Sometimes you just need get totally wasted and cover yourself in mud. Not necessarily in that order.
This is the way I felt at 7:30am on Saturday as I boarded a charter bus bound for Boryeong Mud Festival 2011. An extremely awesome member of the foreigner community here in Busan took it upon herself to organize the trip back in April. Around 80 people signed up, which filled two buses and an entire tourist pension right on the beach. The bus trip itself was about 6 hours long. It should have been 4 hours and 45 minutes but for some reason (probably union related) the drivers saw fit to take a 20 minute rest stop every hour or so of driving. Which although super lame it did afford many opportunities to buy more alcohol/snacks, which were liberally consumed by most on the ride there. I’m not sure what the world record is for the longest game of ‘Would you rather?’ but if its less than 6 hours its time the record changed hands. Some of the ‘would you rather’ highlights include “Would you rather have two miniature dolphins or one kitten sized gorilla as a pet?”
It’s an amazingly contentious question. Another favorite was would you rather have a tooth pulled (a molar, to be specific) without anesthetic or a toe nail pryed off with plyers? Being my father’s son I am no stranger to stubbed toes, and I once almost scraped my big toe right off in an unfortunate sandals + bicycle accident, so I opted for the tooth. As amazingly exciting as a 6 hour game of ‘would you rather’ on a bus full of drunken foreigners sounds, the real fun began when we hit the beach. The festival, over two weekends, boasts over 1.5 million visitors each year, so there was a pretty big crowd of people. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in a huge crowd of mostly drunk, at least half naked people who are covered head to foot in grey mud. Luckily I took a video or two, which means I’m not going to bother trying to describe it with mere words. The festival took place on a road that ran parrallel to the beach, there were plenty of ‘Family Marts’ – believe me when I tell you that there was nothing family friendly about them this weekend – and ‘GS25’ stores to buy alcohol at, as well as many tents set up serving everything from shwarma (Which in a fit of nostalgic bliss I capitalized upon on Sunday morning while extremely hungover) to kimchi chiggae to long island iced tea.
While food and alcohol were big parts of Mud Fest there is one other element which, I guess, is worth mentioning; the Mud. There were two main ways to get muddy, the first is at one of the many mud sinks where you would either use your hands or one of the conveniently supplied paint brushes to apply liberal helpings of smooth grey Boryeong Mud all over yourself. This is the first method we tried – I opted to cover most of my chest and arms and then did some stylish, Lord-of-the-Rings-massive-orc-antagonist style hand prints on my back, face and calves. The other major mud facility was a by-wristband only area cordoned off from the rest. Inside were massive mud-filled bouncy castles, blow up mud-covered obstacle courses and, our favorite, mud-pools for mud-wrestling (I sound a bit like a 60-era Batman show; I slid down the bat-poll into the bat-cave so I could get in the bat-mobile). We wasted no time getting in line for the mud wrestling pits, where about 15 people would enter for 2 minutes of mud filled carnage. Usually only 3 or 4 people would come back out again. That last part is an exagerration, because everyone would come back out again.
Mud wrassling was pretty fun, made even more so by people yelling ‘They took our jobs!’ and ‘I’m your long lost brother and your sisters lover!’ (South Park inspired wrestling/redneck jokes for those of you who are scratching your head and wondering what the heck I’m talking about). Apart from the mud wrestling pits and bouncy castles and all the other goodness there was also colored mud in the wristband only area. Mud dyed blue, yellow and red which made for some really interesting body paint experiences. I saw some people that were striped head to toe in rainbow fashion and others who had carefully done each limb a different color. There were even the occasional cheeky body paints, such as profane words or bright yellow highlights on certain body parts (as if they weren’t already eye-catching enough).
When you got just plain fed up with being covered in Mud the beach and ocean were just a minutes’ walk away. The beaches were crowded, but not too badly, and there was such a uniform drunkeness that basically everyone was your best friend. In fact within 10 minutes of arriving we were greeted by some drunk Koreans who felt they just HAD to share their Soju with us. Fine by me. There was also a stage set up on the beach, which had various performances happening most of the time. When nothing was happening on the stage it became a drunk westerner dance party.
I suppose if I had one complaint about the entire weekend it would be that the prices were severly jacked all over town. Can’t blame them; its a small town and they most likely make about 80% of their yearly income in those two weeks, but paying almost 15 dollars for dinner and a beer?! Are you mad?!
God, Korean prices have spoiled me so badly I’m going to have an aneurysm when I try ordering food back home. Irregardless of the price the Samgyupsal we had for dinner was delicious and the perfect stomach lining for the copious amount of alcohol that would be ingested in the evening. The night’s adventures took us from free climbing the statues around the festival (definitely not the brightest idea, but you might say my reasoning faculties were slightly impaired by this point) to sitting on the beach playing ‘never have I ever’ (or as the brits, wisely, call it; ‘I have never’). I manage to turn in around 3:30am, relatively early compared to some others. The next day saw us eating a quick breakfast at one of the tents near the festival, followed by checkout from our pension and an afternoon of lounging on the beach, swimming in the ocean and, of course, frisbee. We boarded the buses around 3pm and settled in for the 6 hour (including multiple rest stops) bus ride. This time instead of ‘Would you rather’ we entertained ourselves with logic riddles – which is an addictive way to pass the time.
I arrived home sometime around 10pm, after a quick dinner at Burger Hunter with some of the weekend’s other survivors, just in time to realize it was July 17th, exactly 5 months to the day since I arrived in Korea. Boryeong Mud Festival was one of those rare events that was just so much fun I struggle to think of anyone I know that I would not love to bring there. If ever you find yourself in South Korea around mid-July please give in to that craving to get wasted and cover yourself in Mud, not necessarily in that order.
Whew, there we go. I can’t believe I made it through an entire post about covering yourself in Mud without making even a single Predator joke.