Mudfest

Apr. 15th, 2017 03:56 am
[personal profile] niori_1709
Every year, something crazy goes down in Boryeong, South Korea. That something is dirty...so very, very dirty. Before you go and take that in the wrong way, I mean dirty in the literal sense. It's all about the mud down in Boryeong. For a week every mid- July, it's all about Mudfest. Mudfest is exactly what it sounds like. It's a festival completely and utterly devoted to the mud that comes from the mud flats all around the area. It's not ordinary mud, of course, because where is the fun in that? The mud is said to be rich in minerals and great for the skin (I can attest to that, having had the mud smeared all over me, and felt how soft my skin was afterwards. Also, it works as excellent sunscreen). It's been made into a wide range of cosmetics and beauty products. In fact, Mudfest was originally dreamed up as a publicity stunt for those cosmetics. It didn't take long for it to morph into the beach party to end all beach parties. I've been to two Mudfests, both the 16th and 17th annuals. I had a blast both years (though I managed to hurt myself the first year, which put a damper on things), and for a few reasons. There's a lot more to Boryeong than just the mud.

The festival takes place in two different areas- the mudflats and Daecheon Beach. First up, I'll go over the mudflats and the activities there. The mudflats are where they get the actual mud for the festival. It's taken from the mudflats and shipped over to the main festival site at Daecheon Beach. This is the source, so obviously the festival organizers had something set up there.

The mudflat experience began with everyone changing into ridiculously oversized old army fatigues. Given the fact that the whole experience is marketed as mud boot camp, the fashion seems quite appropriate. There was a mudflat military experience (complete with crawling around in the mud and covering our faces to work as camouflage), an obstacle course, some mud wrestling in these giant tube things and even a game of mud soccer.
It was a good hour of playing in the mud like we were a bunch of wild kindergartners who snuck outside on a rainy day. It was fun and silly...and a little dangerous. I actually ended up hurting myself pretty badly while at the mudflats that first year (I limped for over a month). Because of that, I ended up sitting out on the mudflat experience this year (once bitten, twice shy and all that). Ever with the unfortunate injury, I'd still recommend the mudflat experience so very much.

A note on that, however. You can't just show up at the mudflats and participate. Only certain groups are able to get permission (they want to protect the source of the mud, of course) to go. So, if you're at Mudfest and want to do the experience (and you should!), it's something you'll have to look into and do some research on before hand. It's completely worth it...just be careful!

After the mudflats, it was onto the beach. First up, a word on the beach itself- it's beautiful, absolutely beautiful. It's a long stretch of golden sand that leads down to cool blue water. The beach is lovely, and I spent as much time on it as I did in the mud. It was an amazing place to just sit down and read a book or bask in the sun. A lot of people had pitched tents for some shade for their beach day, and some had huge umbrellas they had staked into the ground. There were also a number of long beach chairs with umbrellas providing shade that you could rent. I don't recommend it, since they a extremely overpriced.

Chairs aren't the only thing you can rent. Going to the beach doesn't only mean sitting there. It can also mean taking a dip in chilly water to get out of the sweltering Korean summer heat. You can rent tubes to go out and enjoy the water. Personally, I think it's pointless to rent one. Lifeguarding is serious business in Korea. There are literally lifeguards every few metres, their whistles at the ready. Depending on how rough the water is, you can only do in a few metres. That's not a suggestion- they literally stop you from going any further. One of the days I couldn't even go over my head. It cooled me down wonderfully, but there was no swimming. It seemed a bit of a waste.

Not only is the beach a great place to relax and swim, it's also an excellent place to have a party. One end of the beach is completely devoted to it, in fact. Boryeong Mudfest, for all it's supposed to promote mud products, is marketed as a huge, week long party. There's a giant stage on the beach, and it blasts out music, both DJ and live, through the day and into the night. There's dancing there, and people laughing and playing in the surf. There were food stands and cheap drink stands all around the area. There was a giant 'mud machine' that sprayed out a thin mist of liquid mud over the party goers. It provided a nice way to cool off. It was, as I said earlier, the beach party to end all beach parties.

