I’m really slogging through this as fast as I can before I start forgetting the pertinents! It was all such a whirlwind and I didn’t realize just how much we actually did until I started sorting through all the pictures on my phone, like whoa.
But anyway, after an afternoon of shopping in superfluous Sinsa stores, we got back on the subway to go even deeper into Gangnam, where Coex and SMTown reside in all their Goliath glory.
We went to SMTown last year as well…but the museum portion of the experience was not yet fully constructed so of course I needed to go back because there is an entire SHINee exhibit and that alone was worth to me, especially since SHINee themselves have toured it!
Also something to note is that this time around, Henry was so much more experienced with the subway, that he got us straight to Coex with no hiccups. In fact, this time we got off at an exit that literally spilled us right out into the Coex/SMtown plaza and I asked, “Why didn’t we go this way last year?” and he just glowered at me in response.
I dunno, I guess Google maps had a big update since the last time we were there and now it actually tells you which line and exit to take. It definitely did not do that last time and Naver maps is all in Korean, so it was like taking a leap of faith every time we got on the subway.
Once we were inside SMTown, Henry very quickly bowed out of touring the actual museum portion because it cost like $15 god forbid. So Chooch and I went ahead and did this without him. We got to choose from a variety of passes to wear around our necks and we made a huge production out of this. The SHINee ones that had available were an Odd Eye design, and then ones with Onew and Key. I was sad there was no Taemin option (and I also found this kind of strange!) so I chose Key because I was really liked his solo album from earlier in the year. Chooch chose one that had a black and white picture of Red Velvet and then painstakingly filled out the back with his contact information while an SMTown employee giggled at him.
The museum is actually quite large and takes you down SM memory lane, starting with the founding of SM in 1989 by Lee Soo-man, who was also a performer himself. Before BTS broke into the western market, SM was widely considered to be the apex of the Hallyu Wave what with the crazy success and popularity of groups like TVXQ, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, SHINee, and EXO. They figured out the formula and ran with it.
There are also displays of various outfits/costumes worn in popular music videos, like the above suits that my beloved SHINee wore in their first comeback video after the passing of Jonghyun, “Good Evening.”
Each group or artist had their own section of memorabilia, history, behind the scenes photos from videos. And there were also rooms designed to make it look like you were on the set of certain videos, with photo ops! This was our favorite part.
Of course we had to stand in a stupid line at the end and buy prints of the ones we liked best (which was all of them but Henry had joined us at this point and was like JUST PICK A FEW!!!!! as Won signs came out of his ears like smoke signals.
It was cool because the idols “interacted” with you before the pictures were taken. Chooch was really good at acting back with them but I always just stood there with one hand up and a surprised look on my stupid face. There was also an option to purchase a digital video of all of the “photo shoots” too but I didn’t want a forever-copy of myself looking like a deer in headlights.
I thought that maybe Chooch would get bored or rush me through, but he was just as interested and entertained as I was. We had fun looking for all of our favorites in the big collage of Polaroids and sending Henry photos of his Red Velvet and NCT biases (he never thanked us, by the way).
Actual wardrobe from various videos and music show performances!
Shockingly, there weren’t a ton of people there that day (that’s because they were all in the cafe and gift shop, as we’d find out later) so we really got to take our time and mess around with props and read all of the interesting descriptions.
Maybe you might be thinking, “This is so stupid, why would you want to do something like this while in Seoul” and it’s kind of similar to going to the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame in Cleveland–if you really like a certain type of music, these things aren’t stupid or a waste of time. For me, it’s like paying respect to groups that have added so much light and happiness to my life!
To Henry, it’s just another way for SM to be even more of a cash cow, and…I won’t disagree with that, lol. But even with all the hardships and scandals YG Entertainment has been going through, if they offered an experience like this, you best believe I’d be relinquishing my wallet to them.
And if a museum ever opened in England in homage to the Cure? Book me the next flight.
I love shit like this.
Sweet Jonghyun. </3
These are the clothes from the View video.
And this whole room had artifacts from the Married to the Music video which is coincidentally playing behind me as I type this!
The first time I saw this video, I fell in love with SHINee even harder and knew that stanning them was right.
It gave me so many Halloween dinner party ideas!
Some f(x) love! I don’t think they’re ever coming out of hiatus though, sadly. Krystal just recently announced that she doesn’t want to perform anymore, but I hope she at least keeps acting because she is always so good in dramas!!
