Rachel and I went to the Boryeong Mud Festival the weekend before last and did not enjoy it. If you don’t want to read a rant against it, check out the last paragraph where I talk about the good parts.
The Bad Parts
I’m surprised it took me this long to realize it: most festivals in Korea suck. There are exceptions of course. The Lantern Festival was easy enough to get to and impressive enough to look at that the huge lines and giant crowds didn’t ruin the whole thing. And the Incheon Food Festival was actually amazing. The Snow Festival, though? Or the Herb Medicine Festival? Not worth it. Leading the pack in the Not-Worth-It category is the Boryeong Mud Festival.
Crowded – What do you get when you take an already crowded country, mix it with one of its most popular festivals, and throw in a dash of unbelievably small festival grounds? A lack of availability in the mud-related activity department, that’s what.
Cold – Even in midsummer, overcast, rainy, windy, and scantily clad can translate into a chilly time. Plenty of people were wearing their alcohol coats or have an easy time staying warm. Not me!
Dangerous - When you have thousands of drunk people in a very compact and slippery area there are bound to be accidents. That risk is compounded if you make it into the inflatable races, tug-o-war, or mud mosh pit. Furthermore, this mud that is purportedly great for your skin gives some people rashes. Whether it’s from the mud itself or all the sweat, spit, blood, etc. that’s gone into it, I can’t say.
The bad time was not entirely the fault of the festival though, I don’t want to sound biased. It was compounded by our choice of tour companies, IFX. The later-than-advertised departure didn’t dampen our spirits too much. All the tour companies do it. It was expected. What wasn’t expected was the failure to provide even a basic level of sleeping supplies. I don’t know why we keep being surprised. They did they exact same thing at Seoraksan and the ski trip. Ten people were assigned to our room and provided with 0 beds, 1 floor mat, 3 blankets, and 4 pillows. We’ve never had this problem with When in Korea or Adventure Korea. IFX was also more expensive than competitors and took its customers to fewer places in the area.
The Good Parts
Now don’t get the wrong idea, I have good things to say about IFX too. For instance, they provided everyone with really great mud fest T-shirts. I personally don’t drink, but many people were happy that they arranged for Magpie Brewing Co. to set up a tent right outside our pension. They also leave from Incheon which is vastly more convenient for Incheon residents. Also, since most of their clientele come from Incheon, every trip is full of friends and neighbors.
The Best Part
Rachel and I were wandering around Boryeong aimlessly. We had just run into a dreary area with a parking lot and construction site. It seemed about time to turn back. But then, like a pearl appearing from the desiccated remains of a shell, we found a taco food truck in Boryeong. The truck goes by the name of The Holy Grill. Their usual stomping grounds are Daegu where they also have two restaurants. As you might know, we… love… food trucks. They were in such a desolate locale while getting ready for dinner. They had a reduced menu for the festival crowds with only two options. A cupful of beans, rice, cheese, etc. for 5,000 Won or two tacos and some of the same provender as the cup for 10,000 Won. We chose option two. These were some best tacos I’ve had in Korea and the beans and rice might actually have been better. Everything was just wonderful. We are going to seek these people out when we visit Daegu.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: I would like to add that I enjoy covering myself in mud, and that was a definite plus of the festival for me. - Rachel]
Have you been to any disappointing festivals?