Korea: Getting Muddy in Boryeong
Glorious Mud on Korea’s Most Beautiful Beach: Boryeong Mud Festival in Korea
By Drew Goldberg
Last weekend, I attended Korean’s biggest summer festival. It’s called Mud Fest and it was absolutely insane.
What first started out in 1998 as a small gathering to promote Boryeong city as a tourist destination, Mud Fest has turned into a massive 10-day event that gets more and more popular every year. This year, over 3 million people attended the muddy festival that occurred over 10 days in July.
Mud Fest takes place some 200 kilometers South of Seoul. More specifically, it is held on Daecheon Beach in a city called Boryeong- on the West coast of Korea. Boryeong is widely considered to be one of the nicest beaches with the cleanest ocean water in Korea. While this may be true, I can assure you that it’s definitely not the cleanest beach during Mudfest!
The festival can be quite overwhelming at first. It seems like all foreigners and expats who are living in Korea are there, drinking booze all day, and going absolutely crazy. But once you settle in and get a feel for the festival, you soon realize that it’s a great time!
Despite the heavy influx of Westerners, there is also a healthy mix of Koreans that are in attendance to join the fun. The atmosphere is fun, exciting and energetic. It’s almost impossible not to enjoy yourself- even if mud isn’t your thing because you can just relax on the beach.
Mud Fest is a great experience overall and it’s a perfect place to meet people. Everyone is happy, friendly and fully enjoying the summer sunshine on perhaps the most beautiful beach in Korea. Not to mention, nearly everyone is drunk in one way or another. So, it might be a bit sloppy, but it’s sure a fun time!
So, what is this ‘mud’ and where does it come from?
The mud comes from the local Boryeong mud flats, and then brought over to Daecheon beach by the truck load. In fact, the mud is considered to be really healthy for your skin because it is rich in natural minerals. When you put it on your skin, it feels sort of watered-down mud as opposed to thick mud. It feels really soothing and nice.
All along Daecheon beach, there are massive tubs filled with fresh Boryeong Mud. Anyone is allowed to stop by whenever they want and cover their bodies, and their friends’ bodies, in mud.
In the main area of the festival, there is the “Mud Zone.” This is the place where you can find the giant mud slides, mud wrestling contest and even swimming in the mega mud tub. You must pay 6,000 Won ($6USD) to enter this area, and there is often a really long line (but it’s worth it). This is where all the real fun is at!
What to Expect
You will likely only spend one or two days at this festival, because that is all the mud that you will want to handle. Many people go with a large group of friends and rent out a pension in the area to sleep. If not, then others usually take day trips to the festival. Regardless of how you get there, everyone shows up early in the morning, because that’s when things start to happen.
After breakfast, you’ll crack open your first beer and start lathering yourself in mud. Then, you’ll spend a while playing in the Mud Zone (if you desire) or checking out any of the mud events like the colored-mud contest or the mud photo shoot. By 1 or 2 PM, everyone has had more than a few drinks and the place is madness- filled with energy and fun.
When you get sick and tired of the mud, then just walk 50 meters down to the fresh ocean water and take a swim. At any given time, there are thousands of people playing in the waves and having splash wars with their friends. It’s really a lively atmosphere.
Throughout the day, there are live concerts playing on the main stage.
It’s impossible to miss because music is blasting from the giant speakers. Sometimes, then have rock bands or K-Pop stars performing, but the majority of the music is electronic dance music (AKA party music).
It’s pretty awesome to see thousands of people covered in mud from head to toe and dancing like crazy to their favorite beats. Where else in the world can this happen?
After you are worn out (which is more than likely to happen), simply set up a tent and chill out on the beach. Nothing is more tranquil and relaxing than spending some quality time in the sand.
Are you hungry? Don’t worry! There are literally hundreds of Korean restaurants and food stands lined up along the beach. You can find anything Western-style from kebabs, pizza, hot dogs, or if you prefer local cuisine, then you can get Korean BBQ, bi-bim-bap or fresh seafood.
By night, prepare yourself for the amazing fireworks show! The summer sky is lit up with a colorful display of bursting colors over the Yellow Sea.
If you can make it into the nighttime, then check out one of the many bars and clubs along Daecheon Beach. They are open all night and packed with party animals who can rally until the sun rises.
Call it a marathon? I think so!
A Personal Mud Story
I went to Mudfest in July 2014. I went on an overnight trip with a bus-full of English teachers from my hometown called Pyeongtaek. Everyone paid a fixed price, which included transportation both ways, a place to sleep, and breakfast the next morning. It was pretty convenient and everything worked out smoothly.
We all pitched in for a pension that we spend the night in. I think that 10 people crashed in our room and we were all comfortable. The only issues was that we were a little far from the main Mudfest grounds (30 minute walk), so it was a little inconvenient.
We arrived in Boryeong around 9AM on Saturday. After checking into our pension and dropping off our bags, we were off to the mud festivities. It was an all-day drinking bender. We had a squirt gun that we filled up with soju (a popular Korean liquor) and were squirting it in people’s mouths. There wasn’t a moment of the day where I didn’t’ have a beer or a bottle of soju in my hand.
We lathered up in mud and explored the entire camp grounds. I thought that the mud would protect me from the sun, but I was wrong. I got SO sunburned on my face, neck and shoulders. You could see the exact outline of my tank top shirt on my skin. I sure learned my lesson…
My friends and I decided not to enter the Mud Zone- where the mud slide and wrestling was- because the line was over an hour long. But, we still had a lot of fun without going inside and playing in the mud in other places. We spent a lot of time playing in the ocean water, which was so damn cold, but refreshing when you finally get used to it as the saying goes.
The entire day at the fest was a fantastic and memorable experience. Hanging out with friends, boozing on the beach, getting covered head to toe in mud, meeting some awesome people, and enjoying the lively Korean festival atmosphere. I would highly recommend this event to anyone that is visiting Korea in the summertime!
Lastly, I’d like to mention a thing about Boryeong as a travel destination. Aside from Mud Fest, I highly recommend going to Boryeong if you have time on your Korean trip. It’s only a 2-hour bus ride away from Seoul, and it is one of the best beach towns in the country.
There is just a special ambiance in Boryeong that I haven’t found anywhere else in Korea. Perhaps it’s the friendly people, or the plethora of fresh food, or the soothing ocean water that make Boryeong so special. Furthermore, you can see numerous small islands in the short distance from the beach. They are all accessible by ferry from Daecheon Port if you want to go on a quick adventure.
There are an abundance of nice restaurants that serve Korean specialties and world-class seafood. Prices aren’t too expensive and the quality is excellent, so they are worth exploring.
If you want to get a little Korean culture, then you are in the right place because Boryeong has some nice Korean temples. Most notably are the Seodoksa, Muryangsa and Goransa temples.
Drew Goldberg is a recent college graduate who has visited 45+ countries since the beginning of 2012. He is currently teaching English in South Korea and he blogs about food, culture and nightlife at the Hungry Partier.
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