“You gotta go in the mud sometimes to to figure who you are.” — Andy Irons
Do you think of mud when you think of a good time? South Koreans do!
Previously, I had bathed with elephants in mud, so I was thrilled to hear about the mud festival in Korea and put it on my to do list!
This summer, I attended the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea and learned a lot about the role of mud with the South Koreans of Boryeong.
Mud contains minerals and nutrients that nourish your skin. It is said to have healing and anti-aging properties, so it is an important part of some of the lives of the Boryeong city people.
Originally, the mud festival was created to promote Boryeong’s mud-based products that are sold for cosmetics and skincare. However, today, it’s more widely known for its appeal to foreigners as an entertaining festival where they get to play in the mud.
The festival is about one month long. This year, it took place from July 16th to August 15th.
An Event For Both Foreigners and Locals Alike
As it is everywhere you go in Korea, Boryeong is crowded and crawling with tourists, both foreigners and Koreans alike.
Although it is known amongst the foreigners as a place to party and enjoy covering themselves in the mud, I also saw a good amount of Koreans taking part in the festivities as well.
I was quite surprised about that because I had lived in Korea for almost 5 years at that point and always heard that it was an event mostly for foreigners. From what I had observed, Koreans of all ages, especially those who were vacationing with their family, were mostly interested in the exhibitions. On the other hand, younger Koreans were mostly enjoying the mud zone with the rest of the foreigners.
Activities and Zones
There were many things to do in the mud festival. The grounds themselves were divided into many parts.
- Ceremonies: There are opening and closing ceremonies that happen right on the first and last day respectively.
- Exhibitions: This section is open to the public with no entrance fee. The various sections are called event halls and they all have different themes. Inside, you can test out different local products and do a bit of souvenir shopping. There are also museum-like halls that tell you about the history of the festival or the role of mud in the city of Boryeong. Some of names of the event halls are: Sea Mud Wellness Hall, Signature Local Products Hall, Sea Mud and New Industry Hall, and more.
3. Mud Zone: This area is where you get down and muddy with mud wrestling (close your eyes or wear sunglasses to avoid mud getting into your eyes), mud football, and blow-up obstacle courses and slides! There is an extra cost of about $7 USD to enter and I recommend getting it in advance. Tickets are available online and the lines can be quite long on that day. Although it’s an extra cost, I highly recommend it because to me, that’s the whole point of being there! If I didn’t get muddy, I wouldn’t have felt that I attended a mud festival. The mud sort of rejuvenated me in some ways.
“Mud is the most poetic thing in the world.” — Reginald Horace Blyth
4. Children’s Zone: As always in Korea, there is an area for children to enjoy as well. This area wasn’t muddy, but it had park rides for them to be entertained. Anywhere you go in Korea where you think children wouldn’t be, they will be there. (I’m not kidding. One time, I went to a beer festival/ concert and there were children everywhere and the event looked more for them with all of the picnic mats and toys around!).
5. Concert: At night in the main square, there’s a concert held with various artists. They call it a kpop concert, but I didn’t see any kpop artists from the little bit that I saw, nor what I saw on the list of performing artists for the night. I did see some dance performances and some classic music though.
At the start of the day, you attend the exhibitions until the mud zone opens up in the afternoon (usually after lunch, but queue in advance to get in earlier). After you get all muddy in the mud zone, run straight to the beach to clean-up, or don’t, and enjoy the sand and the sun. Many people walk around muddy for the rest of the day. It’s a vibe!
On the other hand, though, have no fear of staying muddy all day! There are mini shower stations installed just outside of the mud zone area where you enter and exit. Phew! What a relief! That mud really gets into your eyes and teeth and everywhere else, too! Although the lines are long to get into these showers too, there are also stations to wash yourself all along Daecheon Beach near the bathrooms, but they’re paid.
To Be Honest…
There were four things that my friends and I were disappointed with overall.
Mud Zone Size: One thing that was disappointing was how small the mud zone actually was. We were expecting the mud zone to be one of the bigger zones of the festival, but it was one of the smallest.
Queues and Wait Times: There was a long queue to actually get in the mud zone itself. Although there were a few things to do to get muddy, there weren’t as many as we thought and there were long lineups for each. At first, it was fine waiting. However, that got old quickly and having been in Korea for as long as I have been, I got used to the crowds in a sense, but had less patience for it at the same time.
Not on the Beach: The mud festival itself wasn’t on the beach. I thought we would be getting down and dirty with mud on the sands of Daecheon Beach, but it turns out that it was actually a site that was a few minutes walk from the beach. It was close enough that people could walk for less than 10 minutes and jump in the ocean, but far enough that the festival energy wasn’t the same because of it in my opinion. However, I heard that this was because of covid and that the festival used to be held right on the beach.
