The Boryeong Mud Festival is held in South Korea every year for roughly the last two weeks of July. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest festivals South Korea offers, and in particular it is very popular with foreigners. Based on my experience, I say both of those statements are absolutely true. The mud festival is held on Daecheon Beach which is about a two and a half hour train ride (or drive if you are bold enough to drive in South Korea-I’m not) south of Seoul. It is extremely convenient to reach, because there are numerous trains leaving daily from Yongsan Station for Daecheon. During the festival, there is a bus from the train station to the beach approximately every 10 minutes, and it is roughly a 20 minute bus ride to the beach and festival site. The centerpiece of the festival is the Mud Play Zone at Mud Plaza. Surrounding the plaza are a variety of different experience booths, and all of this is set right next to a very large, popular sandy beach. The mud play zone is actually divided into two areas: the paid zone and the family zone. Both of them charge admission to enter. However the family zone is for families with kids the age of 13 and younger, and the paid zone is for those over the age of 13. The play times are divided into two blocks of time: the morning session of of 9:30-13:20 and the afternoon session from 14:10-18:00. I bought an all day, adult ticket and that cost me only 10,000 won (less than $10 USD). It’s a lot of fun, but just be prepared for crowds, long lines, and most of all, to get EXTREMELY muddy if you so desire (trust me, you do).
If you would rather play with fewer people, I highly recommend the morning session. The pictures above are from the morning, and as you can see in my later pictures, there aren’t QUITE as many people in the morning as there are in the afternoon.
The mud play zone consists of large, inflatable, bouncy mud slides, a small mud pit, a large mud pit, a mud prison to trap clean people inside and throw mud at them, and a few pair-oriented mud obstacle courses. All of this is set up in the adult equivalent of a bouncy castle. The family zone has roughly the same setup, only it is scaled down for children. This is definitely a time it is easier or better to go with a pair or a group of people, just because it probably does enhance the fun to play with someone else, plus the fact that some of the fun is targeted toward pairs. I went by myself, but it was still a lot of fun.
You can get as muddy as you want, and as you can tell from the above photos, I got pretty freaking muddy. I was covered in mud from head to toe. It’s like playing in one big mud puddle. The afternoon session was a bit crazier than the morning session. It was so much more crowded, to the point where the groups of people were pushing their way in past security. The lines were longer, and the people definitely were drunker. While food, drink or alcohol aren’t allowed in the play zone, there was plenty of booze to be had in the surrounding stores beforehand (plus whatever individuals brought with them), and the groups of young people definitely were partaking (often in very large bottles of booze).
While the Boryeong Mud Festival is geared toward all ages, at times, it definitely felt like Spring Break: Daecheon Beach. Like I mentioned, this is a very popular festival with groups of twentysomethings. They are there to strip down (to tiny swimsuits, not naked-this is Korea after all), booze up, get muddy and dance on the beach. The only thing missing were the MTV cameras, though there was plenty of local press on hand capturing all the insanity. However, if that part is just not your thing, there is still plenty of fun to be had at the festival. In addition to the mud play zone, there were some experience booths like I’ve seen in other culture festivals. You can play with colored mud (in a much more controlled setting than the mud play zone). You can buy beauty products made from local Boryeong mud (in fact this festival’s origins trace to trying to promote the health and beauty benefits of the local mud and its products). You can make your own mud soap, get your face painted and just enjoy some relaxing time on the (very crowded) beach.
As you can see, groups of friends and families set up pup tents on the beach (for day use) to relax and frolic along the beach. The sandy beach extends for a distance in either direction. You can venture into the water, and the water temperature was pleasantly cool on the hot, sunny day I went, and it was a great place to rinse off all the mud. You can’t swim out a long distance from the shore, because the waves can be pretty powerful, and it is blocked off for jet skiers and patrolled by lifeguards. Still, it was fun to ride in the waves and relax on the beach, taking everything in around you.
In addition to the all day long mud play, the festival also hosts a number of concerts and other cultural experiences. The afternoon I was there, there as an air show performed by the Black Eagles, a South Korean Air Force unit. There are also different concerts and parties on different nights, and even though I didn’t stay since I had to catch my evening train back to Seoul, there were also fireworks on opening night.
Everything you want for the festival is all within a very small walking area. There are showers for a fee, though I warn you these are open bay showers crowded with many, many people and not private shower stalls. If you don’t mind showering, toweling off and dressing pressed up against a group of strangers, dive right in. At least the showers are segregated by gender. There is a place to store your bags during the day for a small fee. I highly recommend you store almost everything, but carry around your wallet and phone in a waterproof case. The bathrooms on site are what you would expect from such a widely attended festival (i.e. a bit scary as the day progresses). Food and beverages are available on site, and if you choose to stay overnight, there are many hotels in Daecheon Beach. Though I recommend you book well in advance and not assume you’ll be able to walk up the day of and get a room, particularly for a beachside hotel.
This is a very enjoyable festival, and I definitely want to go back next year. I’m just thankful that the weather held out the day I was there, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the ominous clouds gathering at the festival site in the picture below.