The closest I came to a proper Spring Break in college was a week spent at my friend’s grandmother’s condo in Naples, Florida. We lounged on the beach reading books and soaking in the sun and we couldn’t help but overhear the older women surrounding us discussing the newest Dancing with the Stars scandal and which new sandwich recipe they were attempting for their golfing husband’s lunch packs. It was a fantastic week: we somehow scored a few Coronas, watched Lost on an old comical TV that distorted the characters heads, slept 9+ hours each night and bonded over the silly experience of living among the retirees of America. It wasn’t the Spring Break you see in the movies, but it was an escape from the reality of college exams and the bitter cold of northern NY. The Boryeong Mud Festival has been called the ‘Spring Break for foreigners in Korea’, and although I consider myself well beyond (gulp!) my college years, or at least maybe a tad bit more mature and less likely to party more nights of the week than not, I did itch to experience this alternative Spring Break – with a Korean twist of course.
The annual festival takes place each summer in Boryeong, a few hours south of Seoul. The first Mud Festival took place in 1998 and now more than 2 million people travel to the 2 week long celebration of mud. The mud is trucked into the Daecheon beach area from surrounding mud flats and is dumped into pools and wrestling pits, painted onto bodies, poured down slides and sold in popular mud cosmetics. My friends and I traveled with an organized group from Seoul and we arrived late Friday night, the night before the first official day of the festival. We slept for a few hours and were woken by our group leader at 8:30am with a breakfast bowl of watermelon soaked in soju (If you ask me, it was more like soju soaked in some watermelon…). We tried to shake our morning grogginess as he taught us silly Korean phrases and encouraged us to finish our nutritional breakfast. A half hour later we were dressed in our swim suits, no longer sleepy, maybe a bit buzzed, but ready to get dirty.
Saturday was a blur. I had a blast: I got muddy racing through obstacle courses, wrestling and slipping down steep muddy slides, swam in the ocean, drank a few too many beers + soju, ran into many foreigner friends from all over Korea and danced to a live DJ in a muddy mosh pit on the beach. As much fun as Saturday was, I woke up on Sunday ready to return to Seoul and take a real shower. Mud Festival was fantastic but I couldn’t imagine surviving an entire week of the Boryeong craziness. We dressed in our dry clothes and went to find our bus to head home. Walking back through the festival grounds I came across an older couple caked in mud, beers in hand and smiling all over. I asked to snap a photo of them and they gladly posed for my camera. Later on the bus as I scrolled back through my pictures the couple’s shot stood out to me and I realized they were enjoying their own Spring Break in Boryeong. We all need a Spring Break every once in awhile: a day or two to let loose and forget your age and your smart phone in the hotel room (It will get muddy if you bring it, I promise).
Breakfast of Mud Festival
Reunited with a friend from college!
Time to swim –>Daecheon Beach
I hope this is me in 40 years.