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July - Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea

SOUTH KOREA | Tuesday, 16 June 2009 | Views [3144]

Location: Daecheon Beach, Boryeong City, South Korea

Dates: nine days in mid-July annually

Level of Participation: 5 – get down and dirty - join in all the pore cleansing, mud-slinging madness with the best of ‘em


The Boryeong Mud Festival began in 1998 as an event to nationally promote cosmetics made from the local mud, hailed for its rich minerals and skin revitalizing properties. The minerals in the mud are said to diminish wrinkles, aid the complexion and stimulate blood circulation. However, the mud-based activities of the event trumped the cosmetic marketing campaign, and soon word of the muddy fun was spreading.

With all of this buzz, Boryeong residents quickly realized that their mud was more profitable for tourism than agriculture. Rather than work the fields with it, why not truck it onto Daecheon Beach, call it ‘Mud Experience Land’ and watch the tourists go wild? So they did – 800 tons a year, actually. And ever since, over 1.5 million people turn up for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival, making it one of Korea’s largest events.

While Korean culture does manage to hold a presence in the festival in the form of local cuisine, cultural music performances and traditional costume parades, mud definitely takes center stage, quite literally. Some of the festival’s rowdier activities include mud wrestling, a mud marathon, a mud obstacle course, and a 100-foot mud super slide. If you are really ambitious, you can enlist in mud boot camp - complete with military drills, staged battles and human pyramids.

However, if you prefer to watch rather than wrestle, there are still plenty of opportunities to get dirty. Try your hand or lend your skin to the mud body painting contest, or enter your caked creation into the mud sculpture competition. If you’re keen for a more relaxing experience, check out the high-tech mud massage, hop into a mud bath or just browse the vendors for mud-based beauty products and cosmetics. But spectators beware, those who refuse to indulge in any mud activity will be “imprisoned” on the beach until there is full evidence to the contrary.                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Essentials: Bring your inner child and your oldest swimwear. The mud may be great for the skin, but is rough on clothing. Also, don’t forget to rinse off before hitting the streets of Boryeong City, even with the mud-fueled celebration in action, a dirty face will yield strange looks.

Local Attractions:

Boryeong has something for everyone – sun worshippers can island hop along the coast, outdoor enthusiasts can explore the nearby Boryeong Seongjusan National Forest and culture buffs can visit the Baekwol Bogwang Pagoda that dates back to the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C. – A.D. 660). Maybe just take a quick shower before you venture off the beach.

More Info: http://mudfestival.or.kr/lang/en/index.jsp

A Reveler's Perspective:

My eyes were closed tight. I tried to peak through the grime in my sockets, attempting to convince myself that they weren’t filled with mud. However, I was wrong and the only thing I could make out were my two zombie green hands waving frantically for something or someone to latch onto.

“Guys!” I yelled, “I think that was a BAD idea!”

No response, but I had a feeling that my companions I vainly called out to were feeling the same way.

Beer, peer pressure or reckless abandonment, despite the culprit I had just allowed a mob of people to shuck buckets of mud at me. As luck would have it, most of it went into my eyes.

At that moment I really only cared about finding a Good Samaritan to lend me a towel, shirt, anything clean to wipe my eyes. Praying there wouldn’t be permanent damage.

However, there was no Samaritan; she too was probably digging medicinal mud from her sockets. Regardless, I managed to find my friends and once we had all regained vision, we were off to join the clanging and banging of a Korean traditional drum circle.

Later we escaped the belly of the mud festival for some refueling. All of us were starving, and we chose a restaurant that was closer to the event than by what appealed to us on the menu. Moreover, being foreigners with only beginner Hangeul skills  we weren’t entirely sure what we were going to get.

This was reassured after we placed an order for what we believed to be a fish bar-b-que, but began to second guess ourselves as the server trammeled an eel that was wiggling on the floor after it had escaped his net.

Still, we had beer and the sun and companionship and that’s what mattered. Fish or eel, as long as it wasn’t still alive, right? That’s what we were hoping until the older woman tossed a platter of eel on the table, with the organs still appearing to operate. The woman looked at us with a giant grin and proclaimed, “Mashiseoyo!”, or “Delicious”.

We spent the rest of the day working off our feast by way of Frisbee, and swimming races in the surf. As the sun set, the festival activities begun to close down for the last evening of mud festival, and there on the beach we applied our last coat of mud and merrily recounted the events that had past.

Had it only been one afternoon? In the short time, we had danced with other partiers in a drum circle. Jammed to a rock concert with a diverse audience all appearing eerily similar from their toxic avenger green disguises and yet we still hadn’t even grazed the available activities that were offered.

That evening as we sat on the beach watching the tide rise and anticipating the firework show that would conclude the festival; I recounted the previous beach parties for which I was in attendance.  As I gazed into the sky and was greeted with a brilliant display of color and light, I decided that Mud Festival was a solid top five experience.

~Zack Bass

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Tags: boryeong mud festival, south korea, world festivals

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