The Glastonbury Festival of Thailand?
The Big Mountain Music Festival takes place in December every year at the Bonanza venue in Khao Yai, just a couple of hours drive outside of Bangkok.
Big Mountain Music Festival 5
As of now, the Big Mountain Music Festival is still only 5 years old, so it’s still a relatively new event. It’s particularly popular with under 30s and teens, and has less of a diversity of ages than other western music festivals. Also, as you can tell from the use of primarily Thai language on their website and in their promotions, the Big Mountain Music Festival is not overly famous among foreigners either.
The Big Mountain Music Festival is open to roughly 40,000 festival-goers with tickets going on sale around September time for 1500 baht. You’ll need to buy your tickets from one of the Thai Ticket Major offices – one of the easiest to reach and most central Thai Ticket Major shops in Bangkok is in Zen, Central World.
Music at BMMF
There are a total of roughly half a dozen stages scattered around the grounds of the Big Mountain Music Festival at Bonanza, all with an amazing Thai mountain backdrop. Most of the bands are Thai, however there are a couple of not-so-famous foreign bands too.
In the typical, creative Thai style, the Big Mountain Music Festival has plenty of loveable and quirky details throughout that make it a completely unique festival experience. The gates open at 3pm so you can witness the sun set over the awesome landscape and decorations too.
At Big Mountain Music Festival 5, the stages had different themes and characteristics, the most prominent stages being the Cow Stage, with a giant swinging cow head and crazy spinning eyes; the Sticky Rice Stage, with an oversized sticky rice basket for the DJs to perform from; the Sperm stage, with lots of floating sperms lining the tent; and – my personal favourite – the Ferris Wheel Stage, with dozens of neon, colourful ferris wheels spinning away behind the stage.
One awesome bonus, was that you could ride the ferris wheels for a behind the scenes view of the stage for just 40 baht. Watching the BMMF Superband playing while the crowd bounced around pumping their fists during sunset was well worth the money!
As for the atmosphere at the Big Mountain Music Festival, it’s much more mellow and well behaved than your standard music festivals. Looking around, there were never many other people drinking alcohol – despite the multitude of Chang beer tents scattered around the place – and many people seemed to opt to sit down at many of the stages. It has quite a contrastingly pleasant atmosphere, however if you prefer a little more excitement, just make sure to head to the main stage. There were plenty of drunken and excitable festival goers to dance around with when I visited, it was awesome!
One word of advice if you’re heading to the Big Mountain Music Festival: Bring a hoodie or a jacket, it’s seriously cold!!! Just be prepared that, even if it is hot everywhere else in Thailand, BMMF is located in the mountains and the temperatures drop massively once the sun sets. Most of the Thais use it as a good excuse to wear their woolley hats, scarves and jackets to the Big Mountain Music Festival.
Where to stay
The Big Mountain Music Festival lasts 2 days – you can either stay two nights in a nearby hotel or you can camp. For campers, there are two major areas in Bonanza for tents: external and internal. If you’re planning on staying out and watching music until late then it’s a good idea to sleep inside the grounds, if you actually want some sleep then you might want to camp outside instead. You can either hire a ready-pitched tent or bring you own tent.
- If camping outside, for a 3x3m pitch for your own tent it costs 450 baht. For an already-pitched 2 person tent, it costs 900 baht. You can check in the day before the festival starts and head to the pre party if camping externally.
- Alternatively, if camping internally, it costs 1200 baht to rent an already-pitched tent. You can only check in on the day of the festival rather than the night before if camping inside. You also need to bring your own sleeping bag (highly recommended). You can book tents via Thai Ticket Major when buying your Big Mountain Music Festival tickets.
- All of the local hotels are located quite a few kilometres away from Bonanza. However, this isn’t a problem as there are plenty of motorcycle taxis kicking around outside the festival grounds during all hours. The earlier you book the better, as hotels book up very quickly in the run up to Big Mountain Music Festival. I stayed in a hotel called Eco Valley Lodge – this was a really nice hotel located about 10km away. It may be worth getting hotel staff to write directions in Thai for you to give to the drivers though.
If staying in a hotel in Khao Yai, hotel staff should be able to arrange a songtaew for you to get to the festival. Depending on how far away your hotel is, this will cost a few hundred baht. Getting back from the festival, there won’t be any songtaews so you’ll have no choice but to take a motorcycle taxi. They’re not too cheap, you’ll likely be charged between 200 and 400 baht per person.
How to get to Khao Yai
You can get a minivan from around 3200 baht from Bangkok to Khao Yai, hotels can arrange this. Alternatively, you can catch the shuttle bus from Bangkok to Big Mountain Festival on the Saturday morning and back on the Monday morning. Of course this may be subject to change in upcoming festivals, but prices generally cost around 550 baht each way. If there’s a group of you travelling together, it may be worth hiring your own minivan – Oriental Escape have minivans for hire for 3500 baht from Bangkok to Khao Yai.