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Mud Fest – Part 2 August 1, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Boryeong.
9 comments

Have you ever had a really good idea that ended up being a terrible idea in retrospect?

I’ve had lots of them. Lots and lots.

Well this is a story about the exact opposite. A really bad idea that turned into one of the more memorable nights I’ve had here in Korea.

The story you’re about to read took place after the busy day and night that I just described in my previous post. As I mentioned at the conclusion, we were headed back to our hotel and debating whether to turn in for the night.  Katie decided to go to bed as she had a headache, but Kirsten, Darren and I decided to sit on the couch in the lobby of our Minbak (hotel) and pretend to be security. Keep in mind that there’s no front desk, no security, nothing. Just a couch and a flight of stairs.

We grabbed some drinks, set up shop on the couch, and started asking people for ID as they entered. We informed them that we had been hired by our tour group to provide late night security to ensure the safety of all participants. Most people walked by and laughed. Some people obliged and showed ID (while I made them hold my beer), and some even turned around in embarasssment as they were clearly trying to sneak in. Nevermind that we were slurring our words and had trouble walking straight, we provided our tour group and the community with a valuable service.

Kirsten eventually grew tired of the charade and retired to the (dis)comfort of our Minbak floor. Not sure what time it is at this point, but my guess would be sometime between 2am and who the hell knows. Darren and I weren’t quite ready to call it a night, so we headed to the Family Mart, but made a quick stop on a restaurant patio to arm wrestle a small group of Koreans. I wish I could remember more details, but I’m pretty sure I beat one of the girls and Darren beat her boyfriend. It didn’t matter though, we were all winners.

After grabbing some beers and listening to some Canadian tell us about the lung surgery he had in Korea, we started back to our couch when we both suddenly stopped dead in our tracks.

It was one of those moments when neither of us had to say a word. It was destiny. We ended up in that exact place at that moment in time for a reason.

Neatly parked amongst some cars on the side of the road was some sort of golf cart/bicycle. It’s difficult to describe so here’s a picture.

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I still don’t really know what it is, but I’m buying one as soon as I find out where they sell them. In our minds, it was our “car” as we had no idea what else to call it, and  referred to it as such for the remainder of the night…err, morning.

When we first hoped aboard and took off, I remembered thinking there was no way this joy ride would last more than 30 seconds. I fully expected the “car’s” rightful owner to come running out and apprehend us. Once we made it a few blocks away from the scene of the crime, I remembered thinking that this place was crawling with cops and there’s no way our joy ride would last more than 5 minutes.

Of course, less than a few minutes later we approached a couple officers questioning some Koreans on the side of the road. We maintained as low a profile as 2 foreigners driving a golf cart/bicycle at 3am can, and drove right by. The entire group looked right at us and went right back to discussing the issue at hand.

At this point, we knew we were in the clear. We were absolutely giddy…and thirsty. After a brief pitstop to refuel, we mounted our trusty steed and set out on our next adventure.

After touring the neighbourhood for a while and showing off our new ride, we arrived at the top of a hill and immediately started downward. There was a light drizzle so the roads were wet and slippery. About the midway down the hill as we approached an intersection with cars still out and about, we made a horrible discovery – we didn’t know how to use the brakes. We were so excited with our new toy that neither of us had bothered to research this rather vital feature.

As we picked up speed and headed for the criss-crossing traffic ahead, we had a minor communication breakdown. As you can see from the picture, the “car” has a very narrow wheelbase and both steering wheels operate independently of each other. So basically each steering wheel controls the front wheel on their respective side of the vehicle. Therefore, its important for both parties to be on the same page when making decisions at high speeds.

I had intended to sail through the intersection and hope for the best, whereas Darren had other ideas. Just as we entered the intersection and it looked like we would sail right through unscathed, Darren decided to make a hard right and try to turn the corner. This was of course news to me and the vehicle immediately flipped on to it’s side and slide into the middle of the intersection with me on top of Darren.

Once we came to a stop, I simply asked Darren is he was ok and we quickly picked ourselves up, turned the “car” right side up and hoped back  on board. There was several onlookers who rushed over to see if we were ok, including a man who ran out from the restaurant and had a look on his face like he had just seen a ghost.

We rushed from the scene in shock and took a few minutes to digest what had just happened. We had flipped on our left side so Darren had absorbed most of the blow and had landed on his left shoulder and knee. As you can see from these pictures, our knees are pretty beat up. I remember making fun of Darren for making such a bad decision and suffering as a result, when he suddenly looked down and noticed that my knee was pretty chewed up too. I was sitting the right side of the vehicle and still managed to rip apart my knee. Oh, and we also stopped and figured out how to use the brakes.

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This was by far the most memorable episode of the entire adventure, but far from the last.

We ended up circling the community for hours and made friends from all corners of the globe. We actually starting giving people lifts home and managed to fit 5 spanish guys on the cart at once. We also encoutered a Korean girl in tears who had no idea what hotel she was staying at and had lost her friends. We picked her up and drove around for awhile until by chance we found someone she recognized from her tour group who helped her safely back to her hotel. Another valuable service provided to the community.

The final chapter of our story involved a new friend who loved the “car” as much as we did, maybe more. His name was Doug, he had a british accent and looked like Side Show Bob from the Simpsons. We called him Side Show Doug.

DSC00809Doug joined us very late in the festivities but proved himself to be a valuable asset. He abandoned the group of friends he was with so he could join us and didn’t mind sitting on the back. He really won us over when he volunteered to drive the car down a flight of approximately 40 stairs. He was an admirable addition to our squad and added a little UK flavour to our Canada-US partnership.

