Wonderfruit Festival pulls together all of the things I value most in a great festival experience; epic stage builds, a diverse musical line-up, attention to detail on the decor, delicious food, thoughtful and intriguing workshops, robust sustainability initiatives and, most importantly… a proper good party. Hello, 24-hour licence! All of this, with the bonus of glorious weather pretty much guaranteed, meant that Wonderfruit had been on my festival hit list for a number of years.
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01: Those Festival Facts
02: 2019 Wonderfruit Festival Experience & Reviews
03: Wonderfruit Advice & Tips
Little did I know that when I finally attended Wonderfruit in December of 2019, it would be the last festival I’d be visiting for a very long while! I couldn’t really have asked to go out on more of a high though, Wonderfruit has got to be one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. Read on for the lowdown on my adventures last year as well as my in depth guide to how to prepare yourself for the experience.
THOSE FESTIVAL FACTS
Where? The location of Wonderfruit is the beautiful fields of Siam Country club which is half an hour outside Pattaya, a coastal city a couple of hours South of Bangkok in Thailand.
What? A four-day arts festival.
Who? 15,000 ravers from across South East Asia; from all the trendiest Thai party-heads to Bangkok dwelling expats and festival loving travellers.
When? The second weekend of December.
The Wonderfruit 2019 Experience
The ‘pop-up city’ celebrated its sixth chapter in December 2019 and was a beautifully curated melting pot of art, music, discussion and performance which were whisked together to create a meticulously organised four-day festival with sustainability at its very core.
I travelled down from Bangkok on the morning of Thursday 12th December with my old friend Ben; my party partner for the weekend. I was armed with a backpack full of sequins and feeling pretty chuffed that I probably wouldn’t be hearing the words ‘Brexit’ or ‘Election’ for the next few days (doesn’t that all feel like a LONG time ago now!?).
It was only a few hours in a taxi and we arrived at one of the official Wonderfruit partner hotels that we had booked; Horseshoe Point. Horseshoe Point not just by name but also by nature – complete with kitsch decor, horse photos everywhere and a huge horse performance ring; it was actually a full-on horse hotel… I was very into it. Get a load of the ‘Horse Ballroom’ here.
A bit happy to be here.. with my trusty Beksie’s Boutique bumbag & my new custom made Palace Flophouse linen two-piece..
After settling in we hopped on the free shuttle to the site, a ‘songthaew’ (like a big tuk tuk crossed with a jeep with benches in the back) which ran every hour to and from the festival site. We jumped out, got accredited, bounded over the fields of the festival’s site at Siam Country Club and took in the golden hour, sunshine-bathed scenes as we paused in front of the huge welcoming ‘Wonderfruit’ sign with its twinkling lights and billowing rainbow drapes.
Thursday night was fairly low key as it seems that the majority of the audience tend to arrive from Friday onwards but it was well worth getting to the festival early as that evening provided the perfect chance for us to get our bearings over the surprisingly big site! The festival boasts over ten musical stages and about fifteen workshop and talks spaces across several different areas. I got my bearings quite swiftly (festival geography is my special skill) but even with the most intrepid exploration, we were still discovering new places all weekend. Though the capacity was only a modest 15,000 people I walked 30,000 steps a day! That’s the same amount I do at Glastonbury and with way less time spent on site comparatively – CRAZY!
As we watched the sunset over the horizon from the impressive Solar Stage in the centre of the site, the most incredible full moon rose over the opposite hill and we caught a vibe at Ziggurat, where my old Meadows in the Mountains pal Hari Nayla was spinning some tunes – always good to see that my festival family is so cross-continental!
This was the first of the ‘sponsored’ tents we’d seen (it was in partnership with Singha beer) but was a far cry from the gaudy brand partnerships that ruin some festivals. After that we headed over to ‘Movement Medicine’ an ecstatic dance-esque set at the mind boggling Polygon Live structure, an incredible production with dry ice, bubbles and wicked lighting tech.
Sunset over the site and the Solar Stage; an awe-inspiring honeycomb-esque structure created entirely from pieces slotted together and designed by Gregg Fleishman
We mainly just wandered around that night pretty slack-jawed… both Ben and I come from plenty of experience working behind the scenes at festivals and it’s safe to say we were fairly blown away by the production level… We tried pretty hard all weekend to find some faults but it was impossible to pick holes in any of it!
The stuff I geeked out about the most were the festivals amazing sustainability initiatives. Caring for the planet and pioneering ways of more sustainable, low-impact living during the festival weekend and beyond is what underpins the festival’s ethos.
