When we first learned that we would be moving to Korea, there was one event we know we wouldn’t miss out on: the Boryeong Mud Festival!
The mud festival began in 1998 to promote the beneficial qualities of Boryeong’s local mud, which exfoliates, tightens, and smoothes your skin. The beauty company that sells the mud came up with a great marketing campaign to raise awareness of their product: a festival! The mud is trucked from the Boryeong mud flats to Daecheon Beach, about 1 1/2- 2 hours south of Seoul. There’s concerts, parades, fireworks, races, and, most importantly, mud. The festival is very popular with foreigners and lasts for two weeks.
With a group of friends, we drove down on Saturday morning. We stayed about a block from the beach at the Pines Motel; it was very similar to our motel in Jeju: good enough. I think this is considered a fairly nice hotel by Koreans. I feel that our standards are different here in Korea; in the US, there’s no way I would have stayed in that hotel. It was dated, the towels were a little gray from so much use, and there was a slight stink. However, it was generally clean, and more importantly, had room for us. It takes a lot more effort to be prissier in Korea; so I have just adjusted my expectations.
After changing into swimsuits and clothes that we were willing to get dirty, we headed to the festival. Since we arrived after noon, we purchased half day passes (₩6,000 per person). We were given wristbands that granted us access to all the rides and events. All together it was smaller than I had expected, approximately an area 2-3 football fields. That area was packed with people though, most of them were standing in line waiting for their chance to roll in the mud. There were booths for massages, face masks, colored mud body painting, and an inflatable mud play area. I was most excited about the colored mud painting. There was red, yellow, and green mud that you could use to design your body. I really wanted polka dots. However, we decided that we would first go play in all the traditional gray mud and then come back later. This was a mistake, because we didn’t make it back before the colored mud tent closed. I was devastated. My polka dot dream remains unfulfilled.
However, we had a fantastic time playing on the inflatables, which were all adult sized and covered with mud. When we lived in Texas, I noticed that bouncy houses are becoming more and more prevalent at children’s events. It used to be they were just used for special functions, but now it’s not a birthday party without an inflatable. Do you know why? Because they’re awesome! While the festival didn’t have a bounce house, I was jumping for joy with all the other options. There were three large slides that you raced another person up; on the way down mud is thrown on you. I couldn’t believe how fast we went down the slides; it was just like being a kid again! There was also an inflated obstacle course; it was another race event. You had to crawl over walls, through tubes, bounce around barriers, and low crawl through a tunnel. All the while, there is mud everywhere, and you are either trying not to fall flat on your face or trying to stand back up after having fallen flat on your face. I had the hardest time standing back up after I fell over, and sometimes just resorted to crawling along.
Our favorite activity was the mud pit. It was basically a large kiddie pool filled with mud. And a free for all. They would only let about 15-20 people in at a time, and each group had about 2 minutes in the pool. Some groups were very calm and just slathered mud on themselves. Some groups took the opportunity to attack other humans in a vicious and unforgiving manner. We were the latter. My mind is a little “muddy” on the details of the mud pit, but I do remember attempting to redeem my loss at a race by wrapping my arms around my friend’s stomach and pulling her off her feet. It was a good plan until she landed on top me and we were both coated in mud. I also remember Jared picking me up and throwing me back down into the mud. I was completely submerged. He’s such a gentleman though, he pulled me right back up. We all had to rub the mud out of our eyes for a few minutes before we could properly see again. I lost both my contacts and had to be led around for the rest of the day. One friend had a significant amount of mud in his eyes. Chunks of mud. He kept rinsing them out, but even two or three hours later mud was still working its way out. I’m still wondering if we are all going to come down with some type of infection.
We were pretty exhausted and beat up by the time the festival shut down. I was tired of standing in the ridiculously long lines, bruised, and had scraped up elbows. After showers and naps, we headed out to enjoy the evening. The festival had promoted a “Hip Hop and Global Rave Party,” which we attended for a very short time. We listened to some electronic music, which isn’t really my style. However, I made the best of it and danced around while admiring the pretty flashing lights. I thought it was a little weird that they had set up hundreds of plastic chairs for a concert, and then it ended at 11:00 PM. I haven’t been to any raves before, but I’m pretty sure they don’t end at 11. That’s not a rave, that’s a “ra” that ends with a yawn. However, the rest of Daecheon Beach kept the party alive into the night; mingling with locals, dancing in the rain, and general merrymaking concluded our night.
We were all tired the next day, but it was good “this was an epic weekend” exhaustion. We will, of course, attend again next year. I still need my polka dots!