Most of my friends who I invited to come with me to the Wonderfruit Festival were skeptical of the idea. I too felt the same way but the rave reviews about the event made me more curious. It’s set in the fields of Siam Country Club just an hour’s drive away from the city, and to my surprise, it doesn’t look like Pattaya at all. It doesn’t even look like Thailand. What I saw was something otherworldly.
The venue was so huge that we ended up being lost, and in this festival, that’s exactly what should happen to you. Either you’ll end up being lost in translation—not everyone can speak English, so at times it can be difficult to talk to vendors; or you’ll end up being lost in the moment—be it in a dazzling drag show inside “Forbidden Fruit,” in the “Living Stage” where performances from the likes of Rudimental and Young Fathers can be larger than life, or in the amazing soundscapes recorded straight from the Sumatran forest inside the “Rainforest Pavilion.”
The place becomes even more transformative at night, as huge lights outline the whole festival. The “Farm Stage,” a temple-like structure made from rice, looks barren during the day but turns into a majestic house of music at night. The “Molam Bus,” a converted vehicle that showcases Thai culture through photographs, becomes a tumblr-esque dream when lit. Add to that the view from atop its roof where you can climb onboard through the bamboo ladders.
In Wonderfruit, people just lose their sense of time. You eat when you’re hungry, you drink when you’re thirsty, you shower or dip into the lake when you feel hot, and you walk around when you’re bored to search for something to do.
You can listen to live performers on various stages; try your hand at obstacle courses or arts and craft activities; get a massage, a braid, a henna tattoo, a haircut or a random Tarot card reading.
But more than the arts, food, adventures and workshops, Wonderfruit is bound by its commitment to create a sustainable brand of fun. Imagine my relief when I learned that water is for free! It’s sourced in a nearby lake and carefully filtered, so water stations can be found everywhere. No food is also mass-produced. There are separate trash bins for food waste and recycled materials, and food stalls are encouraged to take part in using eco-friendly utensils. To further push their cause, various talks and workshops about the environment are given for free to remind the people how fragile the world can be if we will not nurture it.
In small ways, the festival pushes for concrete actions to help preserve the goodness in humanity. For every drink you buy, you plant a mangrove tree in the outskirts of Indonesia. For every food you buy from the Thailand Young Farmers, you help boost the country’s agriculture. For participating in the activities in “The Shared Neighborhood,” you help the people of Thailand distraught by flood.
This conscious effort to create a positive community, even just for a couple of days, can enlighten the mind and touch the spirit, at least for me.
The small acts of kindness by every stranger to another stranger show the ethos of the festival. I remember napping on top of the Solar Stage but I ended up too afraid to climb down, and so an American family carried me down. When I was having a hard time removing my wristbands after the festival, a Caucasian offered to cut it for me. When food stalls started closing down during the last day, Thai people from the media tent offered us free food until our van arrived to pick us up.
To be honest, it’s difficult to grasp the words that can really describe what happens in a Wonderfruit festival. More than the rave reviews and the tantalizing photos from what seem to be a lifestyle pilgrimage, it is something one needs to experience. And boy, what an experience it would be. I realized that four days are too short for such a celebration. I wish I had more time to explore and try all the food, but there are also activities to enjoy and music to dance to. And of course, there are the people. I cannot wait to go back this December and experience the festival again.
If the center of the Garden of Eden holds a forbidden fruit, then in Pattaya lies a bold, tasteful, Wonderfruit.