Wonderfruit 2023: What improved?

The Solar Village had its wooden stage noticeably scaled down by half from last year. The change seemed to be an apparent response due to fears of people jumping off the stage. Revelers were told to climb down from the top by security. Photo: Nicky Tanskul / Coconuts.
The Solar Village had its wooden stage noticeably scaled down by half from last year. The change seemed to be an apparent response due to fears of people jumping off the stage. Revelers were told to climb down from the top by security. Photo: Nicky Tanskul / Coconuts.

It was 3am on a Sunday, and exhaustion couldn’t dim the vibrant hues of tens of thousands who’d danced since noon at the annual Wonderfruit boutique festival. They thrummed with anticipation, a sea of faces formed like a neon dragon at the entrance of the festival’s Quarry stage where German DJ Helena Hauff was about to unleash a two-hour-long raw techno closing set that would send them off into the sunrise pulsing full of energy.

A security team attempted to hold back against the sea of humans before they overflowed the stage, even as a steady stream of people continued to exit the stage every waking minute while neon strobes and pulsating rhythms continued inside.

Three nights in, under the velvet sky, this was Wonderfruit at its peak.

“You can’t get in! It’s too packed right now,” one security staff told Coconuts. “There’s too many people down there, it’s too dangerous.”

Despite his futile attempts at warning the throngs of people still gathering, many attendees continued to wait to gain entry. Suddenly, about four guards clad in yellow jackets emerged from the stage signaling the crowd to make way. Another four guards or so ran from the security area nearby, each clutching flashlights as they hurriedly ran and began to escort an Asian couple who was just inside.

They began to carry the woman to the nearby medical station a few feet away while they threw a bucket full of ice at the man.

The swift response to aid attendees in trouble comes after the festival was criticized by those in attendance last year, who said that it had been ‘ill-equipped and negligent’. Attendees commented that medical personnel were unprepared to treat those with substance-related issues and were concerned at the lack of critical equipment at its medical facilities. Medical tents were also few and far between, preventing any urgent care from being undertaken.

Additionally, at least two people died at the festival held southeast of Bangkok in Chonburi province, in the vast sun-drenched fields of Siam Country Club.

Since ticket sales went live back in May, which came with a price hike, a number of people asked for more transparency regarding how attendance would be capped and what measures would be taken to improve the experience, especially in regard to transportation. 

With Wonderfruit 2023 having finished its five-day run by Monday noon, was there anything the festival improved upon?

Clear visible signs

Last year, Coconuts reported that there were only seven water refilling stations across The Fields, but they were poorly lit and difficult to find. There were no apparent signs that would direct attendees where to find water.

Conversely, this year the organizers seemed to reflect upon that feedback. Water refilling stations were plenty this time around. Approximately 17 stations can be found throughout the festival this year. Each station was indicated by a bright blue water droplet sign to help attendees find the station at night with ease.

Each station included sinks to wash cups, refill faucets, and interestingly, electrical outlets where revelers can charge their phones. A welcome addition.

It wasn’t only the refill stations that had visible signage. Most importantly, there were an abundant number of medical stations indicated by bright crosses.

A total of nine medical stations can be found as opposed to last year’s meager four. Medical staff, the Iyara medic team, were seen sitting on standby at each station with ambulances parked. Some stations even included an inflatable pool for attendees to cool down.

Medical and water refill stations were now clearly marked and visible at this year’s Wonderfruit Festival. Photo: Nicky Tanskul / Coconuts

Resting spots and quick response

For this year, Wonderfruit placed strict security checks. Metal detectors are now in place at the entrance with eight queues. There were both male and female guards to conduct searches.

Security this time was very thorough. Similar to airport checks, many attendees were told to empty their bags. Guards thoroughly checked every pocket with their flashlights. All outside food and drink were disposed of.

Cigarette packs were sometimes emptied to check for illegal substances. One attendee was caught with substances. The guard confiscated the illegal items but did not take any action or arrest. The attendee was able to walk in after confiscation.

A Coconuts reporter on site witnessed a guard unwrapping gum and forcefully chucking it into the bin despite the attendees pleas.

Medical teams and guards patrolled the festival grounds throughout. As previously observed, they were able to rush with immediacy to anybody in need of medical attention.

