I awakened to the startle of my alarm – an 8:30 AM timer that I had forgot to pause from the morning prior. Only a mere six hours has passed since the previous evening’s extraordinary happenings, yet I felt well-rested and ready to take advantage of my final day in LA.
With a red-eye flight scheduled to depart around 10 PM PST, I anticipated just enough time to breeze through Koreatown once more and grab a bite before checking out. My early awakening had actually been beneficial to the voyaging process, as it allowed freedom for unplanned detours and room for potential commuting mishaps (not that they happened).
A plain croissant and Cold Brew later, I was on my way to 7th Street/Metro Centre.
Office workers dressed in freshly-ironed slacks and tall red heels flooded into the Financial District. It was only then that I came to the realization of time: it was Monday morning after all. The scene was similar to weekdays in Toronto’s downtown core, though the vibe I perceived from the West Coast was primmer and slightly more intimidating.
My second time on the Metro platform was met with a mother of two, all clearly tourists like myself, inquiring about whether the train pulling in traversed on the Red Line.
“This is the Purple Line.” I confidently replied with a smile. The first car of the train had displayed so, as did the LCD display hovering above. It was odd to think that someone who had barely explored the city had been asked for directions on her day of departure.
Arriving at Wilshire/Western station, I made Madang Plaza my first stop. During evening hours, traffic flows were heavy and shop details had become faint. Daylight allowed for a better view of the shopping centre and its enclosed retail points; it also provided me with sufficient time to locate (and explore) H Mart – a spot I hadn’t had enough patience to hunt down on my day of arrival.
The top level consisted of a theatre, several eateries, a bookstore of substantial size and product range. Across a turquoise-hued bridge was Book Monster, an establishment that retailed anything from Korean novels to manhwa to select K-Pop merchandise.
Majority of the GOT7 Just Right USBs could be found, with the exception of Jinyoung (and JB I believe?). Kakao colouring books and exam prep guides were also available.
Half of the second level had been allocated to a fitness centre; the remaining space was consumed by Sul & Beans, SomiSomi, and Bento Bae.
Retreating to the first floor (ground level), I circulated the area again in search of the pedestrian entrance to H Mart. None could be found, so I took to asking one of the taiyaki soft serve shop owners for directions.
The original anticipation for Los Angeles’ Koreatown varied not too vastly from that of our own – you know, that tiny stretch between Christie and Bathurst? (Don’t get me wrong, I love it nonetheless.)
Imagine my surprise at discovering the expansiveness – not to mention grandeur - of California’s only from the brief trek between Western and Normandie. Regardless of whether I strayed north or south from the major streets, I continued to encounter endless strips of independent shops, restaurants, plazas, and more.
Copious commercial buildings lined Wilshire Blvd, with the most prominent one being that of The Korea Times. The curved buildings loomed above me, leaving me to gaze in awe at the size difference between the lush shrubbery and series of fountains centred between them.
Weather was wonderful and the path free was of society’s outcasts. The only downsides were the steep surges in temperature and lack of cloud cover causing the walk to be more draining than relaxing.
I debuted a sticky forehead upon finally arriving at the doors of CoCo Curry.
Officially referred to as “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya”, the chain of Japanese curry restaurants has locations throughout Asia as well as several in California and Hawaii. The idea of journeying to the spot for lunch had been proposed by yours truly after a memory jog from a grueling hunt for bubble tea in Taipei a few years back.
While en route, I had called (long distance, mind you) to ensure that there would be seating available for the entire party amidst the lunch peak. The male that answered the phone could have adhered to a more pleasant tone of voice, though the point was that we would not arrive and need to wait for a table.
Frankly speaking, I could have omitted this step since over half of the restaurant had vacated by the time of our arrival.
CoCo Curry’s Koreatown location was a typical casual diner serving up Japanese-style curry plates in a no-frills environment. Cooking fumes were strong, the environment was loud, and laminated menus were placed directly at the table. Choices were plenty, encompassing anything from salads to udon to omurice.
Evidently (and utterly unfortunately), my mind was not on the same page as my body. While I insisted on ensuring myself a good night’s rest in preparation for a day filled with concert activities, my body opted to operate at its own pace. Two hours of turbulent slumber later, I awoke to a horrid headache and nauseating stomachache. Things were not looking too pleasant.
I immediately recalled the Kimbap I had consumed earlier in the day, along with the fruit scone from Alchemy my favourite fangirl had so graciously provided me with. Neither had seemed unhygienic nor powerful enough to disrupt my sleep patterns, yet I was wide awake against my very will.
As soon as the clock struck 5 AM, I lethargically dragged myself to order something that would appease the queasiness. “GOT7 awaits me!!” An angry voice echoed within me. “Being well is not an option. I shall pull through. I must.”
Congee soon arrived with a pitcher of warm soy milk in accompaniment. An odd selection of toppings also made an appearance: Chinese pork floss, pickled pink ginger, kimchi, Korean yellow radish, and Japanese umeboshi stared me in the face.
