Dear Festival Diary: Our weekend spent getting to the core of Wonderfruit

Photo: Coconuts KL

Editor’s Note: Our correspondent goes deep into “lifestyle festival” territory at the 2018 Wonderfruit event, returning to us with colorful tales and cautionary accounts from her four days spent roaming the festival grounds. Her journey is at times thrilling, and at other times, joyless, and harrowing. Here is her story.

 


Thursday, 13 December

Dear Diary,

Our trip has started in the most foreboding way that any trip can in 2018: A cancellation from our AirBnB host 24 hours before our KL crew was meant to fly in to Pattaya, Thailand to spend the weekend at Wonderfruit.

Apparently, the “host” sold their villa yesterday, wasn’t aware of it, but also forgot to tell us – which really should become our mantra swerve of 2019: Didn’t know, but also forgot – don’t @ me.

Long story short, D — AirBnB couldn’t and wouldn’t do much more other than find a far less enticing place for us to stay, three times further away, for double the price.

We took it because we had to, because it was dark, and because no one in our group of seven knew how to pitch a tent, but herein lies Pro Tip #1 for future Wonderfruiters: Avoid AirBnB at all costs, because if this happens to you, the kind folks at AirBnB can’t do much other than book you something you’d never even want in the first place. If you can suck it up, camp, glamp, or be those people with the RV — then you’ll save time traveling back and forth (literally, hours of your life), and by day two, you don’t really care about the lack of en suite loos.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

After getting to WonderVilla 2.0, we left our stuff and went off to explore what we could at the fest, now, at 11pm.

We weren’t sure what to expect from Wonderfruit. Photos from previous years vibed that it was some kind of Burning Man meets Coachella in Southeast Asia, with as many accessories, steam-punk sunglasses, and colorful photo ops, but a less nuanced approach to music programming. We were feeling it.

Now, we’re actually on the festival grounds.

First impression: There are a lot of people out for a school night.

Organizers seemed to saving on electricity when we arrived: The path up to the main festival grounds is dark, unlit, and at times, a bit wet. It leads to a huge gate of sorts that spells out: W-O-N-D-E-R-F-R-U-I-T on top of colorful fabric.

Wonderfruit entrance | Courtesy of RImka Sandhu
Wonderfruit entrance | Courtesy of RImka Sandhu

In other words, first stop on the Instagram express, which brings us to Wonderfruit Pro Tip #2: Accept the fact that for the next four days, not only will people ask you to take their photo, they will also often ask you to get out of their photo, or alternatively, use you as an unsolicited extra in the background. Try not to take it personally when a group of fashionably dressed pirates asks you to step away from the neon bus and out of their shot. Embrace it, and find the occasional photo-bomb opportunity to give you life.

via Omar Chelbat
“Can you please move?” | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat

Drinking on an empty stomach is the root of 90% of our life’s evils, so we went in search of food. It was late, and the first day, so many of the stands have either closed shop for the night, or weren’t there yet — but we decided to blow our load on a full plate of sausages, mashed potatoes, and enough mustard to feed Yankee stadium. It was delicious.

It was also expensive, Diary. How did we just spend 50 bucks on encased meats and a squirt of condiment? It was almost too easy in a cashless festival, with a cash-loaded wristband you can top up through kiosks scattered all across the grounds.

Take our money | via Coconuts KL
Take our money | via Coconuts KL

We sensed danger. And, it and brings us to Wonderfruit Pro Tip #3: Everything inside the festival is expensive, and there is no such thing as a “cheap fried rice” option. Going into the festival, we didn’t see anyone get searched for drugs, but we did see a whole lot of people get pulled over for other infractions: Chocolate bars, tapau pad thai, several pieces of fruit (no, security is not amused by your fruit pun on Wonderfruit, and no, it’s not ironic) were piled at the door.

Make no mistake: This is a festival that wants you to buy everything inside, including water. Apparently, previous years’ free hydration stations had been whittled down to three hidden fountains for 2018. If you’re thirsty, they want your 60 baht for Wonderfruit-branded water, got it? Watch your spending, and if you want to enjoy a worry-free experience, save up and plan to spend at least 1,000 baht a day if you plan to eat and drink over a few hours.

Our beloved Singha, never too far via Coconuts KL
Our beloved Singha, never too far via Coconuts KL

But, Diary, you know how cheap we can be. How did we get through Wonderfruit spending as little money as possible? Well, we committed ourselves to only drinking beer, 180 baht a pop, free water, and stuck to only one meal inside the festival, per day. Yes, Happy Brownie looked amazing, but we blew our load on Alice’s Pizza already, and that was that.

For the record, Alice’s Pizza was delicious, and you can find it in Bangkok HERE.

We weren’t expecting much from Day One’s 2am music sets – we were just having a look and planning to have an early night, but … Wonderfruit sucked us in.

