlight plane and a Wonderfruit drone swirled around the Solar Stage as the atmosphere turned to one of pure euphoria. What a high we suddenly found ourselves on! The only thing I can compare it to is the night the man burns at Burning Man, which I was totally not expecting.
Total, perfect, energetic chaos.
My primary camera actually died moments into the whole thing kicking off, which was a blessing and a curse. A blessing at the time, because I put it down and just really enjoyed the moment. A curse in retrospect because I wish I had photos that better captured the experience to share with you, though this video might help.
As a group we had discussed having somewhat of a relatively quiet night to prepare for heading back to Bangkok the next morning. But after that crazy high? No way!
We sprinted back to our tents to change for the evening before sprinting back out again for some of the best sets of the whole weekend — Lianne La Havas, Bangkok String Quartet, and one of my absolute favorite discoveries of the entire festival, the Thai reggae band Srirajah Rockers.
It was truly the perfect evening, with the best festival crew a girl could ask for.
One Wonderfruit aspect that I haven’t really had the chance to write about, but which is integral to the festival, is the pillar of sustainability. Environmental commitment is at the core of Wonderfruit, no small feat in a country that is one of the world’s top producers of oceanic plastic waste, and both prolific consumers and producers of single use plastics.
Some of their initiatives are easily observable — free water refills for reusable bottles, no plastic bottles allowed into the campgrounds, separate bins for food waste and recycle waste. Some are hidden, like the commercial-grade water filtration system providing the festival’s circular water supply, or the fact that the company behind Wonderfruit, Scratch First, has calculated the carbon footprint of the entire festival and will offset it by investing in the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Indonesia.
However, I’d love to see them continue to push the envelope here. Many of the cafés and restaurants at Wonderfruit have large seating areas and could use reusable cutlery. My friend Heather actually asked one of the vendors to see the packaging on the plastic-looking cutlery we were given and emailed them to confirm it is in fact biodegradable — but why not reduce single-use anything when possible? And it felt strange to be given a straw in every drink — even if it was a biodegrable one. Why not sell steel, bamboo and paper versions, and otherwise try to wean consumers off one of the most absurd pollution sources on the planet?
Big kudos to Wonderfruit for all their sustainability efforts — keep going greener!
Overall, Wonderfruit was amazing. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience a big festival in my adopted winter home and with so many of my close friends, and I can’t wait to experience more of Thailand’s events as their festival scene grows.
Stay tuned for a budget breakdown and roundup of my festival tips!
I received a press pass to Wonderfruit, however all other expenses were my own, and I will outline them in an upcoming budget breakdown.