While chicken noodle soup may be the go-to sick food of many Canadians, I was raised off of lightly salted congee. The unassuming soft rice porridge worked miracles, for I fell into a peaceful state of unconsciousness for at least one hour after its consumption. Three hours of hibernation is undoubtedly inadequate for taking on a packed schedule, but it remained a more favourable situation than no sleep at all.
Day 3 of the Convention comprised of back-to-back Artist Engagements for GOT7, ASTRO, and Red Carpet. Artist Engagement sessions, as noted in previous sections, comprised of Hi-Touch and Audience. While Hi-Touch pass holders were provided a separate waiting area and lineup for earlier access to Concourse Hall, Audience pass holders were simply thrown into a general lineup. The number of Hi-Touch passes was significantly less than that of Audience, and reasonably so. Groups of greater popularity, though, seemed to have a greater ratio of Audience to Hi-Touch passes.
The clock neared noon as attendees of the previous Artist Engagement session vacated the hall. Shortly afterwards, the Hi-Touch pass holders were invited inside, just after the Platinum and Diamond ticket holders had a chance to grab their front row spot. Many of us were impassioned supporters of small stature, meaning that capturing a shot of our favourite idols wasn’t the easiest task to accomplish. It was very fortunate that the two girls in front of me were kind enough to allocate a spot in between their shoulders for my camera to peek through. Friendly actions of this sort had been unthinkable in the Audience section.
My first event of the day was GOT7’s Artist Engagement. The elimination of Wanna One Artist Engagements had resulted in a sudden influx of interest in the multilingual veteran group, though I hadn’t exactly realized this until encountering the mob of fangirls camped outside the meeting grounds at 10:30 AM. Some had purchased their Audience passes for $20-$50 USD; even some members of the lucky Hi-Touch group had relinquished $200 or more to obtain their exclusive pass. I had managed to obtain my own without much hassle, but apparently this was not the norm.
With a second row-view secured for the entirety of the session, I managed to capture quite a selection of crisp shots from behind the burly media crew and Go Pro-equipped KCON staff members.
Leading up to the event, music videos played in a loop on the screens adjacent to the stage. The crowd cheered for NCT 127 and Wanna One, though the largest reactions was in response to Never Ever. The atmosphere was nothing short of amazing: determined IGOT7s effortlessly completed the fanchant in perfect harmony.
Kevin Woo of U-KISS first made his appearance as the MC of the Artist Engagement session. GOT7 then made their grand appearance and took turns introducing themselves. A brief Q&A session – or a short interview – took place. This was then immediately succeeded by a Games segment, which entailed each member to roll a large inflatable dice and act according to the number on which it landed.
Each member took a turn at rolling the dice and attempting the challenge placed before them. Mark and Bambam landed on #2 Aegyo, while JB did a smooth jig upon landing on #3. Youngjae’s imitation of Bambam’s rap in Never Ever deserved much applause, as did Jackson’s efforts to encourage the crowd to sing along to Stop Stop It.
Jinyoung is my favourite member of the group, if this space hadn’t made readers aware already, and I subconsciously found myself chanting “Six, six!!” when his turn arrived. My not-so-silent prayers were answered, and the next thing I knew, he tossed his embarrassment aside for a squeal-worthy take on Rihanna’s Work. My insides became a confused mix of bewilderment and elation; I was cheering so loudly the girls next to me would have gone deaf had they not been in an equally tumultuous state.
Members holding a Hi-Touch pass was then instructed to form a line in preparation for the event. I staggered into the queue while gripping my 녕긔탱긔 headband, willing it to remain steady until I reached the stage.
View Part 1 HERE !
With new friends in accompaniment, I joined the lineup once again. Staff members shifted us up and down the corridor several times before finally deciding to split us up into three lines.
Red Carpet was, hands down, the most excruciating event of the day. As if the previous two waiting sessions hadn’t been enough, Red Carpet was a prolonged two hours. Mid-shift, I had sensed the attendee behind me try to cut the line. I managed to block his attack, but ultimately suffered major carpet burn from the exposed section on my jeans.
There was no warning as to when we would be permitted inside, so we – my new acquaintances and I –took turns keeping our place in the line while we swapped for restroom runs.
The interior of Concourse Hall was quite well-ventilated – chilly even. However, this changed promptly when sandwiched between a multitude of bodies. Packed as tightly as a can of sardines, I didn’t think the crowd could compact itself any further until Wanna One was announced as the first group to appear. A sudden wave from behind pushed us forward, smothering tiny beings such as myself against other similar parties. Strands of hair were entangled, backpacks were squished, and Tap cards were knocked off. Mayhem had arisen, and the only thing I could do was protect my delicate fanboards from sustaining damage while being buried in the chaos.
Needless to say, I couldn’t even spot the tops of Wanna One’s heads. Phones and fans blocked my view, as did the presence of media crews and loftier entities. A select few opted to vacate the premises with the rookie group’s departure, though had minimal luck.
While I tried to stand my ground without inconveniencing those before me, I was ultimately shoved further and further away from my original standing position over the course of artist introductions. Fansites, and their strategically concealed DSLRs, remained until the conclusion of the event before roughly elbowing their way out, almost smashing my fanboards in the process.
