While the world is dealing with troubling conflicts, Wonderfruit Festival in Pattaya, Thailand aimed to bring some positive vibes into the world. In it’s third year, Wonderfruit Festival is as an annual celebration of art, music and life that is dedicated to awakening human potential and positive energy.
My festival crew spent the first 2 weeks of our journey traveling around Thailand, visiting Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, and Bangkok. However, after an amazingly chill week in Krabi kayaking and relaxing on the beach, I couldn’t imagine leaving our utopian resort for 4 days of raging under the grueling Thai sun. I ‘ve been going to festivals for the last 7 years and after my last Burning Man when I left playa feeling like a zombie, I was reluctant to put my body through another such trial.
To my surprise, Wonderfruit surpassed all of my expectations and turned out to be one of the best festival experiences of my life.
We arrived on site early Thursday night to a mostly deserted festival. It was the first time I had arrived to a festival site before the main festivities began. To all festival attendees, this is something I recommend doing! Arriving early gives you the opportunity to explore the festival grounds minus the crowds, and allows you to discover more art installations. My crew felt like we had the whole festival to ourselves and we even got to meet some of the creators of these cool exhibits and discuss their artistic vision behind the installations.
Wonderfruit feels like it’s designed to bring out your inner child. Among my favorite installations were the Molam Bus Project– a colorful school bus that you could dance upon, a giant bouncy ball, and a trippy infinity mirror installation that turned one person into an infinite sequence of people. We ended the night climbing on top of the impressive solar stage to cuddle and gaze at the night sky. It was only Day 1 of Wonderfruit and I was already having a blast.
Friday morning we woke up at 8:30am lying in a pool of sweat. Our tent in boutique camping came with a fan, but the intense sun made it impossible to stay inside past 9:30am. We took a cold shower, then went to chill in the boutique bar and move as little as possible until the heat became more bearable. Boutique Camping at Wonderfruit was worth the money. There were actual showers made out of concrete and bamboo, mirrors that were well lit, and real toilets that flushed.
Wonderfruit is one of the few festivals in the world that is organized around eco-friendly practices and finding creative ways to have a positive influence on the planet. There is a no-plastics policy so all Wonderfruit food vendors must use recyclable plates,and organisers use a water-filtration system to pump water from a natural lake. They also encourage the use of natural and recyclable materials to create the structures and stages of the festival.
Wonderfruit’s commitment to sustainability and cleanliness was noticeable. It was definitely the cleanest festival I’ve ever been to- for the first time in my life, I actually felt comfortable sitting down on a toilet seat at a festival.
The festival rules forbid cigarette butts or litter on the ground and adorable trash monster bins were located throughout the site to encourage participants to recycle their trash. All in all, the entire Wonderfruit festival crew- from the maintenance team to the logistics managers- did a great job at keeping the festival running smoothly.
At mid day we ventured to the production camp to eat a tasty lunch of rice, bamboo shoots, and veggie stew. Aside from the staff meals at the production camp, there was a variety of delicious food at Wonderfruit ranging from lobster, to ice cream, and Peruvian cerviche. There were many local Thai delicacies like fresh crawfish, pad thai, and spicy papaya salads. At 200-500 baht for a meal, prices weren’t as cheap as you would expect in Thailand, but were comparable to prices at most American festivals. The quality of the food was well worth the price however- I ended up going to the same seafood vendor everyday for grilled salmon and tempura veggies. There were so many healthy and nourishing food options it was the first time that I resisted pigging out on junk food at a festival.
Wonderfruit wasn’t just music focused, but a transformative festival that fostered artistic creativity. I was amazed at the amount of unique workshops offered that focused on teaching festival attendees the basics of Thai crafts- ceramics, Thai cooking, handcrafting dreamcatchers, bamboo weaving, glass blowing….
Most of the workshops were taught by local craftspeople who relished sharing the techniques of their traditional art. Usually at festivals I rage too much and never make it to a single workshop, but Friday at Wonderfruit I made bamboo fans out of scrap fabric and hand dyed them purple and red to match my sequin kimono. It was so rewarding to have the opportunity to express my creativity in the tie-dyeing workship and create something awesome to dance with at the festival.
Wonderfruit’s commitment to sustainability also extended to the engineering of their music stages. Many of the popular music stages like The Farm Stage and The Quarry were built entirely from natural and recyclable materials like bamboo.
