Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Boryeong Mud Festival 보령머드축제 (Again!) in 2013

A collage of the fun we had last weekend!

Third Time's a Charm?

This year, I attended the Boryeong Mud Festival 2013 (보령머드축제) at Daecheon Beach, which is located on the west coast of Korea, about 2-3 hours south of Seoul. This is actually my third time going, since I also attended in 2010 and 2011. Not sure what it is? Here's a CNN article highlighting the event. Take the "3 million participants" claim with a grain of salt though -- that's an outrageously inflated number.

Me before getting muddy!
I actually wasn't going to go this year, but since all of my friends seemed to be going, I decided to go too. Ironically I didn't see any of them while I was there! But that was okay since I still enjoyed myself greatly.

This time, I went with a new date and we had some good, low-key fun. No 8:00 am party bus, no all-night drinking escapades and certainly no hookers! We enjoyed the beach, the seafood and the mud. There was plenty of relaxing involved.

We signed up the week before through a travel agency, Waegook Travel, which gave us accommodation for 59,000 Korean won each.

He lives in the Yongsan district in Seoul and I live in Suwon. We wanted to travel to Daecheon beach together, and not so early in the morning. We opted for the national rail (sometimes referred to as the "KTX train" interchangeably), which offers multiple Mungunghwa and Saemaul trains to Deacheon daily. Suwon and Yongsan subway stations double as rail stations too, making it convenient. I was able to book the tickets so that he got on the train first, and I hopped in the seat next to him later when the train reached Suwon. In 2010, I ended up without a seat, so this time I booked the train tickets a week before to ensure that we had seats for the approximately two hour trip to Daecheon.

When we arrived to Daecheon, we waited for about 10 minutes in line to get a taxi to our accommodation. We only had a blurry map and an address in English (and the driver couldn't read either) so we called and easily reached the organizer by cell phone. Soon, and 10,000 won later, we were at our motel!
Hyundae Motel (현대모텔) by Daecheon Beach

We stayed at Hyundae Motel (현대모텔) by the beach. We were initially placed in a room with 3 other people, but we ended up in a room with another couple. This is a motel, and the rooms have a bed, A/C unit, TV, refrigerator, and proper bathroom with a tub. Since the other couple got there first, they took the bed. (Darn it!) The hotel employees were friendly and we managed to get the items we needed to sleep, so we slept on the floor relatively comfortably with two mats, two covers and pillows. They're located about a block away from the beach and maybe three to four blocks away from the MudFest site. They can be reached from within Korea at 041-931-3006 or 010-6478-0965 (Korean).

We put our stuff in the room, got ready with our bathing suits and headed out! First, we stopped by the store and bought waterproof pouches to wear around our necks. Next, we were hungry, and strolled the boardwalk's many seafood restaurants. We found one that didn't only serve seafood, haha! We ordered some bulgogi, makgeolli and beer. A couple of already drunk foreign women stopped by and struck up a conversation with us, which was funny, to say the least. One of the women complimented my hair.

The Mud area with the family section and the adult section.

We were then ready to get muddy! We walked a few blocks up to the mud area, which is a relatively small enclosed area with some attractions. We had to buy tickets, which were 6,000 won a piece for us. Those tickets were for a half day. The full day tickets were 10,000 won each. The ticket booth was lined up next to a few tents, offering goods and brochures. One was actually selling traditional Korean-style beds! Really? I wondered who would go to MudFest to buy beds??

Then, we realized that one of the locker areas was full, so we gave up on that and left our clothes and towel over a rail outside. Yes, they were still there when we came back!

Anyway, the Mud section of the festival is separated into two sections, one for families with young children, and another for teens and adults. They have attractions such as mud wrestling a mud message bath, an obstacle course, a big slide where you race against a partner, a mud jail where they spray mud on you, and a pool to help you wash off the mud when you're finished. You could pay extra to get yourself painted with colored mud. They had mirrors lined up, but they're all muddy so I can only wonder what the point is. The bad news? It was super crowded! The lines were way too long. We waited about an hour to mud wrestle and an hour and a half to race up the slide. By that time, we didn't have the energy to wait so long to do anything else! We picked up our stuff, showered and headed out for dinner.

We ate at one of the many seafood places on the boardwalk for dinner!

This time, we hit up a seafood place. There are tons, and they all basically sell the same things. Mostly shellfish, crabs and sashimi. They can be grilled, served over ice or served as a soup. We ordered a 50,000 won set that included a bunch of different types of shellfish. It also came with ramen and another soup. They basically gave us the stuff raw, put in the coals and we had to cook it all. Cooking all that stuff was hard work, and I didn't last long, since I decided to touch a hot shell and I burned myself like an idiot! Otherwise, the food was delicious! Salty and plain, but in a good way.

By that time, it was night, and many of the other folks were partying it up! We celebrated by taking a long stroll like the old people we are, haha. We walked up the boardwalk to see the different events. On the way, we picked up some ice cream served in a a curved pipe shaped "cone." It was good! We also saw night clubs, prostitutes and a free outdoor concert.

