SMTOWN at COEX Artium Virtual Tour, Part 1: Celebrity Shop, Official Goods and Merchandise

58, Teheran-ro 87-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Directions / How to get there:
Take Seoul Subway Line 2 (Green Line), get off at Samseong Station, Exit 6. COEX is directly connected to the subway station.

My friend and I got to check out the SMTOWN complex at the Coex Artium during our recent trip to Seoul for the new year holiday. It will only officially open on January 13 so we didn't get the whole experience, but there was already plenty to see when we went.

The complex is made up of 6 floors:

1F - Welcome Stage
2F - SUM: Celebrity Shop, Artist Goods, Artist Picks, Gifts)
3F -  SMTOWN Studio: Music Video, Photo, Recording, Hair & Make up, Vocal, Dance
4F - SMTOWN Liverary (lol): Cafe, Music, Media, Books, Special Goods
5F - SMTOWN Theatre: Hologram Theatre, Community Hall, Interactive Amusement
6F - SMTOWN Theatre: 3D Printing

I took a whole lot of pictures so I'm cutting this virtual tour up into two parts. On this post I'll be sharing pictures of the celebrity shop and the official goods they sold. Enjoy!

2014: Of Greatest Hits and Encore Visits

I honestly don’t know where my year went. One day I was cramming my 2013 year-end post at home in Manila, and the next thing I know, I’m sitting in a café in one of my favorite areas in Seoul writing my 2014 year-end post, which is exactly what I’m doing right now. It’s the last day of the year and I’m spending it in Hongdae, at least until we head out for a big New Year’s Eve party somewhere else in Seoul later. I’ve never been away from home during the holidays, so this New Year’s trip is a milestone, and it’s been a great one so far! 

More on this trip in another post, though. For now, I’d like to look back on the year that was, because I don’t think I’ve really had any time to reflect on how I spent it. Between so many changes at work, finally turning my tiny matchbox of a house into a home, getting into a new hobby / business venture, and taking so many random trips, it’s been a whirlwind of a year! It’s been pretty exhausting too, and I got sick for nearly a week this month (right when all the holiday get-togethers, parties and dinners happened! Friends, please don’t forget me! Let’s catch up in January) as a testament to the toll the year has taken. So this trip away from everything as the year ends is much needed, and I’d like to think, well-deserved.

I kind of feel the same way for all my trips this year, actually. Six holidays and two business trips and I didn’t plan a single itinerary for any of them. My trips this year were all pretty relaxed, fairly spontaneous, and all of them were repeat visits. And what I loved most about them was how unhurried all these trips were – there was no urgent need to get to anywhere quickly, and to pack a day with so many things to see and do, because technically, I had already been to these places. It was just about revisiting old favorites, without the pressure of getting nice pictures taken or finding anything “blog-worthy”. It was all about soaking up a place and living in that travel moment. I wonder if this is what it means to mature as a traveler?

I look forward to discovering new places in 2015, though. We have a big trip planned, an epic one I’ve been waiting to do for years, but it would be nice to do a short backpacking trip to an exotic place some time in the year too. Nepal or Sri Lanka, maybe? This year’s trips were all in cities and fancy hotels and resorts, so I would really love to be climbing temples and walking through dirt roads with my huge backpack again in 2015.       

And as far as the big elephant I’ve been ignoring in this post goes, yes, I do hope to blog a whole lot more in 2015. Too many things happened this year and I honestly just wasn’t able to find the time and I guess the drive to do it. And I have so much to write about! I’ll work on it. Next year will be a better blogging year, I promise!

Closing this out with a few pictures from my trips this year. We’re gonna head back to our hostel in a bit to take a disco nap before we head out for tonight’s festivities. Hopefully it’ll be an epic night! Have a happy new year everyone! Friends, let’s run into each other next year, in a tiny airport in the middle of nowhere, on a dreary red eye flight home, in an untouched, pristine beach, or at sunset in an ancient ruin. Dinner in BGC is fine too. Haha.   

A Guide to Macau

One of the upcoming destinations tourist are flocking to is Macau, a region of China. The area has had a massive rise to prominence in recent years, becoming famed for its fantastic historical past, vibrant entertainment and likeness to the bright lights city Las Vegas thanks to its casino culture. One of the most popular entertainment attractions in Macau is the DreamWorks Experience at Cotai Strip Resorts. The venue is a great place to take the kids, but also enjoyable for adults too, and has free entry for all ages. The park is open between 12-18:45pm on a daily basis and gives visitors are great experience at 3pm each day with the All Star Parade.

To take in the more cultural side of Macau’s history, a visit to the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral is a must. The 16th Century build is known as one of Macau’s most famous landmarks, featuring some excellent carvings by Japanese monks as well as a jaw-dropping façade, which will impress all of your party. Also worth visiting is the A-Ma Temple and the Guia Fortress.

But if you want to take in some of the finest casinos floors and play blackjack or craps, Macau is the place to be. The Casino Lisboa is built in the shape of a lotus flower is the best Macau casino if you just want to game. The poker room is particularly impressive, with high stakes tournaments involving very good players, while the members’ reward program may be the best of any Macau casino. There is little in the way of other entertainment though, so it’s not a place to take someone who doesn’t share your love of gambling. If that is the case for you, the giant Venetian Macau is definitely the best choice. Although the complex still offers games ranging from Texas Hold’em to Baccarat which you can also find at casino sites like , it also has a fantastic entertainment scene. Top stars such as Beyonce perform music concerts here, while there is also a golf course, a 1,800-seater theatre and fine dining. Here you can even top off the evening with a moonlight gondola trip along one of the canals, making it easily the most romantic casino on the island. END

Vinyl Street Bar, Hongdae, Seoul

As you might've read from previous posts on this blog, I have a love affair with Hongdae in Seoul, South Korea. I immediately fell for its youthful vibe and artsy feel the first time I visited the place a few years back, and have been back in Hongdae a couple of times since. Last year I went on a solo trip to Seoul and spent a couple of days walking around the city, and I of course made Hongdae my home base.

It was in one of my walks around Hongdae that I finally chanced upon Vinyl, a tiny, quirky street bar near Hongik University that sold cheap cocktails in ziplock bags. I had heard about it a couple of times before and had seen blogs rave about the place, but had never gotten the chance to look for it until my solo trip last year. It took a while for me to find Vinyl, but all the walking around in the cold while looking at Google Maps was worth it!   

Speakeasy Spotlight: Finders Keepers, Makati

With the rise of speakeasies in Manila, I've come to love a finely crafted cocktail. I don't know why, but there's something very rewarding about sitting by the bar on a Friday night after a long work week and watching a bartender work his magic on your drink.

Finders Keepers is one of my favorite places for a cocktail and a night of unwinding. The Love Juice is a simple but stellar concoction (gotta love Tanqueray!) and I honestly cannot have just one glass of it. Definitely one of my favorite cocktails in Manila!

There's plenty of other things to love about Finders Keepers - the place is unpretentious, the atmosphere laidback, the music a good mix of indie and mainstream, and you're bound to bump into someone you know.

Right next to it is Black Market which has a bit more of a club vibe, and right outside is Joe's Meatshack which sells some pretty good burgers, perfect to cap off a night of drinking and dancing (and for helping with that hangover).

Finders Keepers
La Fuerza Plaza, Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati

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