The best part about Doug was when he informed us that since he had separated from his group of friends to join our crusade, that he had no place to stay. Without thinking twice, Darren and I offered to let him stay with us as we were already sleeping in a room with at least 10 other stangers and Doug practically felt like family at this point. I’ll never forget hearing Katie and Kirsten wake up the next morning, notice the guy sleeping at their feet and quietly whisper to each other, “Who’s that guy?”

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That’s so Side Show Doug. No pillow, just using his hand and happy to have a roof over his head. Once again, another valuable service provided to the community.

As fate would have it, after escorting scores of people safely back to their hotels/minbaks, we came upon one last lost soul as we headed back to our place just after sunrise. It was the Canadian who had lung surgery we had met shortly before our adventure began. He couldn’t find his hotel, but he knew he was close. We had become such experts on the neighbourhood, that once he gave me a description, I was able to escort him home safely within minutes. Another satisfied customer.

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Some may say that we committed a theft and acted recklessly. I prefer to focus on the positives and all the good deeds that we performed as a result of this “temporary” theft. One might even call us modern day Robin Hoods. Regardless of your position, I’m proud of the service we provided and slept (un)comfortably on the floor with a clear conscious and Darren snoring.

As we left the hotel the next morning, our “car” had mysteriously vanished, hopefully back to its rightful owner as we had “borrowed” it from less then a block away. For a second, I wondered if the whole thing had just been a dream, until I started walking and felt the gash on my knee. I hope it never heals.

Editor’s Note: I may or may not have video of me someone shooting roman candles from their crotch in a park. I wanted to include it in this post but the content is questionnable due to mature themes and inappropriate language. Feel free to email me if you’re over the age of 18.

Mud Fest – Part 1 July 27, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Boryeong.
8 comments

And we’re back…I apologize for the delay, but out computer was being repaired from a virus that we contracted last week. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Two weekends ago we attended the 12th Annual Mud Festival in Boryeong, Korea. Boryeong is small town on the West Coast of Korea about a 3 hour drive from Seoul. The entire town is geared around this annual Mud Festival and it attracts thousands of visitors from all over Korea.

The special mud is dug up near Boryeong, trucked to the beach area, and dumped at a ‘Mud Experience Land’ which is basically an amusement park full of Mud. The Mud is considered rich in minerals and used to manufacture cosmetics. Maybe this was part of the initial allure of the festival, but healthy skin appeared to be last thing on most people’s minds that we encountered.

You can read more about the actual event here, but let me attempt to summarize the festivities in one sentence. Mud Fest is an excuse for Foreigners (and some Koreans) to come together and throw mud at each other while intoxicated. Imagine being Crescent Street during Grand Prix weekend and then incorporating mud into the festivities.

We had been warned in advance thanks to the Mulloskey’s blog and several of our co-workers that this was basically one big fraternity party (with mud), so I did my best impression of myself from ten years ago and probably shaved a few years off my life as a result.

Let’s get to some pictures shall we…

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These are our luxurious accommodations. It’s what Koreans call a “Minbak” which in English means, sleep on the floor with strangers. I’m not kidding. This came as no surprise, as this is a common type of cheap hotel and we wanted a truly unique Korean experience. And when I say unique, I mean “cheap”. We ended up paying less than $60 each for our accommodations, 3-hour bus ride both ways and a t-shirt. We honestly spent more on beer then we did on transportation and hotel combined. We ended up in a room with 16 other people even though the room was only big enough for maybe 10 to sleep comfortably on the floor. Upon arrival we met a few people in our room and exchanged pleasantries. The only problem was that they had only provided 6 pillows and blankets for 16 people. I wasn’t too concerned though, as I didn’t intend on spending much time asleep in the room anyway.

Anyway, enough about the crappy hotel, let’s get muddy shall we…

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After

Let’s just say the picture on the left is that last we’ll ever be seeing of that white t-shirt.

We had also been warned ahead of time to beware of the paparazzi. I paid little attention to this warning but was shocked by the number of Koreans carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera gear and taking pictures of every foreigner in sight. Some of them even camped out on rooftops with zoom lenses that would put any major sporting event to shame.

Whenever I had the opportunity, I turned the tables and took pictures of the paparazzi, while they took pictures of us.

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This picture really doesn’t do it justice. Keep in mind that there were hundreds of Koreans with cameras much bigger than these, and that it was raining most of the day. Not to mention that mud was being flung through the air by yours truly every chance I got. There’s no way to didn’t take out a Nikon or two with some friendly fire.

How about some more random pics and video?

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After wreaking enough havoc and posing for the paparazzi, we jumped in the ocean and cleaned ourselves off. We had showers back at the hotel floor and went back out for dinner. After a nice meal we headed towards the main stage for a concert and fireworks when the skies opened up. Just as it started, I suggested we take cover in a familiar location that I had read about a couple years ago.

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This picture was taken in 2007 and was the only shelter within the vicinity that offered coverage from the rain and a nice view of the fireworks. It’s called Mud Prison and was full during the day of people posing for pictures, but we were the first to take occupancy once the rain started and it was the second best decision I made all weekend (the best decision will follow in the next post). We spent some quality time mingling with Koreans and Foreigners alike while taking in the impressive fireworks display.

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The rain finally let up enough for everyone to move over to the stage area where a variety of performances kept us occupied and dancing well into the night. The acts ranged from break dancing to Hip Hop to Michael Jackson tributes. It was thoroughly entertaining. After it finished and the rain started back up again, we slowly headed back to the hotel after a long eventful day.

Little did we know that my (and Darren’s) night was just beginning…