We ended up buying more makgeolli and sitting on the beach for the fireworks show they always have over the water. That was pleasant and relaxing, until he looked over his right shoulder and realized we sat down right next to a used condom. I tried not to think about it and moved on.

Sunday afternoon we checked out and decided we wanted pizza, so we picked the one place along the beach boardwalk that sold pizza and western style breakfast. I forgot the name of that place but all of the foreigners try to go there every year, and there are never seats. The little place is never used to so many people, and they flub orders left and right, and take a ton of time (over an hour) to bring them out. People were leaving before their food came out. That place was a mess, but I stayed there to talk to a badly sunburned friend. I eventually snagged an unclaimed egg and toast meal.

The beach party with the water and the dancing crowds! You can also see the long lines for the showers.

We decided not to get muddy on Sunday, because it would have been difficult to shower and change our clothes. Yes, there are bathrooms and showers but the lines are long and the facilities aren't that clean. I figured it wasn't worth it. We eventually found a pizza place, ordered and set out a mat by the beach and waited an hour for our pizza to come up.

We ended up having a picnic with our pizza and sleeping outside by the shore. The weather was ideal and we were by the campsites, which are a little away from the big MudFest party. The mud area opens up like normal on Sunday and the party continues. The good news is that most of the foreigners come with travel agencies, which tend to leave early-ish (between 1-3pm) on Sunday. We missed much of that wild crowd by booking our tickets to leave at 7:30 pm.

We ate pizza and slept by the beach for a bit!

I spent some time on the beach as he slept some more, and I was reminded of why Daecheon beach is my favorite in Korea. The sand is nice and mainly clean, especially outside of the annual Mud Festival. Beginning around mid-July, the water is also a good temperature, whereas the seawater in Busan runs cold, no matter when I go. There are also far fewer people, Korean women struggling in high heels, and annoying umbrellas. It feels nice to stand up, be able to move around, and swim. Last Sunday had weather that was slightly too cold, but I would have swum if the sun were out.

We eventually packed up our stuff, and took the bus back to Daecheon station. Buses going to Daecheon station leave every 10 minutes from bus stops near the mud arena. They cost 1,200 won and it took us about 20 minutes to arrive to the station. After that, we headed home, still with some mud in my hair and bellybutton, but I took care of that!

Some Boryeong Mud Festival Tips

You don't need to book early. The different travel agencies start advertising and posting all over Facebook about how you need to "book now! Space will fill up!" They just want you to confirm your spot with them, sometimes before you find a better deal elsewhere.

Shop around. There are lots of different agencies to choose from. The vast majority offer exactly the same thing, but with wildly different prices. I saw one agency charge 65,000 won and another charge 120,000 won (yes, per person) for the same party bus and accommodation set-up at a pension. The typical deal includes a party bus ride round trip, and sleeping on the floor in an empty room at a pension with +/-10 other people. Some include a BBQ. Also, take departure points in consideration. One agency wanted me to go all the way from Suwon to Itaewon at 6:00 am. No way! For 2013, we used Waegook Travel. They were very professional with us, and their prices were reasonable. They also offered a convenient "accommodation only" package that many other agencies don't offer.

Most foreigners stay somewhere along
this line of pensions. They're basically the
same thing.
Organizers and agencies make a profit, so expect service for your money. In 2010, I used a different agency (now called Wink -- not recommended), and the organizers were unaccommodating and highly annoyed when I asked for directions to the pension. They refused to give us the address and everything!  Yes, this was after I paid them for both the room and the transportation that we ended up not using (that's because I had to work that Saturday morning unexpectedly).

If you have a group of at least 4 people, you're probably better off organizing your own trip. This goes without saying. It comes out cheaper to rent out a room on your own instead of paying a middle man. If you don't speak Korean, get a friend to help find places for you and book a room.

Bring sunscreen. Even though the festival's likely to be cloudy or rainy (it's always held during monsoon season), the sun is still quite strong. I don't burn, but many of my friends have. I ran into a friend unexpectedly, who was badly burned.

The mud does wash off. I'm not saying you should necessarily wear your top designer clothes, but I had no problem washing it out of my clothes and bathing suits. It's not like you have to toss them after.

To avoid lines, get there early. The lines get long after say, 2 pm. Or, you can just hit the beach on Saturday and get muddy on Sunday morning, when most of the party-goers are nursing hangovers.
Me hanging out on the beach on Sunday afternoon

All the foreigners go for the foreign food. There are few restaurants that serve western fare, such as pizza. That means the foreigners pile up at these two or three restaurants. If you want a shorter wait time, eat like a local and hit the seafood places. The food's good and probably better for you too.

If you have a tent, camping is an option. The smart Korean families pitched tents by the beach. Fantastic idea if weather permits.

If taking transportation on your own, book early. Unless you like "standing" for a long time, or not getting on at all, book at least a few days early, because so many folks will be traveling on those routes the weekend days of the festival.

Hope these help!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I am representing the Boryeong Mud festival organizers. During our search we came across this article. We would like to send you an invite and other information related to the festival. If you kindly share your email address with us it will be much appreciated.

    For any query you could get in touch with us at