Some of the ways that Wonderfruit is leading in the festival sustainability game:
- This year they banned all single-use plastics and enforced a rule of only re-usable cups at the bars. You could pick up a cute Wonderfruit branded up like the photo above made from rice husk and enjoy a discount on the bars because of it! Annoyingly I lost mine on the last day. I LOVED the cup holders they were selling – made from old unused Wonderfruit wristbands!
- All the water at the refill points, which you can see me using above, is filtered from their own natural lakes.
- They’ve got amazingly thorough rubbish separation systems, as you can see below, as well as bins in the form of basketball hoops for empty coconuts! The site was impeccably clean with the bins being emptied super regularly.
- All the food waste is composted there on site and last year they diverted 95% of total waste from landfill.
- Since 2017, they’ve been certified carbon neutral by Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO).
Beyond the operational stuff, Wonderfruit are also dedicated to approaching sustainability in a creative way within the fabric of the festival itself; workshops, talks, stage designs and art all circled around Green ideas as well.
“By reimagining all aspects of our pop-up city’s infrastructure in innovative and effective ways, we successfully extended our commitment to sustainability in this edition of Wonderfruit, by highlighting our new rule of no single-use cups in The Fields, we are moving further towards our zero-waste goal. And by bringing a range of new and inspiring experiences for Wonderers to explore, we aim to catalyze a platform where these experiences act as small festivals within The Fields to encourage everyone to contribute in a positive way.”Wonderfruit Founder, Pranitan “Pete” Phornprapha
The only things I noticed out of place were plastic cutlery at some stalls (could have been the compostable type but it didn’t seem to be) and SO many taxis and big cars coming in and out and driving to Pattaya. It would have been cool if there was some extra incentive to camp on site or larger, more regular busses to transport festival-goers. I would also have LOVED to see some compost loos… the plastic of the portaloos, although hidden from sight was pretty incongruous with the rest of the visuals! Though I must say, I have never witnessed such well-cleaned festival toilets – there were attendants on hand at all times and proper sinks outside.
Later that night we wandered over to Neramit a haven-like sheltered stage with a juice bar and plenty of soft places to crash. We listened to Craig Richards playing a dub set, apparently a theme of that evening was that DJ’s were playing sounds in genres that they weren’t known for. Then, in all our jet-lagged wisdom, we took a Grab (like an Uber), and clip-clopped back to the horse hotel to get a fairly early night before the main three days of the festival got started…
On Friday I headed in on my own for the day, keen to get stuck into some workshops… In the Living Village area I had spotted a stall run by the Thai branch of my favourite educational charity Fashion Revolution who were doing up-cycling workshops all weekend. Big love to the girls in there who were so sweet and welcoming!
I upcycled a tote bag and tried out dyeing with natural dyes, screen printing, weaving and embroidering. It was a lovely relaxing start to my day, I really loved that there was a sustainability thread to not just Wonderfruit’s initiatives on the ground but also to the programming of their talks and workshops.
You can read about the full process of upcycling my tote bag here as well some tips for shopping for festival outfits more ethically.
I headed back on the free shuttle to the hotel for a freshen up and a costume change, grabbed Ben and we returned to the festival ready for a dance!
Once on-site, we were very surprised to hear the familiar groove of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2000 BANGER Murder on the Dancefloor in the distance… After following our ears we discovered the source of the noise and made our way through the suitably yonic pink entrance of the Forbidden Fruit venue where the Go Grrrls collective were hosting their ‘God Save the Queer’ Takeover. Needless to say, it was SO MUCH FUN, all the guilty pop pleasures, classic dance anthems, disco bangers and everything in between… any concerns that I had about Wonderfruit maybe taking itself a little too seriously were thrown out of the window!
Some of the other highlights in our extremely varied night included discovering a hidden karaoke set-up in a Japanese sake bar in a tree (yep you read that right), rinsing out to the only drum n bass we heard all weekend at a tiny stage with some fellow unashamed Brits on tour (thankfully we were vastly in the minority!), drinking coconuts with a magical pair of space cadets from South Africa (we love you Nonku & Dion!) and clambering all over the plethora of wooden structures that could be found across the festival site.
You can read a bit more about this queer DJ collective from Bangkok in this I.D article.
The most ‘wtf, pinch me, is this real’ moment was stumbling across The Quarry very late on Friday. We met up with my good pal Gonzalo, who you might remember from Sunsplash Festival in Goa. By that point in the night I was wholly convinced that I had explored everything at the festival but one of Gonzalo’s friends assured us we hadn’t and led us to the edge of the forest in the middle of the field… We saw festoon twinkling in the trees and could hear the unmistakable sound of music deep within the woodland.
