The Boryeong Mud Festival is South Korea’s #1 festival! There you can swim in mud pools, speed down mud slides, play fight over mud pits, and get painted in mud. No wonder it’s the best!
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The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual summer festival in Boryeong, Korea. It’s in it’s 21st year, thanks to the creative foresight of founding company Boryeong Mud.
Boryeong Mud is a cosmetics company that has bottled the mystic powers of the local mud, which is said to be great for skin and hair care. The company sells the local mud cosmetics as body washes, shampoos and conditioner, and, of course, skin care treatments.
Isn’t it pretty brilliant marketing to invite thousands of people to town to experience their product in the most natural and fun way possible?
In the last 20 years the Boryeong Mud Festival has become a true phenomenon. The #1 festival in Korea and considered one of the top 5 festivals in the world, thousands of people flock to Boryeong for the 10-day mud extravaganza. Not only are there mud body painting stations and mud games, but it’s also held on the beach so patrons can lay on the sand or play on jet skis on the same day!
The Mud Festival also hosts concerts and Korean personalities on it’s outdoor stage. Lucky fans can see K-Pop performances at opening and closing ceremonies and the weekend. Last year Psy performed his famous hit, Gangnam Style! Can you even imagine something more fun (or more Asian, for that matter) than rocking out to Psy while covered in mud?
Well… does the Boryeong Mud Festival live up to the hype?
Our Boryeong Mud Festival Experience
Shuttling in with an English-Speaking Tour Group
We left at 7:45 am to get from Itaewon, Seoul, across the Han River to Gangnam. We had pre-arranged passage on a tour bus to take us the two hours from Gangnam to the coastal town of Boryeong. We arrive just before noon looking for some fun!
I knew this was a mud festival where we would play in mud, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
First of all, I’m glad we had an English-speaking tour guide with us because checking in is not super easy! We purchased tickets in advance (also not easy, since their website only accepts Korean credit cards) through the website, and had a difficult time getting the ticket counter agent to understand that Ben and I wanted all-access passes to the adult and kid zones, but that we were with a child who wasn’t old enough for the adult zone (the age limit is 10).
We ended up with three adult zone wrist bands, but paid for the child zone. Oh well. We tried!
Our tour guide showed us to the locker room where we rented a locker for the day for our bags. We brought two backpacks with us to carry towels, water, etc., but ended up not taking either with us on our jaunt. We weren’t sure how crazy and messy things would get, so it seemed simpler to leave it all back.
We were able to change in the locker room and apply sunscreen, then we left to get on our way!
Adult Section vs. Family Section
The Mud Festival is set up along the beach boardwalk.
One end (the side next to the locker and shower rooms and outdoor stage) is the adult area. It’s a gated section with giant inflatables, pools, semi-dangerous games and inflatable obstacle courses over mud, and volunteers with high-powered hoses.
What really separates this area from the family/ kids area is not just that the inflatables and games are next-level, but that each activity involves a bucket of mud getting randomly thrown on the participants by festival volunteers and the hose which is shot at anyone walking around. Watch your back.
The family section (for people with children under 10) is over a kilometer away.
It is a much smaller gated section with it’s own shallow mud pool and inflatable obstacle courses to play on. Instead of hoses to clean you down the family section has a bubble pool. Its filled with a foot or so of water with giant bubble blowers pouring bubbles onto the top. (This was fun for a little while, until our son started to complain about soap getting in his eyes. Oh well.)
The family area also has a large, shallow pool with child-sized inflatable hamster balls inside. It was so fun to watch the kids get inside these wheels and try to run inside them while covered in slippery mud! It looked like a lot of fun, but, alas, only for children.
I loved both sections, but the children’s section is definitely a lot smaller. We were there on a Thursday afternoon with less crowds, but this would become a huge problem on weekends.
Our favorite thing about the family area was being able to get into the shallow mud pool as a family. It’s warm since it’s shallow, which feels awesome, and it was fun to do together. We had a great time doing mud angels, pushing Whit through the mud by his feet, and making sure every inch of each other was as covered as possible!
A Cultural Experience
What we also loved about the festival was walking past cultural booths from the adult section to the family section.
We passed stands giving out mud mask samples, giving us traditional Korean sweet drinks and snacks, offering silk screen temporary tattoos in traditional pictures, and more. It was like a fun, mini course in Korean culture!
And, for the record, my temporary tattoo of characters that spell “Baekje”, the original name of the kingdom of Korea, has lasted on my wrist for four days and counting. So there’s that.
Here’s a funny story for you!
We walked back to the adult section after Whit started to complain that the drying mud felt like rubber bands across his skin. Ben and I wanted to use our adult wristbands to get in for some pictures, but ended up staying for much more!
We saw that there was a giant inflatable water slide near the entrance of the adult section. Ben volunteered me to slide down for Whit’s entertainment, so in I went as he and Whit sat in chairs just outside the gate. Volunteers sprayed me with a hose before I slid down, which helped me clean off a bit and have a lot of fun.
I suggested Ben go down the slide to clean off, too, but this time that we should try and go in as a family. We had no trouble walking Whit past the entrance security, even though he’s obviously less than 10 years old. He had a purple wrist band, which was all they cared about. Before we made it over to the slide we were stopped by a member of the press. He asked Ben, in Korean, if we would be willing to do one of the fighting games for the camera since we were so beautiful together.
I mean, we are, so sure.
We were told to sit in some shaded chairs until they were ready to film us.
A few minutes later Press Man came over and instructed Ben to say “Let’s pillow fight!” in Korean, but that he should say everything else in English.
No instructions for me? Cool. I can wing it.
Press Man came up a third time and pointed our 4 men to us who were walking past, covered in a harem of professional cameras, mics, and fans taking phone videos. Apparently they wanted Ben to approach the leader of the pack, offer to fight him, and then record them dueling it out over the mud.
And me? Arm candy. Which was totally fine with me.
I walked beside Ben as he and the men chatted, trying to look as alluring as possible (which is hard when you don’t work out regularly, have mud in your hair, and are rocking a button your son just made for you).
They fought and I cheered emphatically for the camera trained on me, and when it was over the men asked Ben if someone had put him up to it. They didn’t know the whole thing was a set up! How embarrassing! But good for them for rolling with this white dude who randomly joined their party!
I guess they are all famous Korean cartoonists, and one is now on a Korean variety show (which they take very seriously here). Ben is halfway hoping the producers will love his bit and offer to have him back on the variety show as Goofy White Dude!
We’ll see, Honey.
Final Boryeong Mud Festival Thoughts
In 4 words: This. Place. Is. Awesome.
We had so much fun playing in the mud, getting dirty and not caring, as a family. It’s so great to act like a kid surrounded by hoards of other people having fun acting like kids!
This festival definitely lived up to the hype, the charge, the language barrier, and the travel time.
I am so so so so so glad we went and any other mud festivals withing 100 miles of me better watch out: We’re coming!
Boryeong Mud Festival Location and Cost:
The festival runs for almost 2 weeks every July.
- In 2018 the Boryeong Mud Festival is at the Daecheon Beach Area
- July 13-July 22
- Adults: 12,000 won (around $10 USD) on weekdays and 14,00 won/ weekneds
- Teenagers: 10,000 won/ weekdays, 12,000 won /weekends
- Family zone adult: 4,000 won/ weekday 6,000/ weekend
- Child (family zone only): 9,000 won/ weekday 11,000 won/ weekend
Would you ever go to a mud festival?
If you’re planning to attend the Boryeong Mud Festival in 2019 pin this article for later to know what to expect!