First, La Mamie’s playing a jittery disco and house set at the Forbidden Fruit stage – a sort of hut-like stage that would get ominously bathed in red light every night. We caught the French DJ five-piece at a show a couple of weeks ago in KL, and their Wonderfruit set seemed to be a progression of where we last left them: Drunk, sweaty, jangly, and unable to stop moving.

Forbidden Fruit stage | Courtesy of Omar Chelbat
Forbidden Fruit stage | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat

Compared to a lot of the outdoor stages, Forbidden Fruit felt more intense, and at times claustrophobic, so we decided to explore the lay of the land on the festival grounds at the Siam Country Club Pattaya.

There were a lot of stages, and it was hard to keep track of who was what and where when it was dark and everything seemed to be on the same flat plane.

Honestly, we can’t remember how we even got out, but the important thing was that in the early hours of Friday morning, we found something very special. Cue: The Polygon stage.

Polygon stage | Photo courtesy of Melissa Jayne
Polygon stage | Photo courtesy of Melissa Jayne

Outdoors, lined with lights that alternated between frequencies, colors, and lines, it was like our favorite underground club decided to come up for air, but kept the visuals. The sound was deep, skirting around an afro-beat for the next 90 minutes: We stopped. Who was this DJ? It was Lui Mafura – someone who kept us up a lot later than we intended: He was incredible.

The hardest part about being at Wonderfruit would soon become apparent: Deciding when to leave, because you really never have to – there were even hammocks in a corner to sleep in, and so we tell you Pro Tip #4 for Wonderfruit: There are a lot of acts, and unless you’re a machine, you will miss seeing artists that you truly love because: sleep. Have a look at the timetable, and commit to the ones you MUST see, and accept the ones that you missed.

On that note, Diary – we need to sleep. Até a manhã.

Friday, 14 December & Saturday, 15 December

Dear Diary,

It’s been 36 to 48 hours, we’re not quite sure, but we are certain of one thing: Everyone must see Young Marco play at least once before they die.

Let’s back up: We committed ourselves to getting to the festival while the sun was still out. Wonderfruit is sort of a rolling 24-hour party, we painfully discovered, and if you want to never sleep and/or leave — it is very, very possible.

In our rush to get out of the villa before the sunset, we forgot to brush our hair. Small matter, but a natty, and grassy one after lying down in the grass with our chosen meal of the day: som tam (papaya salad), and vegan red curry.

Aveda styled hair via Coconuts KL
Aveda styled hair via Coconuts KL

Cue: Fancy-pants hair purveyors Aveda, who set up a free-of-charge hair booth, ready and willing to untangle your knots, and smooth out your pom poms. We visited, asking only for a hair brush, a mirror, and some of our dignity back. They obliged, and focused their attentions on assisting our friend to make her mini hair buns more symmetrical. Pro Tip #5: Considering the obscenely expensive nature of everything else inside the festival, say yes to all non-legally binding free services like this one.

With brushed hair flowing, we decided it was time to look into some of the more new age elements to the festival — there’s yoga, or mass consciousness exercises, and also, a gong bath.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

Full disclosure, diary: Many years ago, when we were an un-jaded teen, excited to be living alone in London, we allowed a friend to convince us to try a Japanese butoh workshop. There was a lot of movement, a lot of “getting in touch with your primal self” talk, and within five minutes we were hit by the kind of hysterical laughter that is usually reserved for maniacs. We left then, pretending to be overcome with emotion, but really just went down the road to have a cup of tea, and messaged our friend via Nokia 5110: “thanks, but no thanks.”

For us, it was the end of all things spiritual.

via Coconuts KL

So, as these memories flooded in to inform our decision-making, here in Pattaya in the year 2018, we decided: yoga it is. Digestible, easy to follow, and with a thumping beat loud enough to drown out our inner voice laughing at ourselves.

Maybe next year we’ll make it to the gong bath. Or to whatever this was.

via Coconuts KL

Yoga left us refreshed, looking for that free water, and gravitating to what would be our two main haunts for the entirety of the festival: The Solar Stage, and the Polygon, with a couple of exceptions in between.

We caught the sunset hitting the incredibly talented Malaysian singer NJWA, who was mid-set when we arrived, along with her full backing band. Music lovers in the area — please make a point to catch her live. We saw her years ago, when she performed at a small hip hop festival, then a couple years ago at Good Vibes, where she held the crowd through the rain, and now at Wonderfruit. She is always good. Her band is always incredibly tight, and play like they could riff forever. She IS stage presence. Win.