Down a short path, the trees opened up into a huuuge clearing with incredible lighting held up by bamboo rigging and a screen at the end displaying cool graphics and obscuring the DJ. Hosted at the quarry was a project called Collisions, curated by Houghton head honcho Craig Richards, the concept was that the audience wouldn’t be able to see the DJ playing at any one time, putting the onus entirely on the music rather than the name.
Emerging from the forest somewhat dumbfounded, we took in the sunrise from the Solar Stage, a spot built for this very moment. We grooved out to a stunning set from Floating Points whilst watching the sunrise over the opposite mountain before wandering home to bed.
Feeling a little tender on Saturday we headed in basically just to gorge ourselves on all the different food that there was on offer. During our culinary explorations we discovered yet another place we had somehow missed, the Rainforest Pavillion! How beautiful is the walkway out of the stage and into the other side of the festival?
On Saturday afternoon, I particularly enjoyed one of the only moments I experienced a clash in sound and a bit of a production boo boo… whilst wandering through the healing field and past a packed but very serene gong bath tent I heard the distinctive sound of Guns n Roses (who you may remember from this Download Festival post are my fave band of all time!) bellowing out over pretty much the whole of the healing field whilst people tried to meditate and get on with their Tai Chi and stuff!
The perpetrators were a tiny rock band made up of some kids absolutely belting out Sweet Child of Mine on the music stage in the kids area ‘amp Wonder, complete with a miniature Thai Slash shredding the guitar solos. It was surreal as hell and I LOVED it.
We caught a bit of a talk in the beautifully landscaped Scratch Talks area (the photo with the red parasols above!) and got stuck into some MORE food before heading home for an early night.
Hangovers call for a lot of deep fried vegetables!
The final day dawned and I took myself into the festival bright and early to get involved in some more workshops and have one last explore of the lush day time scenes of the festival.
It was a perfect relaxing Sunday session, I had some delicious granola on the lake and dipped my feet in the water whilst watching people swimming and paddleboarding before trying out a free yoga class in the central space.
I had pre-booked a life drawing session with ‘Untitled Life Drawing’ that afternoon which was set to a live DJ and nestled in a cosy bamboo structure; such a magical little space. The workshop facilitators were so lovely and I was pretty pleased at my attempts, especially since its been about ten years since I last did any life drawing!
There are so many good workshops at Wonderfruit, from physical dance, yoga and fitness to a whole tent dedicated to the art of fermentation! There truly is something for everyone. They aren’t all free though – I paid for life drawing and the Fashion Revolution up-cycling workshop I did on Friday so make sure you budget a bit of spare cash if you want to get fully stuck in!
On the way back I checked out a tent explaining Wonderfruit’s carbon offsetting initiative in partnership with the Mae Fah Luang Foundation which invests in reforestation projects in North Thailand. I love how the festival’s ethos floats down into everything that they do and is prevalent at all times across the site without being forced down your throat.
On our return in the evening, we made our way to the Creature Stage to dance barefooted to those lovable international superstars The Turbans which took me right back to GOAT festival and many, many dances in India and the UK’s festival fields.
We followed this by heading over to the Solar Stage where we were taken on an absolute JOURNEY by Four Tet. The London producer’s sets are always a treat… whether he’s in playing in an aeroplane hangar at Field Day or tearing up a desert at Magnetic Fields in India with a sunrise Jungle set, it’s always a magical experience. About halfway through the set, I made the excellent decision to scramble up the structure looking over the Solar Stage and we watched it from the top, feeling like absolute queens!
Climbing up one of the treehouses
We were honestly so blown away by Four Tet that we didn’t have much left in us for the rest of the evening, so I whisked Ben away for a surprise and we walked over to the gorgeous cocktail bar hosted by Kimpton Maa-lai Hotel in the boutique camping, which I had discovered by accident the previous day. We had a DELICIOUS frozen margarita and it was the perfect end to the weekend. Thank you so much to the lovely lady behind the bar for being so patient with us as we figured out what the hell was left on our RFID wristbands!
What. A. Weekend. What a festival! One of the people I met on Friday night said to me that “the best festivals are bipolar” and that is certainly true of Wonderfruit. The wholesome and holistic balancing out the hedonistic is what makes Wonderfruit really special… a festival where you can learn everything from weaving with bamboo to Thai Dancercise but that also happens to be a 24-hour licensed rave with some of the best dance floors I’ve ever seen… that’s my kind of party!
