The seaside city of Pattaya isn't exactly the first place that comes to mind for a high-concept arts and music festival like Wonderfruit. But the juxtaposition between Wonderfruit's ecological, sustainability-minded ethos and Pattaya's seediness only underscores how unique the festival actually is.
Wonderfruit is sort of like a tropical Coachella mixed with a bit of a Burning Man vibe. The four-day fest scored some big names for the main stage, including performances by international acts like Yeasayer and Wild Beasts, as well as regional acts like the Thai reggae pioneers Gapi and the Thai Dub Mafia and the Philippines' Curtismith.
But the organizers behind Wonderfruit also put equal emphasis on sustainability and culture. The entire fest is plastic-free, there's a packed schedule of yoga, food from award-winning chefs like Anand Gaggan, of Bangkok's world-renowned Gaggan, and workshops on everything from DIY dreamcatchers to chasing your dreams with AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes.
The fest is even paying some artists with an eco cryptocurrency called TREE that supports a mangrove forest in Myanmar that's vital to the region's environment and under threat from encroaching development.
It's all a lot to take in, but that's sort of the point. The four-day fest runs 24-hours a day—more than enough time to explore its packed line-up of events, music, and food. In a region where multi-day festivals are fast becoming the norm, Wonderfruit stands out as one of the few built around a central ideology instead of a commercial proposal. It feels a bit more holistic than Ultra and far less mainstream than the Djakarta Warehouse Project—which runs the same weekend.
SO WHERE DO YOU START?
First you need to get to Pattaya, which is actually a bit harder than it sounds. There aren't any direct flights from anywhere in Indonesia, so don't expect to hop on a plane and land at the city's tiny U-Tapao International Airport. Instead, you need to book a flight to Bangkok (good news: there's a lot of them) and take either a bus, minivan, or taxi south for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
There is also a train, but you don't really want to do that. The bus is cheap (117 Thai Baht, or about $3.60 USD), air-conditioned, and quick enough. You catch the bus out at the station near the Ekkamai BTS station, so the whole process is as painless as it can be.
OK, WE'RE IN PATTAYA, WHAT'S NEXT?
Look, Pattaya isn't exactly known for it's class. (Although there are a few temples to be fair) So maybe just skip the sightseeing and head straight to the venue. If you were lucky enough to rent one of the lux. RVs or big festival tents, then head straight there and unpack. There are still a few air-conditioned tents left (as of writing this story) if you have a spare 32,000 Thai Baht ($980 USD) sitting around.
But if you're hopping on this whole weekend last minute, then you should head to the campground and pitch your tent (bring one) or check into a hotel somewhere in Pattaya. The city is full of hotels and the Wonderfruit website has a list of ones that aren't dodgy, so check it out. Or maybe just take our advice and pack a tent. The fest runs all day and night after all.
WE PITCHED A TENT, NOW WHAT?
Download the Wonderfruit app (Android and iOS) and scroll through all the stuff they have planned. There's honestly way too much to list here, but we're definitely not going to miss that set by Yeasayer, the class on merging your soul with trees (because, you know, plants have feelings too), and dinner with the chefs from Bangkok's amazing Supanniga Eating Room. But that's just us. You do you.
Nah, just have fun and be sure to wander around a lot. I mean just look at how beautiful this whole thing is. Have fun, fall in love, do some yoga, just enjoy a long weekend out of the city and away from all the traffic and smog. Then rush back home before Monday morning and make everyone at the office jealous about how refreshed and relaxed you seem.
The festival runs from 14-17 Dec. and tickets are available online. Full disclosure: VICE's Indonesia office is a supporting media partner of Wonderfruit Festival.