I am by most definitions of the word a pig. I live in a messy apartment where dishes pile up in my sink with frightening speed, and empty bottles will remain in my room for weeks, begging to be recycled. I believe the “five second rule” for eating food on the floor is far too short, and that simply putting in deodorant can suffice as a substitute for a morning shower. So it is only natural that I made the pilgrimage to the Boryeong Mud Festival, which seems to be a foreigner rite of passage in South Korea.
Of course, as the name suggests, the main draw of this classy event is Boryeong’s mud, which is high in minerals and highly regarded for its supposed healing properties. The actual mud area itself is quite small, and is in a cordoned off section right in front of the Daecheon beach. I suggest getting there early, because there are limited tickets (they were actually sold out when we arrived, so we had to use the free mud fountain instead like some lowly plebs). But luckily, we still scrounged together enough to be liberally covered in mud. The mud itself is super thin and smooth, so it actually feels good on your skin. I was expecting it to become super itchy as it dried, but surprisingly that was not the case.
Personally, I enjoyed the mud but the beach for me was the most entertaining aspect of the trip. I heard from multiple people that the beach was dirty and unimpressive, but apparently my sources use some idyllic Caribbean beaches as their means of comparison because I found it to be perfectly fine. It was clean (well at least at the start of the day before the hoards of foreigners started tossing bottles) and the water was surprisingly warm. Our late night swim was the perfect way to cap off the day’s festivities, even though it was interrupted by smiling policeman who politely asked us to exit the water.
There is a big stage with concerts and contests running all throughout the day. I somehow found myself embroiled in a fierce tomato war, where for some reason we started being pelted with hundreds of tomatoes. Well since were Americans and not French, we weren’t going to just surrender and take that assault lying down, so of course we picked up and started firing them right back.
The party continued into the night, spilling onto the streets, where we found some of the freshest and best-tasting seafood I have sampled thus far in Korea. The atmosphere of the entire city was incredibly relaxed and welcoming, and the locals did not make a fuss about shirtless and shoeless foreigners strolling into a convenience store or restaurant. This was crucial for me, because during the course of the day I managed to lose not only my sandals but also my shirt, so I was just walking around the city like a mud-covered beggar. Overall, Boryeong is an experience that I highly recommend, and I will leave you with a few tidbits of folksy wisdom that can help you make the most out of your weekend.
If you truly feel the need to bring your phone and wallet, for the love of God store them in the safety of a Ziploc bag. I just played it safe and left both of those items at our penchant house. I just brought 40,000 (which I also promptly lost, so you can probably infer a bit about my state of mind during this entire experience.
Pace yourself. If you are like me and like to dabble in the imbibing of an alcoholic beverage or two, make sure to take it slow. This is a marathon not a sprint. Don’t be that guy passed out facedown in the sand at 3 P.M, surrounded by empty soju bottles and curious Korean children poking you to see if you are dead.
Wear sunscreen. Sure, the mud will maybe protect you for a bit, but it will wash off in the ocean and then you are at the mercy of the Korean summer sun. As a disgustingly pale Irishman, I learned this the hard way and I am currently rocking some incredibly painful and interestingly shaped sunburns.
There you have it. I am now going to douse myself in aloe and go on a mining expedition to dig out the residual mud from my ears and belly button.
Patrick Sheridan grew up in the quiet suburbs outside of Boston but always knew he wanted to explore the world. Studying abroad in Denmark while attending Elon University did not satisfy this desire, so after graduating in 2012 he decided to join Chungdahm Learning and teach English in South Korea. He loves wandering through the various neighborhoods of his city Daejeon, sampling random back-alley restaurants and attempting to communicate with the locals in his horribly broken Korean. He embraces everything Korean and looks forward to seeing everything South Korea has to offer.