There are festivals to commemorate anything from fireflies and ice fishing to bullfighting and bodypainting in South Korea at any one moment. In terms of international participation, government funding, and good clean (or should we say nasty) fun, maybe no other festival equals the country’s Boryeong Mud Festival. Prepare to get muddy as Culture Vacation explains how to make the most of your trip to the country’s muddiest event.
A quick history
Every July, hundreds of people from all over the Korean peninsula gather to Boryeong, a small, quiet town on the country’s western coast, for the Boryeong Mud Festival, or MudFest as it’s informally known. Even more fly in from outside, some from as far away as Europe and the Americas, to partake in some good old-fashioned mud wrestling, mud sliding, and mud bathing — activities that have become the number one Korean festival to attend in recent years.
However, the famous event, which generates millions of dollars in income each year, has humbler origins. In reality, when it initially began in 1999, the festival’s goal was to market cosmetics created from the region’s mud. Boryeong mud, according to event organisers, is rich in minerals, mainly germanium and bentonite, and produces a great quantity of far-infrared rays, which are very helpful to the skin. However, it didn’t take long for the Spring Break-style seaside party to overshadow the mud beauty ads.
What to anticipate
MudFest will be held from July 21 to 30, but to really enjoy it, plan your vacation for a weekend, when the most notable events and activities will take place.
The celebrations, which take place on Daecheon Beach and in downtown Boryeong, usually begin in the morning, when tourists are bused in and dropped off at the beach, which has been meticulously prepared with tonnes of mud trucked in from the region’s mud flats.
Various locations – some free, others with entrance costs – are outfitted with mud pits, mud fountains, mud pools, mud massage zones, and even a mud prison, all of which are sure to turn you into a mud monster by the end of the day. A one-day admission grants access to all paid activities and venues, including inflatable playgrounds, obstacle courses, mud slides, and races. Regular adult tickets cost 10,000 Won throughout the week and 12,000 Won on weekends, and may be purchased at the event or in advance online.
Aside from muddy fun, there are plenty of squeaky-clean events to enjoy, such as fireworks displays and live performances during the festival’s opening and closing ceremonies. Psy, the vocalist of the 2012 mega hit “Gangnam Style”, and IU will perform free stand-alone performances on July 25 and July 28, respectively.
The festival’s Black Eagles Show with the Korean Air Force and a myriad of parades are other attractions. On July 29, anyone looking for a friendly sporting event can participate in the Beach Mud Football Competition at the Citizen Tower Sandy beach venue.
Boryeong also has a variety of night-time places ranging from Korean BBQ eateries and seafood restaurants to pubs and noraebang, so staying overnight is strongly suggested to receive the complete MudFest experience.
Spending the night
Finding lodging during MudFest might be difficult if you don’t prepare ahead of time, since the event grows in size with each passing year. Still, it’s not absolutely out of the question. The ubiquitous minbak, bare-bones lodging in which people sleep together on mats on the floor, is one option. Because the bulk of the city’s inexpensive hotels do not advertise online, it is best to enquire personally at the motels along the beach when you arrive.
If you want to book ahead of time, only the more ‘upscale’ hotels allow internet reservations, such as the Hotel Mudrin and the Hanwha Resort Daecheon Paros (which are still rather basic).
A number of trip providers, like Adventure Korea and WinK Travels, offer low-cost all-inclusive packages with shared lodging.
If you’re in a jam, call the Korea Tourism Organization at (+82-2-1330). If you require further information or explanation, an English-speaking employee would gladly assist you.
How to Get There
A bus to Boryeong departs from Stop 09D on the first floor of Incheon International Airport five times every day. Tickets may be purchased at the terminal, or you can pay the driver in cash.
If you’re coming from central Seoul, express buses to Boryeong leave every hour from the Central City Bus Terminal. There are also regular train departures from Yongsan and Yeongdeungpo-gu Stations to Daecheon Station. You may reserve up to a month in advance online.