Korea's Boryeong Mud Festival!
Sweet, sweet relief. That would be an adequate description of the emotions surging through me at this very moment. All of a sudden I have a to-do list large enough to require a hired assistant, and I barely have time to breathe let alone write. However, we must make time for our passions in life, and writing, as you may have theorized, happens to be one of my foremost passions. Truthfully, we can only blame ourselves for not finding the time to do what we really want to be doing. Coincidentally, my lack of time for writing has been due to the time I've been devoting to another passion of mine - travel. Bri and I have been tirelessly crossing the t's and dotting the i's in preparation for our 14 week excursion across Southeast Asia. We leave in a few weeks now and to suggest that I'm excited would be a rather large understatement. To suggest that this is a trip I've been envisioning for years and something that I dream about every single night might be a more accurate depiction of my reality. I'll be writing a full fledged blog about our plans for Southeast Asia in the near future, as I did before I departed on my ambitious European adventure in 2010.
Admittedly, I spent less time and effort on my blog back then, which is really just to suggest that it's evolved, and also that I now have an incredible girlfriend who doesn't mind giving my posts a quick edit. She edits my blog, but also thankfully edits my life when the time calls for it. Bri would be the proverbial angel on my shoulder who kindly asks me if that's really such a stupendous idea. The preamble I've given has absolutely nothing to do with what I'll be writing about today, but I don't mind, if you don't. I'll be writing about the famed Boryeong Mud Festival, whose very prospect is prone to making foreigners salivate in anticipation.
The Boryeong Mud Festival began in 1998 as a result of the fact that folklore suggests the mud in this scenic area is especially rich in minerals, and thus healthy for your body. Since 1998, people have been travelling from all over to this area about 200km south of Seoul each and every July. Not surprisingly, it supposedly began as a marketing vehicle for the sale of Boryeong mud cosmetics, but it's turned into something much grander. Primarily, it is extraordinarily popular with the western and general foreign population and has become something of a sought after adventure. In fact, the festival now attracts well over 2 million tourists during its two week duration. I can completely understand why because it's an unusual and tempting experience and, let's be honest, an excuse to drink and play in the mud without the worry of the general public thinking you're slightly insane.
The timing couldn't have been more perfect. My brother, Dave, had arrived in Korea only days before and we were ready to make some memories. Throughout Europe, North America, and now Asia, that seems to be what we do best. I'm downright lucky to have the relationship I do with my brother, and it shows in how well we get along on the road. In all, there were about a dozen of us or more heading off to Boryeong to take part in the festivities. We had several Korean "pensions" (small hotel rooms with kitchenettes and ondol floors; no beds) which were right in the thick of the action. It appeared as if every foreigner I knew in Korea was heading straight for this festival and, in this case, appearances weren't deceiving.
What's the Boryeong Mud Festival All About?
What exactly is this festival, you ask? That's a question I had before going, and likely still do after going. It's more or less an eclectic collection of mud related activities, Korean restaurants and foreign food stands, and establishments selling unquantifiable amounts of alcohol. It's quite difficult to describe even after being covered in mud head to toe for several hours, several times. Here's the description that the Korean tourist site for the mud Festival gives. I find it particularly amusing, as per the somewhat poor use of English (although markedly better than usual), description of the photo contest, and especially the fantastically untimely joke at the end.
"There are many events such as mud wrestling, mud king contest, mud fireworks fantasy and mud sliding. There will also be a photo competition in which past members have come in first place. This is a high profile event. There is a gorgeous beach there as well, which will come in handy as you won’t have any choice but to get muddy. You will be put into a prison until you get some mud on your body."
I'm not entirely sure if we competed in "mud wrestling , mud king contest, mud fireworks fantasy" or "mud sliding," but a group of us headed to the large inflatable structures that beckoned our muddy buddies. Also, the Mitchell brothers never miss a chance for some competition. It's in my blood, as by proxy his as well.
After a clear victory over my brother in our important race on the large blue and yellow inflatable slide, it was off to greener pastures. The bumping sound of a beach party was within reach, but first we needed to grab a few more refreshing beverages from the GS 25 convenience store. A convience store at the Boryeong Mud Festival differs from a normal convenience store in quite a few ways. The most obvious, perhaps, would be the way in which everything is splattered, drenched, and blasted with mud. It's a remarkable sight - care to see?
As I was saying, the foreigner-heavy beach function was well under way, so we promptly made that our primary target. The music was loud, the waves were rolling, and I couldn't have been surrounded with a better group of friends. It's moments like these when you realize that you've made a life for yourself here in Korea, and it happens to be pretty outstanding. However, I take solace in the fact that I'll remember these events, and if I forget in old age, then someone can redirect me to travelingmitch.com
After appreciating the remaining sunlight of the day, we decided to pad our stomachs with some greasy delights. A burger joint not far away effectively satisfied that craving. We had a large table on a patio with astro-turf, and all signs pointed towards us having a good night. That's exactly what happened. We went back to our "pension" and re-grouped and proceeded to indulge in a few alcoholic beverages out front. I was lucky to run into many friends I hadn't expected to see at all, but maybe I should have expected in retrospect. I spent my night with a wide range of friends in a wide range of areas. Bars, restaurants, beaches and even a few hours at the noraebang (karaoke room). The sun crept back up in the morning and I watched it sanction a new day. Although I was a little worse for wear the next day, I don't regret it in the slightest. I relished the opportunity presented to me, and had a marvelous time in the process. There's no room for regret in the crazy world. You've got to love each and every minute of it, starting with the people around you.