Wonderfruit is about the music as much as it is about community and sustainability. The organizers curated a mind-melting array of world-famous DJs, local electronic acts, and international jam bands. Among the big names were Nicole Moudaber, Rudimental, Wolf & Lamb, and Yookoo. However, rather than booking all big name DJs, the organizers wanted to give local talent a chance to shine as well.
Part art installation, part light show and part unadulturated nature, the Quarry was Wonderfruit’s late night electronic dancefloor where costumed revelers raged till the early morning. Combined with the bamboo stalks and leaves that made up the stage, the trippy lasers made you feel like you had discovered a parallel universe in the country woods where music was god. The surreal sights and sounds were enough to give you a contact high as you walked into the forest clearing.
Sprawled across the grounds of the Siam Country Club, Wonderfruit was the perfect size. Although the festival site was large, everything was easily accessible. Unlike large festivals, your campground was no more than 15 minutes walking and it wasn’t a struggle to go from one side of the festival to the other. Best of all, if you made some awesome new friends, you were likely to see them again- most likely at the Solar Stage where everyone gathered at sunrise to appreciate the sun’s ascension and the start of a new day.
My favorite stage at Wonderfruit was the Solar Stage- a genius geometric creation by Gregg Fleishman whose work has been featured at Burning Man. At night, the otherworldly structure seemed to be an alien spaceship whose surface was transformed by visual projections. As the highest point of The Fields, The Solar Stage was designed to allow viewers to marvel at the unforgettable sunsets and sunrises that occurred each day. The geometric stage was completely climbable and several cuddle pods lay on each level of the structure, allowing you chill while listening to a DJ set and watching people dancing hard. Those brave enough to climb to the very top enjoyed an unforgettable view of the entire festival grounds. During the day, fire performers, aerial artists, and dancers used The Solar Stage as a performance space.
I applaud the Wonderfruit production crew for the amount of shady cuddle spaces available throughout the festival grounds. Festival organizers definitely understood that comfortable shade structures were a necessity given the high temperatures. It was so easy to find a spot to rest when feeling tired. Chilling in a cuddle puddle with a fresh coconut or smoothie was the perfect way to rejuvenate and cool off when it got too hot.
Not only were they comfortable, but the shade structures spread across the grounds were beautifully decorated with Oriental art. My favorite rest area was Strangefruit, which was decorated like a Middle Eastern oasis tent complete with Oriental rugs, floor mattresses, lampshades, and a garden swing that housed 4 people. I was really impressed given that most of the structures were built by festival volunteers who labored in the days leading up to the festival to create these beautiful spaces. Apparently Strangefuit had been built over the course of two hours!
A day spent at Wonderfruit was never boring. The many hours were occupied with workshops, music, discussion and conversation, or simply people watching all the interesting people walking by. So many beautiful women!
Since I hope to take my clothing line global, one of my reasons for coming to Wonderfruit was to check out the festival style in Asia. I noticed that women definitely dressed up more than men whose main choice of clothing seemed to be shorts and a tank top. The high temperatures definitely influenced festival fashion and most people chose to keep cool rather than don elaborate costumes. The festival style at Wondefruit was full of color and patterns. As someone who mostly wears neutral fall colors or black, I loved the variation in patterns and colors. For those that did dress up, beautiful kimonos and flowy fabrics were the outfits of choice.
In what was pure serendipity, without knowing that Wonderfruit’s logo was a peacock, I had designed two kimonos made from peacock sequin fabric to showcase at the festival for the 2017 Fringe & Epaulette collection. I was so shocked to see that there were peacock motifs everywhere around the festival. Talk about random! It seemed to be another exhibition of the festival magic that kept on occurring at Wonderfruit.
By far my favorite part of Wonderfruit was spontaneously meeting a crew of goddesses who epitomized my design ethic. Shuang, Gilles, Joey and I had stopped by the colorful Wonderfruit marketplace to check out the multitude of awesome festival garb sold by local vendors.
While taking photos and trying on furry jackets, we bonded with two style goddesses whose kaleidoscopic style made them impossible to miss. Pupé Pemika Thiravanitkul was a fashion blogger whose mission was to alert the world to the amazingness of Thai fashion through her fashion blog Stellar Balcony. Aris Van Calster was a wardrobe stylist, photographer, and model whose colorful style was one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.
