The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual event to celebrate – you guessed it – mud. The hype is that this mud does wonders for your skin. And I don’t doubt that a large part of the event’s success is because it’s just fun to smear mud all over your body and wander around in public.
It also turns out it’s a great excuse for everyone to show up in various stages of undress, get muddy, get drunk, and generally do things (in a combination) that one would probably not do the other 364 days of the year. Or maybe you would. I don’t know your life.
To put it succinctly, it’s the Korean spring break. For foreigners.
Naturally, I was game. Of course when we signed on, we didn’t know about the spring break comparison. But I wanted to roll around in some mud! I mean, how do you pass that up!? I wasn’t stoked on the recommendations that you should book a tour rather than risk it alone, but I felt it was worth it.
Boy was I wrong. We booked our trip through EnjoyKorea.Asia and basically from the moment they had our money, things went down hill. At first, it was just a little annoyance that communication sort of dropped right off until about a week out from the event. Then, though I had clarified the point before paying and booking, they would not accommodate a private room for us (even for additional money!). We did not know what time the buses were leaving until less than 48 hours before the event. We were never told where the pensions were going to be and were not informed that it was ONDOL sleeping arrangements (are you f-ing kidding me!? so what am I paying the premium price tag for!?).
Then they overbooked buses or someone needed something changed or lord knows, but they asked four people to take the train to Daegu and catch the bus from there. They would cover the train tickets and a bit of booze for the inconvenience. Ok, so Jon and I signed up. We were to arrive at about the same time and the train is closer to our house than the bus stop was, so no problemo. FAMOUS LAST WORDS OH MY GOD IT’S ALWAYS THE FAMOUS LAST WORDS IN KOREA.
Well the night before we left I had to email the coordinators to, you know, ask what train we were on or how we were supposed to get our tickets or where we were catching the bus when we got there. I should have tried to back out then. Hello – warning signs! Instead, I got what info I could and we headed to the train station. To be harassed not once, but twice, for the tickets that we could not procure. Which were supposed to have been sent to us the night before and in fact were not. Sorry to be a drama queen, but who the hell runs a business like this? I’m panicked and pretending to “download” the tickets on my phone, not entirely sure whether I was fooling either of the dudes, but just kind of backing away and saying lots of things quickly in English and heading to our train. We arrived and found our seats juuuuuuust as our “tour guide” returned my call and sent the tickets in a photo. Um, thank you? Super helpful timing.
We met the other two who got roped into doing this favour as well, and they were great, so we chatted with them a bit and before we knew it we were in Daegu. A couple of transfers later and we were at the station the buses were supposed to be at. Only there were eight exits (and they’re not particularly close together, if you’ve never been in a Korean train station), and we had no idea which one got us to the buses. So we made a logical conclusion and headed outside. We saw a bus in the distance so we wandered on over and realized it couldn’t be the right one. Okay, so we headed back toward the station and around to one of the other exits. There were buses everywhere, on both sides of the streets, so we wandered up and down checking the windows for tour signs. Still no luck finding ours. We had tried calling every number we had to reach the tour coordinators, and texted, and no one had gotten back to us at this point. We had been there and wandering for about half an hour.
Finally, one of the coordinators calls me. And you will not believe what he says. “Hi, Cynthia? This is Bruce from EnjoyKorea. Where are you guys? The buses have already left Daegu”. The buses have ALREADY LEFT DAEGU and they were just calling us NOW after “missing” several of our calls and texts. I mean, it’s like a comedy of errors except it WASN’T FUNNY. Sorry for getting all capsy up in here, but I had to remain as calm as possible so as not to ruin our weekend. Call this my therapy sess, if you will. We jumped into a taxi and 20 minutes later, with a whopping price tag of 40,000 for the ride, we were there. We let them cover the costs, because it was THEIR error, and we got on the bus. Cool. The drinking started and we set out.
We arrived a few hours later in Boryeong, a bit later than planned and hoped for, but still with some time to get out in the sun and mud. We let the ondol sleeping situation and the missing waterproof bags that we had been promised slide, and we found the mud.
But it turns out all the fun stuff was in a separate, ticketed off portion of the festival with HUGE lines. And was one of the things our initial tour had included and – you guessed it – had not been given to us. It’s ok…
There were fountains spewing mud all around, so we headed to one and did as the masses did…smearing mud from head to toe. It was fun. And gross. And weird and random. But fun.
We had our booze and were feeling pretty good about life (ahem) right then, regardless of the mess ups. I was doing great with my positivity and letting things go 😀 We wandered around the beach, chatted with the odd person, and just generally hung around together for the afternoon.
The following may or may not be a series of drunken photo ops.
There was even an air show replete with coloured exhaust and the crowd loved it. All in all, we had a great time.
The rest of the trip was basically a bust. The tour had promised some epic party and, though this isn’t entirely their fault, they just couldn’t deliver. People weren’t super feeling the music (it was sometimes reggae, sometimes electronica, but not the good-for-dancing version of either of those) and there seemed to be an overall lack of energy. But maybe my buzz had just worn off 😉
All I can say is, thank goodness Jon and I really like to hang out together. Because there were not a ton of other people on that tour that we wanted to chill with. There were a few though, and we spent a good portion of the evening outside of the 7-11 while various groups came and went, chatting with us all the while. We were the old people. But we were the kinda-cool-or-at-least-ok old people.
The two we met on the train actually said, when guessing how old we were, “We knew you had to be older than us because we could not even be thinking about getting engaged yet”. Hahahahaha. Oh man. I felt like telling them that had they met me a year and a half ago, I would have been right there with them. Instead, I just let the old, married feeling sink in for the time being and felt grateful that I enjoyed the company of my old, married partner so much 🙂
Also, later that evening there was a fireworks show and it definitely ranks up there for best fireworks I have ever seen. They were phenomenal.
To sum: Mud is fun and it really did deliver the skin benefits -the next day my skin was clear and baby soft. I do not recommend that tour company we used (EnjoyKorea.Asia). Boryeong and the fest would very possibly be more enjoyable if you sort your own thing out because the fest is an all weekend thing, so you could ideally have two days of mud instead of two hours. Sleeping on the floor is horrible. I like Jon. Mud is fun.
At least Jon got his first spring break experience out of the way? Poor guy…you’re really not supposed to do that with your fiancee!