Ever thought about taking a trip to South Korea? If so, plan it for July. That’s when the otherwise sleepy seaside town of Boryeong explodes to life in a squelching, face-caked orgy of oozing grey mud and partial nudity.
Oodles of the saucy stuff
Don’t know about you, but we’re already booking our plane tickets. Us and the astonishing 2 million other people who flock like naughty children or mud-starved wader birds to the Boryeong Mud Festival each year. It’s all about getting down and dirty.
What started in 1998 as a marketing stunt to promote Boryeong's skincare and beauty products – made using local, mineral-rich mud – has splattered like a well-aimed mud bomb into something more: still a marketing ploy, but so too a mud-crazed extravaganza where folks get to have oodles of messy fun – topped up with lashings of partial nudity.
Aw yeah, Boryeong stylee!
Taking place over nine days, the Boryeong Mud Festival is what it says on the tin: revellers party from dawn till dusk, while wallowing in the therapeutic, skin-nourishing mud.
It’s an all out celebration as people bathe, dance, loll, tussle and generally hang out in the gooey substance that's literally on everyone’s lips – 200 tons of which is trucked in for the festivities.
Reading from Dr Seuss?
The fun is focused on Boryeong's beautiful Daecheon beach area – near the plain where the mud is dug up – and it’s here in ‘Mud Experience Land’ that it’s tops off only and bikinis galore.
For the girls it’s a chance to feel the dermatological benefits of the caking one’s face in abundant mud packs.
The Fonz is in town! Sit on it.
For the guys it’s a chance to ogle the girls. For everyone it's an opportunity to make a mess of themselves.
Activities include mud wrestling, mud massage, a 100-foot mud slide and mud obstacle courses, plus more obscure events like mud boot camp and mud king contest – whatever in mud’s name that may be.
Mud, mud glorious mud
In short, anything you can think of that involves mud, it’s here, and as the mud is also used to manufacture cosmetics, consumers can pick everything from mud soap to mud sun block.
The festival kicks off with a bang in mid-July as the opening day fireworks light up the night sky. During the first week, most of the partiers are Koreans, sold on the idea of a rejuvenating dip in the slimy gunge.
All smiles in the slime
However, during the final weekend, locally stationed America GIs and expat teachers move in, together with legions of other foreign tourists eager to get dirty.
Everyone paints themselves and each other in the healthy gloop – and anyone who refuses to paste mud on their bodies and tries to leave gets put in a 'mud prison'. Once the mud has dried off, people are able to wash off the gunk with a dip in the sea. Traditional parades also pass by, and when everyone has had enough mud fun, they can relax and fill up on the readily available Korean cuisine on offer.
Human mud statue
Before the closing night fireworks mark the end of the festival, Boryeong’s population of 100,000 will have temporarily multiplied more than tenfold and the town’s economy been given its annual boost – with an estimated $53 million pumped in each year. Such has been the success of the event that the mud is now more lucrative as a tourist attraction than when it was used in the fields for agriculture.
Someone's playing ball
Whether this last point augers well in terms of the long-term sustainability of the Boryeong Mud Festival remains to be seen, but until we know more, it’s something that’s just got to be checked out. See you in July!
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