It was an instant attraction between our festival crew and the girls- everyone had such amazing fashion sense and positive energy. We spent the rest of the weekend taking photos with our stylish squad of goddesses in the new line of Fringe & Epaulette sequin kimonos. For me, this random encounter that turned into a magical experience was the quintessence of festival magic- both Aris and Pupe were randomly wearing outfits that matched the new kimonos I had made. Combined with Shuang and Joey’s fantasy look, everyone seemed as if they were goddesses from another planet, too beautiful to belong to the normal world. As a designer, it was a dream come true to have such beautiful goddesses wear my creations 🙂
Feeling the positive energy of our festival squad, Sunday morning at Wonderfruit was magical. The hazy red sun rose above the festival grounds and our crew of goddesses danced our hearts out to the sounds of Yokoo’s deep house beats at the Solar Stage.
While Wonderfruit had luxury accommodations and commercial services, it wasn’t Club Med. By the last day of the festival, we felt like zombies. Every sense was accosted by the extreme conditions: heat, dirt, noise, and most of all by the multitude and multiplicity of everything around us. It was sensory overload for your brain. However, it is this hardship that makes the transformative festival experience so special. Without discomfort, the mental and physical growth that you experience by the end of a festival would be too easy and taken for granted.
Wonderfruit was a transformative festival that encouraged our festival crew’s creativity. We didn’t just go as spectators, but to create beautiful things for others to enjoy. I think we spent more time creating art than exploring the festival, but it made the whole experience even more worthwhile because of the incredible content we created.
Our ethereal aerealist Joey Kim wowed the crowds with her breathtaking performances on silks and Lyra at the Solar Stage. As a a passionate dancer and beautiful soul, Joey is a role model for women everywhere. Her sensual performances encourage viewers to appreciate the beauty and strength of the divine feminine. Her motivation to dance stems from her desire to find strength in vulnerability and reveal the power of female energy. Chasing her dreams as an aerialist and exotic dancer has led her to a community of people, who accept her for who she is and encourage her to be a stronger woman. When she dances, she aims to express that self-love and acceptance are essential parts of the human experience.
Our LED Ninja Shuang created trippy light art with her LED dragon staff, and our crew of beautiful women channeled their goddess energy and rocked the new collection of Fringe & Epaulette festival fashion across The Fields, dazzling everyone with their sparkle and beauty.
All of our art couldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of our genius photographer Gilles Bonugli Kali who not only took care of all the girls, but lugged 30lbs worth of photography equipment around for 4 days capturing all the festival magic. He worked the entire festival, shooting my clothing line, photos for Wonderfruit, Joey Kim’s performances, and making sure everyone stayed hydrated and comfortable.
Wonderfruit was the perfect example of the magic that exists at transformative festivals. It was my first international festival and the friends I made came from all over the world. Our diverse squad included Joey Kim and Shuang from America, me from Jamaica, Gilles from France, Pavel from Russia, Aris from the Dominican Republic, and Pupe from Bangkok. I couldn’t believe how many serendipitous events occurred at Wonderfruit; proof that when you surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart, and nourish your soul, magic is inevitible.
Wonderfruit was a fusion of people from all regions and every language; each generation and tradition are mixed together for days in this melting pot of art, music, and creativity. Friendships develop, sometimes love sometimes also tension. Festival life is never easy- you push your body onwards through the heat and fatigue, knowing that in a few hours the magic will end and you will return to a normal life where you don’t give giant hugs to every stranger you meet. The real struggle is taking the love you experience in this welcoming environment, and spreading it throughout the default world. I’m already looking forward to new adventures at the next edition of Wonderfruit in December. For now, I’ll keep on smiling thinking of the amazing people and experience I had in this wonderland.
Until the next time Wonderfruit!
OUR WONDERFRUIT FESTIVAL SQUAD
- Yoshi Churnac- Founder- Fringe & Epaulette @fringeandepaulette
- Gilles Bonugli Kali- Photographer- www.gbk.photos– @gbk.photos
- Shuang Van Reizen @swanoftravel
- Aris Van Calster- Stylist & Model- www.arisvancalster.com @aris.van.calster
- Joey Kim- Aerealist & Exotic Dancer- www.joeykim.tv – Twitter @joeykim.tv
- Pupé Pemika Thiravanitkul- Fashion Blogger- www.stellarbalcony.com @stellar_balcony
Wonderfruit Festival Kimonos Available for Preorder
- Peacock Sequin Kimono (Lilac/Blue )
- Peacock Sequin Kimono (Orange/Blue)
- Solar Sunrise Kimono (Red/Purple)
- Solar Sunrise Kimono (Green/Silver)
Article by Yoshi Churnac
All Photography by Gilles Bonugli Kali www.gbk.photos