Sunday, 18 October 2015 16:22

Quest Festival

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Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival

How to survive Hanoi’s hippy-fest.


Dust-covered desert trippers disband to their homelands as the fiery haze of Burning Man is left to smoulder. Closer to home, the tribal drumbeats of Borneo’s Rainforest World Music Festival subside, while Japan’s montane headbangers readjust to stark reality until next year’s Fuji Rock Festival. Yet, in the heart of Vietnam, a community of fun-loving forest-bound folk are getting geed up for what’s becoming one of the most anticipated Southeast Asian festivals of the year.


This year’s monster-themed Quest Festival returns for its fifth instalment from Nov. 6 to Nov. 8 with a brain-wrinkling weekend of diverse music, performances, tasty food, workshops, an all-new cinema, and a load of positive vibes to leave you feeling fuzzier than your beastly outfit.


If I were you, this would be the point at which I’d ignore all other immediate tasks, nab some tickets, and get stuck into fashioning the best mother-flipping monster getup in the history of Quest (if I hadn’t done so already, about five and a half weeks ago. It has lasers on it, and it’s pretty freaking rad). But wouldn’t everyone?

Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival

When I presented the game plan to a less adventurous friend recently, however, the proposal was swiftly backhanded with rapid-fire moans of ubiquitous dreadlocks, sweaty hugs, and that persistent odour of chai. To be fair, she wasn’t entirely off target. Nevertheless, her vision was naïve at best, and negatively skewed at worst. After all, is a pungent tentful of kaleidoscopic strangers engaging in intense eye contact and massage circles really the scariest thought in the world?


For those who answered “Yes”, but are still too delightfully curious to resist one of Hanoi’s best-loved hippy festivals, Quest festival director Malcolm Duckett and creative director Mark Harris are here to provide some quality advice on surviving, embracing, and enjoying Quest Festival.


Festivals like Quest often carry a reputation for attracting particular kinds of people. What breed of party-goers should we expect to encounter there?


Malcolm: I think there are two distinct groups that come to Quest. Firstly, there are the foreigners, who have often attended major music festivals in their own home countries and abroad. Secondly, we have the Vietnamese crowd, for many of whom Quest is their first festival experience.


Mark: It’s basically people who love culture — the arts and music people who, perhaps, shun the mainstream and enjoy things that are done with love and skill. The Vietnamese interest in the festival is huge now, which makes us incredibly proud — we always wanted the festival to feel welcoming to everyone. Short answer? Awesome fun lovers. 

Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival 

What about the atmosphere? Can you describe it in five words?


Mark: This is tough. We have broken the rules and made six, but to make up for it we’ve forced them into a catchy acronym: HIPPOS.


Hilarious — Funny shit happens all the time

Immersive — We create our stunning spaces with love

Pounding — So much music, from chilled strings to banging bass

Participatory — Get involved. Costume, workshop, perform...

Open — Chat to anyone, make new friends

Sexy — Surroundings, people and sounds


How advisable is it to embrace this year’s theme of ‘monsters’? Is resistance futile?


Mark: The choice of monsters was not a choice at all. The bizarre mutant infection started among the team some months back. Some members, having fully transformed into drooling creatures, are being kept on lockdown until the festival — one is currently chained to a table at Madake.


By making an effort to disguise yourself with costume, not only could you be crowned Most Monsterous on the Monster Catwalk (and win a lifetime ticket to Quest), but you may avoid being attacked by the gruesomely infected minions roaming the site.


What are the top five essential items that Quest-goers should pack with them?


Malcolm: Bring a swimsuit — the entire site is on a peninsula and surrounded by water!


Mark: A monstrous costume, an open mind, dancing shoes, something to share.

Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival Quest Festival. Photo by Quest Festival

What do you do if a sweaty, hairy, dancing hippy embraces you on the dance floor?


Mark: Well that depends how you feel about it. Most of our hippies are hand-reared and here on culture exchanges arranged through the Pan Asian Goa Association (PAGA), and are very respectful. They usually only hug when fed or given free drinks. If it were me, I’d hug them back. — Greta Kite-Gilmour. Photos by Viet Le Hoang / Quest Festival


For more info on the upcoming Quest Festival, click on or go to The next installment runs from Nov. 6 to Nov. 8 in Son Tinh Camp, Ba Vi, about 50km west of Hanoi

Last modified on Monday, 19 October 2015 18:34
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