Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Boryeong Mud Festival: Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

ALONG THE GOLDEN COAST of the Yellow Sea lies the sleepy town of Boryeong*, a small city with one main street running past hotels, restaurants, museums, and a sole night club. Waves lap gently at the sandy shores, and the sun hangs lazily in the sky.

However, sometime around mid-July, huge red-and-white tents begin to pop up. A giant stage is constructed. And a vast theme park takes shape right on Daecheon Beach that is filled with, well, mud.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my own—there was no way I was going to bring a camera into the fray.

Immediately upon entering the festival arena, you may have random strangers remedy your clean bathing suit situation with a generous handful of mud. From there, you can only get dirtier. Giant mud slides tower above the crowds, slippery obstacle courses pit you against rubber hurdles reminiscent of ABC's Wipeout!, and while waiting in line for some of the more popular attractions, like the mud slides, why not splash yourself with more mud found in the giant, oil rig barrels? Smooth and hygienic, the mud proves most soothing to the skin, and seems to be a nice sunblock to boot.

My friends and I went the last weekend of the festival, when it was obviously the most packed, but there was still plenty of mud to go around. We signed up with Seoul Hiking Group early on for a discounted rate (this year it looks around 70,000 won), which included transportation, food, and the hotel (several roll-out cots, heated floor, bathroom, and minimal kitchen areareally, you're not going to be spending your time in here). Also worth checking out is Shity Hiking Group, which will also arrange trips. Don't wait, since hotel prices will skyrocket over 100,000 won toward July. Admission into the Festival itself was rather cheap; around 9,000 won, depending on what kind of experience you wished to have. Off towards a quieter end of the festival, for example, there are relaxing mud massages available, as well as all-natural mud cosmetics for purchase. Also on this end are booths where you can paint your face with colored mud: pretty pastel colors of blue, yellow, and red. 

We started off enjoying savory barbequed clams in one of the many dining tents surrounding the festival grounds. One must be entirely showered off to enter, and then you get set up with your own barbeque and a delightful assortment of side dishes. Ordering a round of rice wine meokgeolli is also highly encouraged. I would need that liquid courage in order to enter the ferocious mud wrestling pits, slip-and-slides, and one very brutal tug-of-war, in which I was slammed repeatedly against a plastic bouncy toy wall until I slipped in the mud, and my formidable opponent dashed to go hit her bell for the win. Eventually, we stumbled onto the beach, exhausted and caked in mud from our toes to the roots of our hair. From there, it was just a simple jump into the ocean to get entirely rinsed off. With our stomachs growling at us, we immediately marched over to the local Chicken Town to eat a ton of amazing fried chicken.

You might have heard that the Boryeong Mud Festival is just an excuse for foreigners to get drunk, and it's true: the only thing that might make playing in the mud even better is beer. However, it's good for all of us waygook to remember: don't ruin the festival for others, and don't go overboard. For many who are foreign English teachers: remember that you have students who look up to you, and it's hard to respect someone who needs to be pitched into the ocean and then frog-marched back to their hotel room. Keep it as classy as one possibly can when looking like a cave man. 


Various evening events take place throughout the week; we were lucky enough to land on the night of the "Mud Rock" concert, featuring many singers, most notably Korean rock sensation Maya (마야). The concert drew large crowds, adults and children alike, and went on until midnight, after which fireworks streaked through the air and exploded over the moonlit bay. 

One night club and several bars stay open later. Also, although the festival grounds are closed, there is the full stretch of moonlit Daecheon Beach upon which to relax and meet other festival-goers.

If for some reason, you get tired of playing in the mud all weekend, there is the town to explore—my friends and I stumbled upon a really neat "optical illusion" exhibit at the local museum, where you could photograph yourself into paintings of King Kong, dinosaurs, and the like, which come to full, 3-D life. However, it's hard to stay clean for very long. Eventually, we just wanted to play in the mud again. 

I crawl up from the depths.

Why am I featuring the Boryeong Mud Festival so early? Because hotel rooms and great group deals sell out early, so start planning your mud adventure tout de suite

*Boryeong City is in the South Chungcheong Province

Event Information:

Dates: 07/19/20137/28/2013
Transportation: Go to Seoul Central City Bus Terminal and catch the express bus (red) to Boryeong (보령)
English Information Hotline: (010)-5438-4865
(Other Language Information Hotlines, including Chinese and Japanese, found on Website)
Last Year's Schedule:

Disclaimer: The above is depicted as fiction, not fact. 

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