With a festival to celebrate just about everything from fireflies and ice fishing to bullfighting and bodypainting, there’s no shortage of mass festivities occurring at any given time in South Korea. But perhaps no other event rivals the country’s Boryeong Mud Festival in terms of international attendance, government spending and good clean (or should we say dirty) fun. Get ready to get muddy, as Culture Trip fills you in on how to make the most of your trip to the country’s muddiest celebration.
A brief history
For two weeks every July, thousands flock from around the Korean peninsula to Boryeong, a small, sleepy town situated on the western coast of the country for the Boryeong Mud Festival, or Mudfest, as it’s colloquially called. Even more fly in from overseas, some traveling from as far as Europe and the Americas, to experience some good old fashioned mud wrestling, mud sliding and mud swimming – activities that constitute what has in recent years become the number one Korean festival to visit.
But the popular event, which rakes in millions of dollars in revenue annually, has more humble beginnings. In fact, when it was first established in 1999, the festival was intended to promote cosmetics made from the region’s mud. According to event organizers, Boryeong mud is high in minerals, especially germanium and bentonite, and it emits large amounts of far-infrared rays, which are particularly beneficial for the skin. It didn’t take long, however, for the Spring Break-esque beachside party to outshine the mud beauty marketing.
What to expect
This year, Mudfest will run from July 21 to 30, but to experience it in all its glory, be sure to schedule your visit during a weekend, when the most noteworthy events and activities take place.
Spread throughout Daecheon Beach and downtown Boryeong, the festivities generally begin in the morning, when tourists are ferried in by the busload and are dropped off at the beach, which is carefully prepared with loads of mud trucked in from the region’s mud flats.
Various areas – some free, some requiring admission fees – are equipped with mud pits, mud fountains, mud pools, mud massage zones and even a mud prison, all of which are guaranteed to have you looking like a mud monster by the day’s end. A one-day pass will get you in to all the ticketed events and areas, such as the inflatable playgrounds, obstacle courses, mud slides and races. Regular tickets are 10,000 Won for adults during the week, and 12,000 won on the weekend, and can be purchased at the festival or in advance online.
In addition to muddy merriment, there are also plenty of squeaky clean events to partake in, like fireworks displays and live performances during the festival’s opening and closing ceremonies. This year, K-pop superstars Psy – singer of the 2012 smash hit “Gangnam Style” – and IU will host free stand-alone concerts on July 25 and July 28, respectively.
Other highlights include the festival’s Black Eagles Show with the Korean Air Force and a slew of parades. Those in the mood for a friendly sports match can partake in the Beach Mud Football Competition at the Citizen Tower Sandy beach site on July 29.
Boryeong is also home to a number of nightlife venues ranging from Korean BBQ joints and seafood restaurants to bars and noraebang, so it’s highly recommended that you stay overnight to get the full Mudfest experience.
Staying the night
Locating accommodation during Mudfest can be tricky if you don’t plan ahead, as the festival continues to grow with each passing year. Still, it’s not completely impossible. Options include the ubiquitous minbak, bare-bones accommodation in which guests sleep together on mats on the floor. The majority of the city’s budget hotels don’t advertise online, so it’s advised that you inquire directly at the motels around the beach upon your arrival.
If you prefer to book ahead, only the more ‘upscale’ hotels like the Hotel Mudrin and the Hanwha Resort Daechon Paros (which are actually still quite basic) accept online reservations.
A number of tour operators such as Adventure Korea and WinK Travels provide all-inclusive packages with shared accommodation for an affordable price.
If you’re really in a bind, ring up the Korea Tourism Organization through their free hotline (+82-2-1330). An English-speaking representative will happily assist you by providing additional information or interpretation if needed.
A bus for Boryeong leaves five times daily from Stop 09D on the first floor of Incheon International Airport. Tickets can be purchased at the terminal, or you can pay cash directly to the driver.
If traveling from central Seoul, there are express buses to Boryeong from the Central City Bus Terminal that depart approximately every hour. Alternatively, there are regular train departures from Yongsan Station and Yeongdeungpo Station to Daecheon Station. You can book online up to a month in advance.