A 6-hour bus ride with 40 intoxicated English teachers and a blowup dinosaur named Stanley is not where I wanted to be two days into my trip to South Korea
. I was still jetlagged, and sleep was impossible with the back of the bus belting out 90s songs and discussing their favorite sex positions. I imagine no Koreans' journey to the Boryeong Mud Festival, where I would soon willingly cover myself in mud, included this much morning noise, though, - considering South Korea's love of all things adorable- perhaps it could have included a blowup dinosaur.
The Boryeong Mud Festival began in 1998 as a 4-day event to - according to the official website - "make the public aware of the superiority of Boryeong Mud" products, and has been held every July ever since. It's grown larger each year, reaching a peak of more than 2.2 million people in 2011. On its 15th
anniversary this year, it extended to eleven days: from July 14 to 24.
Reading articles about the festival or watching this amazing promo video
, which informs viewers "parents, children, friends and lovers are having the time of their lives," one would think this is a giant, muddy playground with supposed health benefits of the mud.
This is how the festival started, and it still seems to be a pretty accurate depiction for the Koreans coming to the festival. But in reality, Boryeong is a tale of two parties.