Boryeong Mud Festival

Wow, double and triple wow. It was a great weekend. It started out shitty with the bus ride from hell but once we got there it was a great time all around. One of the foreigner bars – Tombstone –  had rented a bus and sold return tickets for 25,000 won (about $26) which was a great deal and then we didn’t have to worry about having to change buses or anything. Unfortunately some of the people who signed up were drunken obnoxious ass****s (I’m trying to keep the blog PG13). Okay, we expected a little of that because the bus was leaving Ulsan at 2:00AM… from a bar… but this was way beyond the pale – everyone but the 6 or so idiots was pissed off including other people who were also drinking. One girl flashed her breasts at least 3 times and kept chanting – at the top of her voice – c**ks**ker (I so don’t want to say that word – it’s one of the worst curse words in my opinion, it’s beyond vulgar). But 6 hours of hell and no sleep later, we arrived at the beach and the fun started.

We got there about 8:30AM and found a decent hotel that was only one block from the beach and the festival action. The prices were inflated but we all expected that and it really wasn’t that bad considering (200,000 won for two nights split 3 ways is only $35 a night). Unfortunately, we couldn’t check in until 1:00PM but we were able to leave our bags so it didn’t really matter. Next stop… heading down the street to find some breakfast. Ya know you have become Koreanized when you order doenjang jigae (spicy soy bean soup), kimchi jigae (spicy kimchi soup), curry, mandu (like dumplings), and rice to share (Korean-style breakfast eating Korean style – sharing the dishes). After we headed to the beach and rented an umbrella so we could catch some zzz’s. Saturday was one of the rare sunny days during the ‘rainy season’ (it’s pouring buckets now) so I, of course got a tan – or rather a bit of a burn that has since turned into a nice tan. After we checked in and freshened up we split up into the sleeping group and the head-back-to-the-beach group (guess which one I was in).

I just realized that I both love and hate the ocean. I love the waves, now that I’ve gotten over the worst of my phobia of sharks – man, they are fun to play in. April and I rented inflatable inner tubes and spent an hour and a half playing in the surf. By the time we decided to call in quits the tide was starting to come in and the surf was starting to pound us if we didn’t catch the wave right – trust me, sea water tastes especially yucky when it goes down your nose. But man, it was fun acting like we were kids. What don’t I like about the ocean (other than it going down my nose) – it makes my hair dry and matted. I actually had three showers on Saturday (when we checked into the hotel to freshen up, after playing on the beach and after clubbing). What can I say, I like being clean.

After playing in the sun, we headed over to the mud painting section of the beach. This is cosmetic quality mud and it’s free. We painted our bodies from head to toe including our hair with the mud and then walked back to our little section of the beach and waited for it to dry before washing off in the ocean. It’s fun being muddy. There was also an inflatable mud/water slide (lots of fun), an inflatable mud racing track (again, lots of fun), mud wrestling (I didn’t do this because I like my bikini top to stay on and that doesn’t always happen mud wrestling) and mud mimes to watch. There was also lots of booths selling mud (I bought some soap), one’s where you can make your own soap (I made one) and selling other souvenirs (I bought a bracelet and earrings – hey, I love jewelry).  Basically, I did ALL the touristy things 🙂

Boryeong is suppose to be famous for its prawns (that’s shrimp for the North Americans) and blue crab but the prawns I had were okay but certainly nothing to write home to Mom about (oops, my Mom hates shrimp anyways). I have never been a fan of food arriving at my table with the head still attached and that’s how Koreans serve prawns. But in our prawn meal, we had the best kimchi jigae that we’ve had (we all agreed) and it had a strong seafood base so seafood is good for something. Actually I love seafood, just not when it comes with heads. I also had some great pepperoni pizza (hey, sometimes we eat western food too). Saturday night we found a great Chinese/Korean restaurant that served both foods and had wonderful sweet and sour pork, black noodles and mandu. The jigaes (soups) were good there too.

Night was just as much fun as the day. We wandered down to the other end of the beach to meet up with Kelly’s brother Saturday night and hung out for a while before the drunken fireworks forced us back to the main section of beach. It was perfect timing to head back though as the festival fireworks were just starting and man, were they amazing. Wow and double wow. We then went clubbing (always a good thing) and found a club with some decent music. Unfortunately, it would play a couple of slow songs (Korean ballads) every 10 hip hop songs whether we wanted them or not – kinda like a highschool dance.

Sunday was more of the same – more painting our bodies with mud, sliding down the mud/water slide and swimming in the ocean – just with rain instead of sunshine. Even with the rain, it was fun! Instead of going clubbing at night we headed to Fill-land (an amusement park) for some fun. There was one ride called Disco that was amazing, it spun in circles and bounced up and down (the idea was to try to get the riders to fall off their seats – I am happy to report that I stayed in my seat and I have to sore chest and shoulder muscles to prove it). The ride was even cooler because one of the carnies rode it with us and did some cool jumps and moves so that it was a show AND a ride. When then met up with the rest of our crowd for some socializing and wandering around in the misty rain (thankfully, no monsoon rain).

Monday dawned and we caught the bus home after breakfast and some soap making. Luckily the bus ride home was a lot quieter, the one bar owner even apologized. Korea is a beautiful country – I miss a lot of it because I usually travel at night – and the ride home was actually enjoyable.

I am so going next year! Anyone coming to Korea that’s reading this – I highly recommend the Boryeong Mud Festival – it’s like spring break but with more mud.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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