Every expat in Korea travels to one beach on the west coast of Korea each July- Daecheon Beach for the Boryeong Mud Festival. Last time we were in Korea over the summer, Austin worked for the entire two weeks of the festival and we didn’t have a car, and it was a four hour drive from Seoul, so we did not attend. THIS time around, though, we were only two hours from Daecheon Beach, and Austin had the weekend off, so I knew we had to seize the opportunity to go. From the pictures online, it looked like so much fun wallowing around in thick mud!
The appointed morning dawned drizzly and cold. The weather report seemed to say there would be a break in the rain later on in the day, but we wanted to get there before the crowd, so a bunch of Austin’s co-workers and our family headed out bright and early. When we got there, it was still cold enough to need jackets, but we got on our swimming clothes and braved the cold anyway. NOTHING was going to stop us from wallowing in mud. We bought our tickets ahead of time online. We arrived early enough that the ticket lines were not too long for those buying tickets there, but later in the afternoon, the lines were incredibly long, and it would be worth it to purchase them beforehand. We bought Kid’s Zone tickets, because the ticket rules are a little weird. In order to enter the kid’s zone, you must have a kid’s zone ticket. Even though it is less money, adults with kid’s zone tickets are allowed in the adult area as well. So if going to the Mud Festival with kids, buy the Kid’s Zone ticket!
The Kid’s Zone was not very crowded in the rain, so we had a (cold) blast playing muddy water soccer, doing the muddy water slide, muddy water hand-paddle boats, and muddy bounce houses. We also did the giant bubble, pictured at right. Landon had a lot of fun in the kid’s area! I was a little confused as to how people got so covered in mud, because the muddy water did not leave much residue- it just looked dirty. Scattered around the festival grounds were basins of cosmetics-grade mud that we could paint ourselves with. I was convinced that somewhere in the adult section was an area to get truly muddy, but our friends who spent all day there were also perplexed as to why it was not a muddier experience. We all decided that in order to get completely covered with mud, people were covering themselves with mud using the painting basins. I was too busy chasing around an excited 3-year-old, so I did not have time for that. We did have fun painting our arms and faces with a little mud from the basins while taking a break from all the action.
The Kid’s Zone had some pretty strict rules. We could not bring anything in to the fenced off Kid’s Zone area. No shoes, no backpacks, no strollers. This would make it impossible for me to go in if I was by myself with both kids, so I was glad Austin was there! We were planning on having Owen play in the mud too, but without the stroller, and with the cold, we decided against it. I should take time to mention here that going to a Mud Festival is not something Austin would ever do on his own. My sweet guy came with just because he knew how much Landon would enjoy it. So, Austin stayed outside the fence and was the photographer and baby-watcher for this adventure. While Landon and I were waiting in line for our next activity, Austin found his co-workers and took some shots of them playing this “snake” game. Two teams start at opposite ends of the pool, and then the snakes try to “eat” each other until one team’s snake disintegrates and they lose. Austin’s co-workers lost, but I think they had a lot of fun!
While Landon and I were checking out the muddy water playground, Owen hung out with Austin. He was perfectly content to sit in the stroller and observe the surroundings as long as he was fed. Overall, the Mud Festival was not what I was expecting. It was basically a pop-up water park with muddy water instead of clean water. This mud was the cleanest mud ever because it was cosmetics-grade mud, but I was expecting thicker mud that would really get me dirty. For us, it was not worth the price of tickets and the long lines! Aside from the water park-like attractions, there were vendor booths selling cosmetics and mud-related products, a colored mud painting experience, and my personal favorite, the child name tag station. Here, we made a name tag for Landon to wear around his neck, and registered him with the festival, so that if he was found, they could call us up. Why is this not a thing everywhere? I thought it was the best idea ever! The grandstand stage was pumping out very loud music throughout the festival, and K-pop dance groups and singing groups occasionally took the stage for a few minutes. The neat thing about the big stage is that it was on the beach sand, perpendicular to the water, so people could float out on the water with inner tubes and enjoy the show. I think there were full blown concerts later on that night, but we skipped out mid-afternoon, so we missed the night performances.
Pretty soon, we were all hungry for some food. Daecheon beach has a plethora of seafood restaurants, along with a few other options. Austin got kebap, I had some street meat on a stick, and we enjoyed our food on the beach. Landon loved playing in the warmer waves of this beach, and Owen liked eating sand. The lifeguards were smitten with Owen and kept coming over to talk and play with him. It was a little stormy at the beach, so only wading up to knees was allowed because of the “waves”. These waves were still smaller than the smallest waves at a typical beach on the Pacific coast. Oh well.
By afternoon, it had stopped raining and more and more people poured onto the festival grounds. Lines for the attractions in the Kid’s Zone started to get longer and longer, and Landon was having a hard time waiting, so we left. I recommend coming on a weekday if possible to avoid the giant weekend crowds. Also a word for expats- there are many news/media outlets that come to report on the festival. Expect to get filmed, and perhaps interviewed. It seems that Koreans really like to show foreigners on TV as if to say, “See! This is so cool that foreigners are here, you should come too!” We were actually surprised that there were so many Koreans at the festival, along with the expats. If you can’t make it to Daecheon beach for the festival in July, that’s OK! There’s a mud skincare center and museum where visitors can enjoy mud baths, facials, and mud packs. It is open year-round except for holidays, so you can get the mud experience no matter when you visit!