There’s mud in your ears, mud in your eyes, even mud in your – never mind. Oddly enough, you’re desperate for more. You slather yourself with the grey goop, catapult down mud-slicked inflatable slides and dunk virtual strangers in murky communal pits. When it’s all over, you run screaming into the sea. In Korea, this is completely normal – at least during the Boryeong Mud Fest.
South Korea’s famous Boryeong Mud Festival is the perfect excuse to go wild. In July Boryeong, a quiet city 200 km south of Seoul, will swell with mud-lovers from around the world, all looking for some filthy fun. The event was initially created to promote Boryeong mud cosmetics, but has become more about letting lose than preventing wrinkles. Nowhere else in the country can you throw on a swimsuit, down three bottles of soju, cover yourself in five different shades of mud and parade the streets with 50,000 of your closest friends.
The hugely popular event draws roughly 2 million visitors annually. Families picnic under beach umbrellas, toddlers splash in the kid-friendly section, and the under-30 crowd (generally English teachers, military personnel and college students) claims the stage and inflatable mud wonderland. Festival-goers have their pick of activities like the Mr. Mud contest, mud wrestling, mud races and even mud boot camp. Those looking for a more laid back experience can opt for mud facials, body painting, pottery demos, soap-making and lounging on Daecheon Beach.
Naturally, most visitors come strictly for the mud. However, Boryeong 2012 features an impressive entertainment line up. Pop and hip hop acts from across the planet will provide an eclectic soundtrack to the wet and wild madness, culminating with a global rave on the eve of closing ceremonies. Although it has nothing whatsoever to do with mud, Friday’s Korean b-boy show is also straight up amazing and should not be missed. The opening and closing ceremony fireworks shows aren’t to shabby, either.
Now in its 15th year, the festival is well organized and many travel companies offer reasonable tour packages. If group deals aren’t your thing, however, better hustle – buses, trains and hotel rooms fill up fast. Interpretation services, showers, changing facilities and lockers are also available for day trippers, and plenty of fantastic restaurants line the beach and festival area.
A few tips for Boryeong Mud Fest newbies
- Bring clothes you don’t mind destroying. This is mud. Yes, it’s natural and healing and yadda yadda yadda, but it stains just like plain, boring mud.
- Bring cash. Good luck using your card for that amazing fried chicken tent or the high stakes watermelon eating contest. At Boryeong, cash is king.
- Unless your camera could survive a monsoon, don’t bother. Also, your brilliant idea to carry it around in a plastic bag is just hilarious. If you simply MUST document yourself mid-mud fight, at least do it with waterproof case.
- Remember a bit of discretion. Sure, this is a perfect excuse to bust out your Speedo or microscopic bikini, but Korean society is fairly conservative and this event attracts thousands of families. No flashing, folks.
- Don’t come to a mud festival and expect to stay clean. That’ll earn you a thorough dousing at Boryeong’s infamous mud jail, whether you like it or not. Just embrace the crazy and let your freak flag fly.
- Adjust your expectations a bit. Although the mud is indeed from Boryeong Beach, the main events are held on white sand Daecheon Beach 10 km away. Mud is trucked to Daecheon and made available in large communal tubs instead. It’s still a muddy good time, but a bit misleading.