You know it’s a great festival when there’s so much you didn’t have time to explore, so I’ll definitely be back! There are so many different types of weekends one could experience over a single Wonderfruit. I had very optimistically already booked my flights, ready to do it all again but unfortunately, they’ve had to postpone 2020’s instalment and the border to Thailand is still shut to UK tourists. But, one day I’m sure we’ll be back! Will you be joining me?
Top Tips & Advice for Getting the Most Out of Wonderfruit Festival
Where to stay at Wonderfruit Festival
You’ve got a choice of staying off-site or on-site at Wonderfruit and they list the various options on their website. I chose a partnered hotel that was very close to the festival but there are also many accommodation options a bit further out in the city of Pattaya. My mate stayed in Pattaya and got a DEAL on a lush apartment only a few days before the festival so there were definitely nicer places to stay if you shop around but I was pleased with our choice and the free and quick transport to the festival!
There are loads of lovely options on site too, from bringing your own tent to renting a variety of pre-pitched tents or airstreams.
If money is no object and you’re after the most luxurious option, then it’s undoubtedly Camp Kerela. Glastonbury’s premium boutique campsite has a home at Wonderfruit, tucked away in a private corner with beautiful air-conditioned Indian Shikkar tents to rest in, incredible chefs, mixologists and a full spa – Camp Kerala has quite literally everything you could ever desire.
What to expect & how to prepare
Download the app and USE it!! I didn’t have a Thai SIM card on my trip so I didn’t end up using the app for the first couple of days as I kept forgetting to login when I had wifi and I only really got into the swing of it by Sunday. It’s a brilliant app with the lowdown on everything happening across the festival. I would definitely advise downloading it ahead of time so you can properly digest what’s going on and ‘favourite’ some things on the app to remind yourself of them later. You can also pick up a free leaflet style programme when you come in.
Split your days up; I had a nice sober few hours at the start of Friday and Sunday to indulge in a heap of wholesome activities before heading home to shower off the dust of the day and get stuck into the evening’s activities. I found this helped me get the most out of my time for sure!
What to bring to Wonderfruit Festival
Ear plugs – they go for it with those sound levels baby! I am so glad I brought my filtered earplugs with me, those sound systems were no joke. Get your refillables ready! I luckily had my trusty stainless steel Boomtown bottle which was a godsend. You can buy Wonderfruit bottles on site but they’ll set you back quite a bit; best to come prepared with a cup, a refillable stainless steel water bottle and maybe a nice macrame bottle holder too. Hydration is key!
What to wear to Wonderfruit?
Good shoes – You better be ready to WALK. I did between 17 and 34 (!!) thousand steps a day at the festival. I wore my comfy Doc Marten sandals during the day but the ground underfoot especially when going down into the quarry can be everything from rocks to grass to sand so I really appreciated my boots in the evening. I always wear Blundstones boots and I find they serve me well even in hot temperatures!
Clothing – The style was amazing at the festival, anything goes – your most fabulous festival or rave wear wouldn’t be out of place but neither would a more laid back comfy look! Just remember it’s pretty hot the whole time. The people-watching is amazing at Wonderfruit and the queer community especially bring some lewks!! There were also a few stalls in a centralised market where you could pick up everything from amazing vintage pieces to handmade headdresses alongside a salon where you could get a sparkly festival face painted.
Something warm – Bring something to cover your shoulders at night, the temperature change is nothing drastic but it can drop a bit. I adored my Lady Jane Sequins Kimono but a light denim jacket or even a scarf would be fine.
Bum bag – To carry everything you need for the day bring a good festival bumbag.
Swim wear / gym wear – Depending on which workshops and activities you want to do you might want to bring clothing appropriate for yoga or a dip in the lake.
Money & Budgeting at Wonderfruit
Remember – this festival is CASHLESS
And cashless means cashless, from the food traders to face paint to DRINKS the bar. Apart from an initial hiccup where they didn’t have the RFID wristbands ready for the media which meant that Ben and I got pretty hangry on the Thursday it was smooth sailing. It’s a better deal to top up in cash than by using your card as card top-ups have to be a minimum of 2000 THB (£50) . I spent quite a lot over the weekend!
Drinks prices were pretty steep – you can definitely expect UK festival prices of between 150 & 400 THB which is a fiver and up.
If you’re planning to head to Wonderfruit Festival and you’ve got any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch in the comments below, tweet me or ping me an email! I’d love to hear from you 💓
Disclaimer: I was gifted a pair of guest tickets to Wonderfruit in exchange for a review and pre-coverage. I paid for my travel, hotel, drinks and everything else. As ever all opinions are truthful and my own – I’ll always share the good & the bad!