Solar Stage as the sun sets via Coconuts KL
The Hive at the Solar Stage via Coconuts KL

In the middle of the solar stage is a kind of honeycomb structure with nooks dubbed “The Hive” — it was beautiful, the backdrop setting on a thousand and one photos, and also where those who forgot to pack sunscreen went to hide from the sun. We never caught a nook unattended, and are willing to wager that those with a pod in the hive lined up earlier than a worthy H&M collaboration to get a spot.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

The sun sets fast on Pattaya, and soon the darkness leaves us wondering what to do between 7pm and Midland’s set at 1am. To the Ziggurat tent we go, where music played, but most importantly, where we are able to lie down for a couple of undignified hours. Pro Tip #6: Try to sleep where you can, and when. There’s a lot going on in four days, and it’s a lot easier to nap somewhere cushioned for a few hours than leaving, and coming back.

By the time 1am rolled around, we’re ready for the God who is Midland.

The Quarry stage | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat
The Quarry stage | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat

Was it a bad set? No. Was it middling techno? Yes. Was the stage setting in The Quarry incredible? Oh, hell to the yeah. Margaret Dygas took over after a few hours, and saved the day. It was dark, good techno, and worthy of the sunken grotto that was The Quarry.

The Quarry stage | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat
The Quarry stage | Photo courtesy of Omar Chelbat

For the first time during the festival we were hit with the painful realization that all of our beer drinking, free water refilling, and shameless sangria sampling had led to a very full bladder, with no toilet in sight.

We found our festival guru, Malaysian DJ JonnyVicious, and asked him where he last saw the loo.

“Oh no, honey, don’t do that.”

What do you mean, JonnyVicious?

“I mean, don’t. Come, let me take you to the beach.”

And off we went into the dark labyrinth surrounding The Quarry, to a sandy area with no water, surrounded by what we assume were trees.

“Here. I’ll stand over there and make sure you’re covered.”

Remember we talked about suffering a lot of indignities, Diary? Well, public urination was another one of them, and we soon found out why: The toilets at Wonderfruit are beyond disgusting, never dry, saturated with filth and piss, but are equipped with water-squirting bum guns. Unfortunately, not even that feature was enough to sway our Malaysian hearts, and we opted for the Great Outdoors whenever possible. Pro Tip #7: Carry wet-wipes, find a look-out buddy, and lobby festival organizers over the next year to provide better bathroom services. It can be done — they just need to care enough about it.

Diary, at this point the night sort of blends into morning. We knew we had to catch Craig Richards at sunrise, but once we got there his set is largely disappointing. As the skies brighten above us, the music stayed static, and dark, like it was meant for a basement afterparty, and not the majestic open fields. Our hearts broke a little, but Wonderfruit Pro Tip #8: Your heroes will disappoint you sometimes. Maybe they read the vibe wrong. Maybe they didn’t catch the memo that it’s a lighter mood at 7am. It happens. Brush it off, and move on to the next act.

Young Marco: Right now, our favorite DJ, along with Hunee. Less words here, but let’s just say that it was a true musical journey that took us through unexpected crests and troughs, and managed to work in a little MF Doom for good measure. Everyone needs to see him play, at least once.

Our video has terrible sound quality — but here’s the vibe:

https://www.instagram.com/p/5S9fShQo-V/

We leave his set and go looking for breakfast/free water/rest. We find a beachy stage with one of our other favorite Malaysian artists, Brown Rice. Hey — we don’t just go to party, we got to SUPOT (support). Their set is high-energy and riffs heavily on what seemed to this year’s favorite mood: Afro-beat, but jazzed up with some wilder Bollywood-inspired jams and juicy techno darkness. We alternate between lying down in the sun, and dancing.

Brown Rice via Coconuts KL
Brown Rice via Coconuts KL

Wonderfruit Pro Tip #9: Carry sunscreen with you. Always.

Sunday, 16 December

Diary, what happened to yesterday? We blacked out after Brown Rice, not from alcohol, but some kind of sleep deprivation mixed with a rolling dance beat, and woke up trying to remember the last thing that we saw.

Throwing on what we had left in our treasure trove of festival gear, we head out to catch what we could of Horse Meat Disco. We miss them entirely.

Crestfallen, we head to the Solar Stage to fight with dozens of other festival-goers for pole position in that perfect “magic hour” pic. We have to admit, it does look handsomely golden.

Shame? Sorry, I don't know her via Coconuts KL
Shame? Sorry, I don’t know her via Coconuts KL

Before we leave, we have one final boogie, head over to the Sing Sing Stage to witness our bathroom look-out JonnyVicious spin like a house and disco Pied Piper, growing the crowd from a handful to “no longer able to fit on the dance floor.”

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

Speaking of fitting, D — Our sartorial decision to rock festival body-con is not a look for the faint of heart, and after four days we’re ready to throw off our bikini and mesh playsuit combo (yes, that’s actually what we wore), go into central Pattaya, and eat a lot of very good, very cheap Thai food. And that’s exactly what we do.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

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