It’s difficult to overhype the Boryeong Mud Festival as being the ONE thing a majority of foreigners experience while here in Korea. It is safe to say that it brings foreigners from all over the country together, and is one of the only times I’ve been surrounded by more foreigners than Koreans during my time here. Last year’s event was a wonderful time, and this weekend I’ve made plans to attend again. If it’s your first time, there are definitely some things to know.
First, it’s a mud festival. You’re gonna get dirty. I hate sounding like Captain Obvious, but there is no such thing as ‘clean’ at a mud festival. From the time you arrive at the beach, mud is the name, and mud is the game. Last year there wasn’t specifically a ‘clean zone’ or a ‘muddy zone’, though I wish there was. Remember that the mud is a great exfoliant!
Second, don’t expect to stay un-muddy for long. Assume that anything you wear or bring with you will be covered in mud at some point during your stay, and pack accordingly. The general perception is that the muddier you are, the more committed / involved you are. A person sans mud looks like a party pooper, and may be thrown into a Mud Prison against your will by a group of muddy people.
Third, relax. Buy a beer or soju. Make a somaek if you’re especially daring (soju + maekju, or beer = somaek – typically a shot of soju in one cup of beer) Enjoy the sights, sounds, and mud. It’s quite legal (and quite common) to drink on the streets in an open container. The convenience stores of the area go out of their way to welcome the muddy guests, although refrain from hugging the 7-11 guy. Really.
Fourth, put on sunscreen after rinsing off. Some people let the mud get caked on, which offers zero sun protection. That ultra-waterproof sunscreen that seems so expensive doesn’t seem quite as bad when you’re saving your skin – and not needing sunburn lotion the next day.
Fifth, buy your souvenirs at the very end of your stay. It’s not that they’re any cheaper – they’re just less likely to get muddy along the way. See the first suggestion.
Sixth, be patient if you didn’t make advance arrangements. Since this is the biggest event this area sees every year, don’t be surprised to find sold-out hotel rooms almost everywhere you look. Try to get your room (and return trip home!) taken care of as soon as you arrive if you didn’t make advance arrangements and you’ll be fine.
The Mud Festival starts July 11 and runs through July 19 – two weekend chances to go, and it’s a very safe guess that the weekends are the busiest by far. Opening ceremony starts at 7:30pm on the 11th, with fireworks following later on that night. For everything you’ll need to know, check out the official – and excellent – website at http://mudfestival.or.kr/index.html.