Staff were quick to observe any dangerous action undertaken. People who were seen relaxing or sleeping on the open fields were routinely checked by staff to make sure they were okay and conscious.

“I see people actively going around checking on people resting in the area, lying down on beds. That’s definitely an improvement in access to medical care,” festivalgoer Tristan Singh, who attended Wonderfruit for the second time, told Coconuts.

The Solar Village stage, which in the past  included a modular wooden structure for attendees to climb up and relax, had been scaled down by half. Attendees were also no longer allowed to climb to the top like they could before.

Coconuts witnessed several instances where staff yelled at attendees who climbed the structure, before they were urged to go back down to prevent any accidents.

There were now clear resting spots in between stages where attendees could sit down and rest. IV drip stations are also near these resting spots, another welcome addition where attendees from last year said that there was a lack of basic medical equipment.

As previously mentioned, the Quarry stage saw massive droves of people attempting to enter on a very busy Saturday night. Security were vigilant in getting more people to get in out of fear that it could get overcrowded. Minor improvements were made at the entrance of the stage. In previous years, the stage was accessed by a sloping downhill path where people could potentially trip and fall. Now there were wooden stairs in place for people to walk easier.

Throughout the festival, signs were put up urging attendees to “wear good shoes” due to “uneven ground, rocks, debris, holes & ruts.”

On social media, the Wonderfruit Instagram page posted reminders for people to stay hydrated.

Wonderers waiting to go back home. Photo: Nicky Tanskul / Coconuts

Parking and the perils of going back home

Although the festival saw welcome improvements, ease of transportation took a dire backseat. At night, there was a big traffic jam that took up the narrow road leading to the festival grounds. Many attendees were seen dropping out of taxis, and decided to take motorcycle taxis nearby. Some decided to walk.

Whereas taking a Grab to the festival was easy enough with reasonable prices, going back home was definitely not a pleasant experience.

In the early morning hours and every sunrise, hordes of people gathered at the taxi zones in unorganized queues. No proper system was put in place for the taxis driving in to pick up festival goers.

Many taxi drivers from all over Pattaya were rushing to accommodate the innumerable amounts of people in need of a ride. Because of this, they were charging exorbitant prices.

On the first night, heading back to nearby accommodations cost around THB600-700. By the second and third nights, festival goers reportedly had to pay up to around THB1,200, and by sunrise, THB2,000.

That means attendees could potentially pay up to THB4,000 in total to leave the festival.

Several drivers cite that it was difficult for them to enter the festival grounds due to the long traffic jams clogging up the narrow road that led to the venue.

“Personally, I am sorry for charging this much, but we have to wait for hours to pick someone up,” one driver said. “It is already difficult for us to drive into the festival.”

An anonymous post made in the Wonderfruit Facebook group earlier this week voiced concerns with the taxi fees.

“Please address the issue with the local taxi services,” the anonymous post read. “They charged us between THB1000 to THB1500 for short, 15-minute trips, which seems excessive. Perhaps establishing a partnership with reliable transportation services at fixed rates could be a solution or simply blocking the taxi mafia and [allowing] Grab access to the fields.”

On a separate instance, a driver who’s been driving attendees every year to Wonderfruit attributed the disorganized queues to the event severing partnerships with Grab. Now regular taxis were left, enabling them to mark up prices.

“Previously, in the first year of Wonderfruit, the pricing depends on designated areas assigned by the app. Within Pattaya prices are at THB800, but once you cross the boundaries set by the app even for 500 meters, prices can jump up to THB2,500,” the driver said.

And what about those with a car? The festival now required commuters to fork over THB350 a day for a parking space.

Noise pollution

Wonderfruit saw the addition of new stages including the Japanese DJ-focused Catch 428 stage featuring the likes Yousuke Yukimatsu and Wata Igarashi, as well as Detroit pioneer DJ Stingray 313.

One minor complaint is the spacing between DJ stages. Sound bleeding between stages was quite apparent; at one stage, you could hear molam music on one side and hard-edged techno on the other. 

Wonderfruit would probably need to think about expanding and spacing the stages especially as it continues to gain prominence . Again, it is a relatively minor complaint that can easily be remedied next year.

After deaths at Wonderfruit, attendees complain festival ‘ill-equipped and negligent’
At least 2 revelers confirmed dead at Wonderfruit Festival


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