Back in 1998, the community leaders of the small town of Boryeong, South Korea, tried to market the rejuvenating properties of their mud in the form of cosmetics. Rich in Germanium and other skin-nourishing minerals, the mud was planned to be the central focus of a festival designed to draw the country’s attention towards the cosmetics. But amazingly, the visitors raved more about the muddy activities of the festival, which brought people together in a messy, friendly way. And so the idea of cosmetics gave way to the annual mud festival in Boryeong.
1.5 million people attend the 9-day event each year, making it one of the biggest events in South Korea. Though some are American GIs stationed around the region and foreign expat teachers, the majority are Koreans who are sold to the idea of a rejuvenating dip in the dirt. Entire families would drop by as grandparents, teen-agers, kids, and parents treat the festival as a trip to the beach, with grubby benefits. Before the event, festival organizers will scoop up mounds of mud in a plain near the 2-mile long Daecheon Beach and move it to the activity site. Arriving participants quickly paint each other in mud. A mud prison prevents people from leaving until they coat themselves in the healthy goop by using buckets or brushes, set upon rows and rows of tables lined along the shore. The idea is to paint oneself or oneâ€™s neighbor with a thick coat of mud, dry off in the sun and then wash the gunk off with a dip n the ocean.
Activities include a hundred-foot mud slide, mud wrestling, mud obstacle course andÂ mud marathon. There is also a mud boot camp, where dirt recruits are subjected to a few military training exercises such as cavalry battles to human pyramid formation. Loudspeakers blare out the coming activities for the benefit of patrons. As night draws on, visitors get treated to a fireworks display right on the beach, and may attend the parties, band concerts, and dancing held all over the festival site. If you are ready to go home, you can buy mudpacks from any of the stalls set up in the beach.The only part of the festivities that doesnâ€™t have mud is the Korean cuisine served in abundance in all of Boryeongâ€™s restaurants.
The mud festival is also a cultural festival, where people in traditional costumes parade past visitors . Korean traditional percussion members called Sa-mul-no-ri offer drums to be played by foreign guests. A free tourist bus takes interested parties to nearby attractions, from a fascinating coal mine to a famous Buddhist shrine.
The 2009 mud festival will be held from July 20 to 28. It is recommended that you avoid bringing anything you can’t get muddied; wear only old clothes you don’t mind getting stained in dirt. It’s also better to use public transportation to get there, as parking can be a problem. There are 3 terminals in Seoul you can board in order to get to Boryeong: The Seoul Express Bus Terminal, The Dong Seoul Express Bus Terminal, and Daecheon Terminal to Daecheon Beach.Â If you insist on bringing a car, travel along Kyungbu Highway from Cheonan IC to Ansan to Hongsung and finally to Boryeong, where you can try looking for parking space at a distance from Daecheon Beach. Beware staying in the hotels, as prices skyrocket during the festival. And remember to rinse off the mud once you step out of the beach; strolling around the rest of Boryeong with a dirty face is still considered strange, even in this time of muddy celebration.