We weren’t sure if people are allowed to sit in this chair, but there was no sign saying not to and no one was around to scold us, so…
Ugh, there should be a mold of Donghae’s face. He is seriously so beautiful and I should know – I stood about ten feet from him on a sidewalk in NYC last year! I honestly almost dropped to the ground in front of him, those strong visuals hit my body like a handful of muscle relaxers.
Henry texted me after an hour and was like, “…are you guys still in there?” Uh, yes. Getting our money’s worth!
Eventually, we made it to the end of the museum which, as I mentioned earlier, spit us out right into the madhouse that is the SM Cafe and Gift Shop. Hooooo boy, every fucking kpop-loving foreigner was up in that piece and there was Henry, standing alone, looking absolutely frayed and violated. It was pretty hilarious. It took us a good 30 minutes to get our pictures paid for and printed, and then Chooch wanted and EXO tumbler which required us to stand in the long cafe line, but that at least went pretty quickly.
We were really reaching the hunger boiler point by now, and planned on going to Plant, a vegan joint in Itaewon, but I was like, “WAITTTTTT, STARFIELD!!”
I was not going to be that close, twice in two visits, without finally seeing this incredible library-cum-art installation!
And it was worth it. Even if it meant braving the Saturday afternoon mall crowds in order to experience it. And wow, let me tell you—that mall was PACKED. Mall culture is alive and well in Seoul!
The amazing thing is that people really do grab a book and read here.
Then after that, I stalled my travel cohorts one more time so that I could get a quick video of the area and they wanted to kill me, but I thought that commercial playing on the giant screen was cute OK?!
Luckily, Itaewon is only a few stops away from Coex, so we got to Plant in no time and since it was only about 4:30 at this point, we managed to beat the dinner rush and got seated right away. First of all, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who goes to Seoul and eats vegan food?!” but look: their veg scene has really been heating up over the last several years, and I have heard a lot of rave reviews about Plant, from vegans and carnivores alike.
Because it’s in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul known for its large population of expats, I assumed that this place was started by one of those aforementioned expats; turns out, the owner was born in Busan, but has lived everywhere from the Ivory Coast to the US, before moving back to Korea in 2006. One of the other chefs is an American Korean, but the staff we saw that day was comprised entirely of expats – our waitress was Australian, for instance. Everyone in there was speaking English, and the whole vibe and aesthetic also reminded me so much of home that I almost forgot I was in Korea! It was pretty weird.
Henry treated himself after enduring 2 hours alone in SMTown haha.
Shit you guys, Chooch and I both had the chili burger and I’m not lying — it may have been the best homemade veggie burger of my life. The bun was incredible, the fries were so satisfying, the whole place was just so homey — I could definitely see myself easing into a Plant regular if I lived in Seoul.
(God, why don’t I live in Seoul!?!?)
Even Henry was like, “I’m comfortable enough in my meathood to admit that this is a delicious non-meat meal.”
Capped off the night with some Hongdae strolling while Chooch hung back in the room because he decided that waking up from his evening nap was not an option.
I made Henry go to his least favorite Korean store of all time, Chuu, but I sadly didn’t see anything I was interested in buying! That was a bummer, because last year I was panicked about the whole free-size thing and OMG what if nothing fit me, but then I bought a shirt from Chuu last winter and it was so comfortable and flattering, so I couldn’t wait to go back in person and buy clothes. But nothing caught my eye!
Then we had a late night convenience store run before heading back to the room and I finally got a real life Idol Sandwich! This one was from 7-Eleven I think, and it was the seasonal blueberry variety. It was SO FUCKING DELICIOUS. There is something about the bouncy, chewy bread that they use in Korea that really makes sandwiches POP. Would I go to the CoGo’s down the street from my house and buy a sandwich? FUCK NO. Would I confidently eat a sandwich from pretty much any convenience store in Korea? FUCK YEAH BRING IT. Their convenience stores are so superior to ours in America.
For instance, if something is out of date, the cashier won’t be able to ring it up! That happened to us! I couldn’t believe it.
Anyway, this concludes the three-part summary of our third day in Korea. It was definitely the first REALLY GOOD, everything feels normal again, day that we had since arriving and I was so relieved. My eye was nearly healed, the jetlag fog had finally evaporated, I felt fully functioning and oriented – from here on every day was better than the last. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish recapping it before winter, haha.