Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exploring Korea: Boryeong and the Boryeong Mud Festival

I had heard-tell of a festival... a festival in Korea full of dirt and fun-times... a festival considered part of a right-of-passage for any self-respecting 외국인... it was approaching... I felt it in the wind...
My primal nature... it calls to me.
I am speaking of the Boryeong Mud Festival. I am sure that when the seaside town of Boryeong decided to have a mud festival to celebrate the rainy season creating an excess of supposedly beneficial mud in their region they didn't account for how much foreigners love to party in creative ways. They set up inflatable slides, a mud pool, and various other attractions that are made instantly cooler by the addition of being dirty and slippery, and the throngs of 20-something non-Koreans came a-runnin'!

Seriously, I haven't seen this many waygookin in one place since orientation. Everyone was super happy and covered from head to toe in mud.

I want to make one thing clear for people who might be getting the wrong idea about this concept: Mud Fest is NOT just a giant mud pit, there was actually a surprisingly small amount of mud around, unless you wanted to pay for it. To get into the area with the mud slides, mud obstacle courses, and mud wrestling ring (what I heard was the only really cool thing to do) you had to fork over some Sejongs (King Sejong is printed on the 10,000 won notes). Our group split between those wanting to pay for the stuff inside and those fine with just doing the free things (mud painting tables, body paint, dance party, and ocean).
On the outside, looking in

I stuck with the people who were doing the free stuff (I had put my wallet in the locker already, there were plenty of pay lockers as well as a small number of pay showers and a decent number of bathrooms). It was about 3pm when we got there and the mud painting tables were VERY short on mud, but you could get enough to coat yourself pretty thoroughly.
See? Thorough!

The lines for the body painting were WAY too long, so we skipped that. We wound up coating ourselves, walking around, and then going into the ocean to clean off.
Some people thought the water was cold, those people have never swam in the northern Atlantic

We wound up having to go back into the ocean a few times, because every foreigner we knew was there, and they all wanted hugs.
They actually just all saw someone they know who is not currently covered in mud, and are rushing to rectify the situation
The festival slowly devolved more and more into insanity. Some of my friends I ran into informed me that they had been drinking since the previous night at 8pm, and I had no problem believing them. People were super drunk, but in high spirits. There was, at one point, a flashmob of people dancing to the Wonder Girls song "Like This," which was entertaining, and then the mob turned into a massive, filthy dance party on the beach. I had no issues mumbling to my more literature-minded friends about how much my fellow waygookin reminded me of the Yahoos from Gulliver's Travels.
Though I'm not 100% sure why...

As for the city of Boryeong, we had a pretty fun time! We stayed in the KU-run motel on the first night (I am thoroughly convinced they have one of these in every medium to large sized town throughout the country) and in a pension the second night (a pension is like renting a condo with very little furniture in it). To get to 보령 my good buddy Bacon rented a car, which was a pretty awesome way of getting there.
Our chariot!
I would be happy to visit 보령 again, but hopefully when it's sunny. It was the rainy season that weekend, so it was severely foggy and overcast whenever it WASN'T raining. There were a lot of seafood restaurants and the area (west coast Korea) is famous for bbq oysters, called 조개구이 or Jokaekooie, which are pretty damn tasty. You can take buses or the train from Seoul to get there, but renting a car was a pretty fun experience. The beach was pretty nice and would probably be SUPER nice if it was sunny out. However, I recommend staying at a pension over a hotel. The KU hotel was ok, but I heard from most of my friends that the other hotels close to the beach are kinda seedy and in desperate need of renovation. Pensions are also more private, so you can party in peace!
Just LOOK at that peaceful partying!

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