Words: Iman Athira
Image Credit: Quest Festival
A month has gone by and yet the memories of Quest Festival still linger. It’s surreal to think that not too long ago I was dancing in a lush Vietnamese forest, surrounded by sunshine and strangers who have now become newfound friends that remain dispersed across the globe.
With the rise of lifestyle festivals all over the world, Quest Festival has definitely made its mark as one to look out for in the Southeast Asia region. Running since 2013, Quest is now the biggest multi-day music and arts festival in Vietnam, and this three-day gathering annually takes place between the 10th and 12th November.
Located an hour’s drive away from Hanoi’s bustle, deep in the mountain ranges of Son Tinh Camp, the setting was definitely a utopian paradise that held a magic of its own. Enveloped by tall green trees, blue skies and the stunning Dong Mo Lake, the site was brought to life by swings overlooking the water, interactive art installations and a cozy area for workshops and healings.
As this my first music and art festival in Southeast Asia, I really did not know what to expect. Unlike Australia, which has become overpopulated with similar festivals, it is difficult for gatherings like these to exist in the Southeast Asian region, and that itself made my experience an extra special one. Shout-out to the organizers and all those who made this experience possible. It was truly heart-warming to be a part of an event like this so close to home.
From beginning to end, Quest ended up being a journey of the heart. Bringing people together from far and wide, many festivalgoers travelled there on their own, or were there just for the weekend. Attracting a crowd of mostly backpackers and expatriates, this festival was truly an international affair, and everyone had their own unique story to tell.
Being distanced from the hectic monotony of city life, and watching the dusty half-moon cast reflections onto the lake, I was overwhelmed with feelings of complete peace and gratitude. It’s always events like these that serve as the biggest reminder of how simple finding happiness can be.
Friday night felt like an absolute dream. As I walked through the pathway surrounded by whispering trees towards the lights and sound of what I knew was inevitably going to be a magical weekend, a shiver of excitement ran through me. The festival was already in full swing- I could hear the music reverberating from the stages, feel the excitement in the air and I couldn’t wait to frolic amongst it.
Following the music, I found myself at Quest Embassy stage, where Sunju Hargun (BKK) was pumping out some serious tech-house. You could not wipe off the smile on my face if you tried, and the dance floor was already filled with smiles, good vibes, and everything necessary for an amazing night. The tunes definitely did not lack, as Hargun’s set was backed with live sets by Dee. F (HAN) and Japan-based Masaru (JPN), who took on darker, techno sounds.
Come sunrise, the site was blanketed by a mystical fog, and the air was still with the sounds of nature. The Sunrise/Sunset stage kept true to its name, where Bahtik (BKK), followed by Cats on Crack (SGP), started off the morning with some beautiful down-tempo sets. With only about twenty people on the dancefloor, and the sun peeking through the mist and clouds, the hours in between were nothing short of perfect.
Saturday afternoon was spent exploring the site. From the selection of workshops, to mind-blowing installations and incredible performances, Quest provided an experience that gratified all five senses. There were so many different things that festivalgoers could participate in, like morning yoga (or, beer yoga if you were feeling adventurous), craft sessions that ranged from jewellery-making to face-painting, and there was even an area called the Ambient Mushroom where you could participate in poetry readings or fall asleep to ambient music at.
Stumbling into the Khong Sao Commune on Saturday night brought a pleasant surprise in the form of Thisshard, a young group of Hanoians that fully improvise their tunes on pad controllers with overlays of beatboxing and rap. The music that night again, was impeccably on-point, and I ended up spending most my night hanging out with a wonderful group of humans and a turtle doof stick that said GOOD VIBES ONLY… because that pretty much summed up the whole festival.
Most of my Sunday was spent by the lake, reveling in its calming waters. Funky Deep N Tribal Thang (GER), helped beat the heat with a mind-blowing disco set played against a live saxophone, and the day was finished by a performance by Stars and Rabbit (JOG), that hauntingly through the night. The completion of this beautiful weekend was marked by the burn of a wooden boat structure, flames flicking in the still waters of the lake.
What I loved most about this festival was the variety of musical genres that were showcased. From reggae, to hip hop, to traditional Vietnamese music and of course house and techno, there was always something for everyone, no matter what mood you were in. Coming in to the festival, I didn’t know many names on the lineup, and I left with a whole list of new artists to listen to.
The sustainability factor of this festival was also impressive. It was also the first time I’d been to a festival where attendees are able to rent out tents that were already set-up, which in the long-run, reduces a lot of waste as there is always the risk of people leaving their tents behind. To top it off, the dedicated eco-team made rounds every few hours picking up rubbish, and tried their best to keep the site as clean as possible.
Above all, Quest was more than just a festival, it was an experience. A safe space to express and absorb expression through an appreciation for music, art and nature all coming together to bring transformation by collective connection and creation. It is one of those festivals where no amount of words will give it justice. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself…
For information on next year’s event, click here.