The party continues into the night where there's a live performance (featuring everything from classical music to hip hop, depending on the night). After the performance, around ten on the first weekend, there's a great fireworks show. It lasts about half an hour, and there were some truly epic fireworks. There were bright explosions of colourful sparkles that lit up the sky, and booms so loud they echoed so much that you could almost feel the vibrations. There were some especially neat ones too, like the one that exploded into a red and blue smiley face. I love fireworks, have since I was a child going to the last Saturday of Old Home Week. They're exciting for me, some of the prettiest lights I've ever seen. Because of that, I hold the bar pretty high for a fireworks show. It's pretty easy to disappoint me...and this one didn't. In fact, it set the bar there for awhile (until a fireworks festival, which you'll learn about someday). That's just how amazing it was.

Now, we come to what the festival is really about. It's all about the mud, and on the plaza above the beach, they set up a mud playground. There are fountains of mud, where you can get yourself filthy before even going into the main area. There is even more mud wrestling in that raft, a mud bath, a mud prison (you go in behind bars and get mud thrown at you) and even a special area for kids. Best of all, in my opinion, is all the bouncy things. By bouncy things, I mean structures that are made out of the same materials as the famous bouncy houses of carnivals gone by. There's two giant slides, where you race up one end (and the stairs up are both steep and slippery) and slide down the other end. There's a long almost obstacle course, where you need to climb, squeeze through small openings and slip and slide your way over flat surfaces before you get to the end. Oh, and it's totally a four person race as well. Volunteers even throw the liquid mud as you go, adding another level to the course (be careful with that- the mud stings when you get it in your eyes, and the volunteers seem a little extra enthusiastic when it comes to splashing foreigners).

Another word of advice (hopefully you're not tired of hearing them yet)- if you're going to go do the mud plaza, go early. Early as in when it opens. It's pretty empty then, but it doesn't take long for a huge crowd to gather, and then there are long lines ahead.

It was glorious and silly. It was a free for all for your inner child, was a blast to let it out to play. It was like we all had permission to pretend we were still children, having fun at a local carnival or theme park. No one was judging or sticking their nose up at the child-like behaviour...in fact, it was celebrated. I loved it, because who doesn't want to recapture a slice of childhood every once and awhile? It brought memories I hadn't thought about in years, of playing in Rainbow Valley or even at the Balloon Festiva rides. They were fun memories to bring up. I couldn't stop laughing the whole time I was there.

Remember when I told you that Mudfest was originally created to advertise mud products? Well it'd be pretty pointless if they didn't have a spot for that, am I right? That's why, on the beach front beside the festival area, there are a ton of tents set up. Like every Korean festival I have ever been to, those tents had things to buy, things to make and even one that gave a whole lot of information about Boryeong mud. I suggest checking them out, since it's quite interesting, and technically the reason you're there in the first place. Another one of my absolute favourites was the coloured mud. The mud is dyed to blue, green, red, yellow and grey, and you can get it painted on you in whatever design you want, basically anywhere you want. I went with a multicoloured upper body design myself, but there were endless possibilities. It was so much fun to walk around so colourfully. Nobody stared, because so many people got it done. A lot of people commented on awesome designs, or asked excitedly where they could get it done. It's a friendly atmosphere, one where it's easy to just start a conversation with someone and join a group to hang out. It's another reason Mudfest is so much fun.
There was also booth after booth selling mud products -make up, skin care, soap and everything in between. Some were elaborate, with designs carved like hanboks or other symbols, and some very simple, just ordinary squares. I bought some, soap to be precise, and I love it. I'm not completely sure if the claims they make about the mud are true, but I do know that it makes my skin feel wonderful. It is completely Nicole approved.

All of those tents are amongst a waterfront devoted to sea and mud. There are huge statues of seashells and even more of massive sea creatures. Then there are statues of little people mascots (including Ariel and Eric from The Little Mermaid) with a mask of mud on their faces. It was a cute area, with even more adorable statues. It was great for photo opportunities and a nice stroll. The giant statue that says 'mud' really proves that this place really is all about mud.

Mudfest is probably the most fun thing I've done in Korea. That's what it was- sheer unadulterated fun. Unlike many places I've been to -historical and cultural-, this is an event dedicated to having fun. It's one big party, and that's what makes Mudfest unique amongst Korean festivals.

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