Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mud Monsters

Maybe you’ve heard of Spain’s La Tomatina, the annual tomato fight festival held in the streets of Buñol.  The object of this food fight fiesta is to throw as many tomatoes and, simultaneously, be covered in as many as you possibly can. Messy, indeed. But tons of fun, I’m sure.

Over here in South Korea, there’s another version of this festival, where participants are as equally expected to get dirty. But this one’s a whole lot less wasteful and great for the skin, too. A bonus: It takes place on a beach. Sold.

It’s the Boryeong Mud Festival, and it’s becoming one of Korea’s most famous. The 10-day fest draws in several million every year, and it’s gaining more and more popularity internationally. Mineral-rich mud from the Boryeong mud flats is trucked into Daecheon beach, where people can try out mud pools and slides, mud obstacle courses, a mud prison, and even mud wrestling pits. There are stations with tubs of mud and paint brushes to brush yourself gray -- and colored-mud tents, too, if you so choose to sport rainbow hues and stand out from the crowd a little. :)

This year marked the 15th annual mud fest and my coworker and I were lucky enough to be able to arrive Friday afternoon, before the festival was overrun by soju-thirsty foreigners (consequently, they started showing up just as we were leaving Saturday afternoon. Good timing.) You see, that's really what we were sort of expecting…and dreading – a raunchy, drunken, wet t-shirt party of sorts. And hey, not to dismiss a drunken half-naked beach party, because a lot of people love that sort of thing. But. It’s just not my thing. 

Our sweet 20,000 won E-Mart tents. :)
Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find mostly Korean university students on summer vacation and a handful of congenial foreigners. Lines were minimal and we really had a great time. We also took our tents and saved a ton of money.  I highly recommend doing this, by the way. Rather than booking an expensive pension, opt for waking up right next to the sounds of the waves crashing onto the shell-speckled shore…But a caution: Don’t pitch your tent on the actual beach or you may find yourself underwater when the tide comes in. We camped in one of the grassy, tree-filled plots just up from the shore and it was perfect.

And now. A bit of background for ya: This festival officially began in 1998 to help promote the area’s mud cosmetics and has continued to grow each year. The mud contains “higher levels of Germanium, Mineral and Bentonite contents” (whatever that means). All you really need to know is that it’s great for your skin, with anti-aging and skin cleansing properties. It also works as an SPF. I kept myself slathered all weekend and garnered wonderfully-soft skin (and evaded sunburn, as well). Double high five.


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