Down and Dirty in Daechon!

by Heather Grell, 12/07/2007

After experiencing my first mud festival, I must say there is nothing like getting down and dirty in Daecheon! Daecheon is on the southwest coast of Korea. On an express bus from Seoul, the trip is approximately 2 hours. But as you will read later, it can take much longer on a “non-express” bus.

The 10th Annual Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon beach was held from July 14 through 22, this year. Boryeong is famous for its therapeutic mud and spa, but for nine days in the summer, it becomes a fun-filled muddy playground for thousands of Koreans and foreigners of all ages.

The Festival – Fun & Practicalities

Overall the Boryeong Mud Festival is well organized, catering to both Korean and foreign participants. Except for food and the souvenirs, the festival is free.

Using paint brushes, participants can paint every inch of their body and clothes in mud, go to mud jail, swing into mud pools, mud wrestle, mud slide and enjoy a nice mud bath. There is nothing like a full body mud mask to make your skin nice and soft! During the day music concerts are also held for the enjoyment of attendees.

All of the activities were enticing, except for the “mudslide” that looked more like a defunct slide without the water or mud. Potential sliders waited in long lines and when they reached the top, they had to wait until enough water from a hose ran down the slide to go down. Perhaps it has worked better in past years, but this year it did not.

For foreigners that may be uncomfortable with Korean customs and food, the festival organizers set-up an entire area for foreigners that included free lockers and “foreign” food stalls. The lockers allowed us to come and go without worry about our things. I recommend avoiding the foreign food section, though. You’ll get much better food (at better prices) in one of the many Korean restaurants along the beach or by trying some good Korean street food.

Clean-up is no problem. The mud can be easily washed off with a dip in the ocean or if you dare, you can try the Korean public bath at the spa. This year foreigners received a 40% discount (3,000 won) to use the public bath. Once inside you can shower, soak in a hot mud and/or water bath and sit in the sauna. For those not familiar with public baths in Korea, it is important to note that these are true public baths. You shower, soak, and steam all in the open – no individual stalls.

The Trip

Traveling to and from Daecheon proved to be more of an endeavor than anticipated. After consulting the organizer’s website and the bus schedule site, we headed to the recommended bus station - Nambu Bus Station - to catch the scheduled 7:00 am bus. However, to our dismay, the first bus to Daecheon actually departed at 9:20 am, which was not included on any of the websites we had consulted. After harassing the nice ticket seller at Nambu to call other bus stations in search of an earlier bus, we went to the Gangnam Express Bus Station. We arrived at the Express Bus Station at 7:30 am and left on a bus at 8:00 am (getting the last two seats on the bus).

Upon arrival in Daecheon and before heading out for a day of muddy fun, we learned that all buses returning to Seoul later in the afternoon were sold out. Oops! The only bus with seats to Seoul departed at 11:25 am – an hour later. We were fortunate to find a 2:35 pm to Osan, where we could then catch the subway back to Seoul.

As we sat waiting for the 2:35 pm bus to depart, my friend asked how long do you think the trip will be? My famous last words were “It can’t take more than hour and a half – since Osan is halfway between Daecheon and Seoul.” The bus to Osan was definitely not an express bus! The trip took a little over 2 ½ hours to travel half the distance and no stops were made. The bus zigzagged through country roads and highways. While interesting to see small villages, we could have done without the lengthy tour. We arrived in Osan around 5:00 pm. After a bite to eat, I arrived home around 6:30 pm – the subway to Seoul with two transfers was faster than the bus to Osan!

Although our time there was cut short, we were able to fully enjoy the mud festival. If you are in Korea in July, the Boryeong Mud Festival is a must!

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