In Boryeong, dirty is better
BORYEONG - We can all do without the hot, sticky, humid days of summer. The smoldering heat radiating off asphalt roads, traffic jams and crowded streets add to the frustrations of the heat wave that engulfs the city as people search for ways to escape. And getting away can be a messy affair.
As one of the most popular and successful festivals in Korea attracting people from all over the country and abroad, the Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon Beach in Boryeong, South Chungcheong, is a mess worth escaping to.
And there are still two days to enjoy the action before the festival comes to a close on Sunday.
This year, the festivities kicked off last Saturday under a torrential downpour, but that didn’t stop festivalgoers from diving in.
“The heavy rainfall on opening day didn’t faze us,” said a Boryeong City official. “We had nearly double the turnout compared to last year’s opening day. It actually rained for seven of the nine days of last year’s festival, but we still saw a large number of people in bathing suits enjoying themselves in spite of the weather.”
Last summer, the festival, now in its 13th year, attracted over 2 million visitors, with roughly 83,000 visitors from abroad.
Rain or shine, there is no shortage of things to do in Boryeong during festival season. In addition to covering yourself in the mucky stuff, the festival also offers a slew of other activities and products related to mud.
The bulk of the festivities takes place at the Daecheon Beach center square, where a “mud-fog tunnel,” “mud fountain,” “mud pool slide” and “giant mud bath” offer visitors a chance to dive in for some messy fun.
Beyond the joys of slipping around in sludge, the mud is said to contain high levels of germanium and other minerals and nutrients that are supposed to be good for the skin.
That’s one of the reasons why the organizers recommend mud sunbathing. Spreading mud all over your body and sitting out in the sun for roughly 10 to 15 minutes until it dries and then washing it off is said to do wonders for your skin. Several booths offering regional mud products and mud cosmetics are set up near the center square area.
“Going down the slide and participating in the activities was fun,” said Park Ji-myeong, a university student from Seoul. “I heard that mud from this area is good for the skin, I plan on checking out some of the mud cosmetics products.”
Parallel to the white sandy beach is a long boardwalk lined with restaurants. The majority of these restaurants, and the ones near Daecheon Beach, offer two choices: hoe (raw fish) or jogae gui (grilled clams and shellfish). There are some restaurants that serve haejangguk (hangover soup), and there are hot dog and snack stands, a pizza parlor and a Lotteria fast food chain, but when in Daecheon, don’t expect many options when it comes to food.
The seafood restaurants that dominate the area offer some variety on their menus, including sushi, which goes for 15,000 won ($12.46) on average for a plate of 15 pieces, and a variety of seafood soups, including three different sizes of crab soup and fish soup. Expect to shell out anywhere from 25,000 won to 50,000 won for these dishes, depending on the size you order.
If the restaurants and their price range do not suit your taste, Daecheon Port’s outdoor seafood market, which is a 15-minute cab ride from the beach - also offers fresh seafood at lower prices.
The fun continues late into the night, with many visitors drinking on the beach or strolling along the boardwalk with bottles of beer or soju after sunset and groups of university students mingling near Daecheon Beach square.
With several university training centers in the area, the large majority of people here fall into the early 20s category.
And of course, there are quite a few members of the English teaching community in Seoul who slip down to Boryeong for a quick and dirty weekend getaway.
“People come down here to let loose and have fun,” said John Lee, an English instructor from Seoul. “But what happens in Daecheon, stays in Daecheon.”
Aside from getting yourself muddied up, there is plenty to do when visiting Daecheon Beach. Visitors can go out on deep sea fishing trips or participate in other water leisure activities such as water skiing, riding skidoos and paragliding.
All of this is just two and a half hours away by train or bus from Seoul. And you won’t even feel grimy afterward.
By Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]