Not Real Mud: The mud itself at the festival wasn’t the kind we were expecting. You might be able to tell what I mean from the picture of my team playing a game in the mud pool above. The mud was thin and grey and watery rather than thick and brown and throwable. We were surprised about how unauthentic that was, but that also shouldn’t have surprised me considering the whole experience I had in Korea where they do change and alter these things a lot to make them far from what they should be. For example, comparing it to the mud festivals in America, you can see the difference in the type of mud.
Other Things To Do in Boryeong
There are tons of activities around Boryeong that are bustling with excited tourists. The street really is such a lively and energetic area.
I recommend going for the weekend instead of a day trip so that you can also enjoy all that Boryeong has to offer besides the mud festival itself.
Boryeong itself is a pleasant vibe. There are happy folks just smiling and laughing their day away with no rush whatsoever. It is such a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. Boryeong is definitely one of my top coastal cities in Korea now. It was like no other and has its own unique energy and culture.
Here is a list of other things to do:
- Beach: Daecheon Beach is the closest to the mud festival site. It stretches far and it quite a wide beach for Korea. Other than people coming here to cool off after the mud festivities, there’s more to do. There’s a good amount of daytime activities and people hanging out at night, too. During the day, you’ll find tons of people playing beach sports (my friend played soccer with friendly strangers on the beach, too!). My friends also buried me and turned me into a mermaid with sand.
2. Beachside Cafes: There are lots of neat cafes along the beach that serve various summer foods to cool you off. I got a delicious ice cream waffle with seasonal fruit at one of the popular brunch places called Babinseu, but there are so many to choose from (this one offers more of a western style breakfast if that’s what you’re looking for!).
3. Photo Booths: Koreans take their photo booths seriously. There are a lot of little booth shops along the beach strip for you to pop in with some friends and take some silly shots with multiple accessories.
4. Carnival Games: There are a ton of carnival-style games like balloon darts on the main street where Daecheon Beach is. Take home a large plushie!
5. Fireworks: On a night like when the festival is held, there is a beautiful fireworks display that can’t be missed. I’d never seen a show like it before!
6. Nightlife: There are lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs on the main street which you can enjoy until the late hours of the night or early hours of the morning!
7. Live Street Music: Enjoy some soothing music for your ears. On the main street, there are areas where people bring out their instruments and bands to play some lovely music that gathers quite the audience!
Plan, Plan, Plan!
If you’re planning on going next year, definitely book everything in advance. I’m talking about:
- Transportation Tickets: There are many ways to get to Boryeong. From Seoul, you could take the KTX (bullet train) or a direct bus from one of the bus stations.
- Accommodations: Where you stay should be closer to Daecheon Beach or the Mud Zone for ease. If you have a place to stay nearby, walking everywhere is the easiest (and the most scenic!).
- Festival and Mud Zone Tickets: These can be found online at their website here.
All of these tickets get sold out quickly since there’s a limited amount and many people who want to go, so be sure to plan and book online in advance to beat the crowd so you don’t have the chance to miss out on this opportunity. Don’t just wing it or wait until the last minute, or you may just end up regretting it!
In order to avoid the hassle of planning for such a busy event (planning and booking for these can be stressful in a largely populated country like Korea), I booked the trip with Banga Tours. I was happy with their service as it costed a total of about $70 USD for a weekend trip with them. This included the round trip to and from Seoul, the accommodation near the beach for the night, and the tour guide Johnny Fishcakes (who went around and took awesome photos of us with his Instax Camera).
There are many tour groups that handle these events that don’t cost much more than you would be paying if you planned it yourself.
Although I normally prefer planning and going myself for trips, not for a festival as large as this one. For me, it’s definitely worth it to handle the stress of planning over to someone else.
If you don’t want to go for the whole weekend, there are definitely day trips available through groups like Trazy as well. Although, I personally don’t recommend day trips (if you can help it) particularly because it’s only a few hours and it feels too short. This was what the foreigners who got on the day trip expressed since they couldn’t enjoy the night activities on the beach and had to rush back onto the bus.
Oh — and when you’re packing, don’t bring anything nice (unless it’s for the nightlife afterwards) since everything will get covered in mud or sand or both! Don’t wear anything you’re not okay with throwing out afterwards. I believe that after I washed up, I was okay to keep the clothes, but you never know. For the mud festival, I wore a swimsuit with cheap sunglasses and flipflops. Some people wore a sports bra and shorts, but it really depended.
Don’t worry too much about the mud on your clothes, though. After all, the most memorable days usually end with the muddiest clothes, right?
Overall, the mud festival weekend was loads of fun. When I look back, a lot of the fun I had was with the people I was with rather than the mud zone and, I have to admit, having mud all over me did feel good. Who doesn’t enjoy getting messy once in a while? It was so refreshing!
I definitely recommend everyone to go to the Boryeong Mud Festival and roll around in the cool refreshing mud at least once in their life.
Would I do the mud festival again? Probably not. Would I go back to Boryeong, though? Heck yea!
Play in the mud because life is too short to always have clean fingernails.
“A messy mortal is my friend. Come walk with me in the mud.” — Hugh Prather
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