Gettin dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival

Boryeong Mud Festival

Of all of Korea’s festivals, the most infamously famous is the Boryeong Mud Festival. For the past fourteen years on a weekend in July, foreigners from all over the country have converged in the small town of Boryeong to play in their famous skin-healing mud. But a bunch of mud + the beach + summer + cheap alcohol + no open container laws = one out-of-hand party. From what I heard, last year’s mud festival saw people getting covered in mud and drunk and deciding to rinse off in the fish tanks outside seafood restaurants. Nice. Needless to say, the festival has a certain notoriety in Korea for drunken foreigner shenanigans that generally leave the locals with a distaste for the waygook population.

Hearing all of this in the months leading up to the festival, I wasn’t really sure it was something I wanted to be a part of. But as it is the biggest festival in Korea, and an opportunity to play in the mud, it didn’t take much persuasion for me to sign up with a group of foreigners traveling there from Ulsan.

We departed Ulsan at 11pm the evening before the festivities, packed onto our private tour bus of 40-some (mostly) foreigners. It seemed to be the general consensus of those on the bus that the mudfest party started right then and there: everyone had boarded with an evening’s supply of alcohol and no plan to sleep. Luckily, the bus was equipped with a karaoke machine, complete with two microphones and a tambourine. Our poor, poor bus driver…

As I found out the next day, our journey was being paralleled by many other buses full of jovial foreigners making their way to mudfest from all across the country.

Arriving in Boryeong at 5am, we all promptly passed out into our motel rooms to catch a few hours of sleep before hitting the festival. By 11, we were out on the Daecheon beach boardwalk, and were greeted with a ridiculous rain storm! Within mere seconds, everyone was completely soaked. But playing in the rain is almost as much fun as playing in the mud, so the rain was a good warm-up to the day’s festivities.

5,000 won bought us a wrist band into the “mud experience area”, a fenced off part of the beach filled with mud-themed activities including a wrestling pit, giant slide, big inflatable tug-of-war, a mud “jail” and little mud painting stations. One trip to the mud wrestling pit was all it took to be covered in mud!

Boryeong Mud Festival!
The mud festival area was guarded by security and these gates.

With all that I had heard going into the festival, I was expecting something like this:
muddy mud festivalmuddy mud festival

But what I found was a lot of this:
waiting in line at the mud festival

which is a lot of people waiting in line. The mud area was a bit …tame. It was waiting in line for 45 minutes to go on a big inflatable slide where someone splashed you with a bucket of muddy water at the end. I was hoping for a bit more getting buried in mud, being able to pick up big glops and drop them on people… but alas, there was none of that.

After playing in the mud for a bit, we headed to the beach.

party on the beach!
Party on the beach!

It was great to jump into the ocean and rinse off all the mud. At one point, a truck pulled into the crowd to spray everyone with mud and water. Another truck discretely pulled up with big buckets of mud-filled balloons, leading to a giant mud-balloon fight. This was by far the best muddiness of the day.

After a final rinse off in the ocean, we traded our wristbands in for some Boryeong mud soap, which was awesome and smelled great and worth the trek out to Boryeong alone. In the evening, we headed to a beach-side restaurant for some seafood. A couple of my friends had the most expensive sam gyup sal in Korean history, being charged 24,000 won for three strips. Which must be 4-5x the normal price. After trying to argue in Korean and English and sign language, we managed to knock a couple thousand won off the price, which didn’t do a whole lot but was something. It was unfortunate, but nothing could damper our mud festival spirits!

In the evening, as they do at Korean festivals, there were fireworks on the beach. Most people were still hanging around the beach, despite many local clubs efforts to lure them away with their trucks-blasting-music advertisements. Being on the beach was almost like being back in the US, it was so full of foreigners. My friends and I found some people playing music out of a tent and joined them. They were US military. People passing by stopped to dance for awhile, and it was nice to be on the beach, in the open air, dancing under the stars for a while. Well, it was nice despite the not infrequent streakers streaking past… I guess mudfest isn’t mudfest without some drunken shenanigans.

The next morning, our bus left early to get back to Ulsan. It was a very quiet bus ride back, which I hope made up for the way there with our bus driver.

While it was a bit tame, and didn’t have nearly enough mud considering it was the “mud festival”, Mudfest was a pretty amazing weekend. I don’t think I’d go back, but I’m certainly glad to have had the experience. Next year, I’m already planning a mud festival comparison back in Michigan

partying in line at the boryeong mud festival
Woooo! Mudfest!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. limdongcheol
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 20:25:34

    Ugh…with the nature of unfriendly waegs in South Korea, now they are ten a penny, the Boring Boryeong is the last place in Korea I’d want to visit. You learn more about Korea culture, yourself, the depth of western prudity and body fixation visiting a Korean bathhouse. However, my negativity isn’t aimed in general – an interesting blog. Thanks.

    Reply

    • anniebananie
      Sep 20, 2011 @ 23:08:01

      The mud festival is certainly no authentic “cultural experience”, but I do think it’s great that it brings so much tourism and money into the area (although they earn it with all the clean-up they have to do after, I’m sure). That Boryeong mud soap may be worth a visit though! That stuff was the best!

      Reply

  2. my year of noodles
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 22:01:05

    Hi there! I was hoping to go to the Mudfestival this year from Ulsan! I was wondering which tour company you went through?

    Reply

  3. joy
    May 06, 2012 @ 08:00:53

    Reply

  4. stoddart34
    May 13, 2012 @ 02:57:06

    Hey, I’m living in Ulsan right now, and I’ve looking for a tour group to the mud festival. How did you find your group, I haven’t had any luck, thank you and good post.

    Reply

  5. David
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 12:40:06

    I lived in Korea for two years and couldn’t understand why every single foreign english teacher wanted to go to this. Was this festival designed with foreigners in mind? They flocked to it in masses like ants to a picnic.

    Reply

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