Of all the events of the day, Red Carpet is the one I would willingly sit out of if given a second chance. In addition to possessing the longest wait time, it proved to be the stuffiest and most uncomfortable crowd to participate in.
The night had been spent in distress. Maybe it was thin walls that caused sounds of running water and booming television programs to be heard even while lying in complete darkness, or maybe it was the riotous whirring of construction equipment that contributed to endless restlessness. I tossed and turned underneath the weighty blankets, coming face to face with the red glow of the digital clock once every hour. Just under six hours had managed to be scraped together by the time striking UV rays beamed through the tall curtains.
I had intended to stop by Blue Bottle Coffee on the day of arrival, but found 4th Street to terminate at a covered parking building shortly after embarking on the journey. It did not connect from Flower to Hope. Reviewing alternatives on Google Maps, I discovered that I could also head north to 3rd Street and continue westward until Broadway.
Unbeknownst to me was the presence of the Third Street Tunnel – a two-lane, one-way covered bypass in the form of a chillingly quiet tunnel. Cracks were seen propagating on the underside of the entranceway, while lumpy clusters of mold and other foreign substances lined the entire span of its curved walls.
Despite the comfortable weather conditions and very fact that it was still broad daylight, the bypass gave off an ominous aura not dissimilar to those associated with 3 am crime scenes. Drip drip could be heard echoing between the whizzing by of cars. The silhouette of two pedestrians trudged ahead of me in the far distance. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed close at first, but the trek along this stretch of 3rd Street felt incessant.
I picked up speed, hoping to terminate the tunnel trip as soon as possible, especially when a troubling gust hit me from behind. There were no shadows that could be seen – only the silent streak of a man on his bicycle. He gave me a quick nod before continuing his way. Craning my neck to inspect my surroundings yet again, I heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing that there wasn’t a single body within my 50 m radius.
Exiting Third Street Tunnel provided me with peace of mind. Not too far from its east entrance was Grand Central Market, and near it my source of refuge: Blue Bottle Coffee.
The café retained a layout similar to that of Rocanini in Steveston, but with a heavier use of exposed concrete pillars and matte-white Greek columns – Corinthian, to be exact. Seating was ample, ranging from communal tables with tall stools, ground-level tables for small parties, and even individual seats along the Cold Brew Bar.
I was greeted immediately upon entry, and took the opportunity to inquire about their best-selling beverage. The New Orleans Iced Coffee was recommended to me; at $4.00, it was quite a substantial price tag for a drink devoid of additional espresso/flavour shots. On the other hand, the inclusion of whole milk rendered it comparable to an iced latte, which isn’t a competitive item to begin with.
The New Orleans Iced Coffee wasn’t particularly strong-tasting in terms of boldness, however its steady strength was sufficient to wake me from an uneasy night of tossing and turning.
Little Tokyo proved to be a challenge for the average commuter. My overall lack of understanding of the Tap card fare deduction also worked against my favour. I found myself awkwardly standing off to the side and counting coins upon being met with a “Fare card too low” message on the Tap machine.
I arrived at 1st Street and Judge John Aiso Street – what a name huh? – within good time. Little Tokyo was an eclectic, hip neighbourhood that was bustling with tourists, both local and foreign. Nisei Week had just begun on the 19th, so I just so happened to find myself amidst a lively street festival.
The atmosphere was wonderful, albeit congested. Vendors had taken to setting up merchandise tables within the plazas of Little Tokyo for the festival, while live music played in the rotunda.
Lunch had been had not too long ago, so I weaved around the bakery stall and restaurants without casting much of a glance in their direction. An oddly-placed Tony Moly caught my attention instead. A life-sized Seo Kang Jun standee invited into the air-conditioned space; the pricey merchandise lining the beauty store’s shelves soon encouraged my exit though.
The ever-kind California local offered to drop me off at Wilshire/Western station – bless her boundless generosity! – where I happened to chance upon SF9’s Meet & Greet at the AT&T store. A lengthy lineup snaked around the corner of the building; I observed as girls with signed posters giddily trekked out of the entrance and made their way across the street to where I had positioned myself.
Pausing briefly at the north side of the intersection, I caught faint views of Inseong, Dawon, Rowoon, Taeyang, and Jaeyoon from in between lofty security guards and passing vehicles.
When my stomach alerted me that dinnertime was near, I waltzed into Nature Republic for a quick browse before heading over to MaDang Courtyard.
The three-level plaza was home to The Face Shop, Paris Baguette, Beard Papa’s, Daiso, H-Mart, CGV Cinemas, and more. Fighting fatigue and suppressing gustatory desires for a little longer, I managed to make quick rounds into several shops of interest before finally collapsing at Bento Bae.
Majority of the restaurant was filled with diners at this time, though there were surprisingly few customers in the lineup. The girl taking my order was not only patient with my indecisiveness, but also caring enough to suggest swapping not-so-fresh rolls from my customized bento set for better quality ones.
Bento Bae offered clean bathrooms (with hooks!), outlets, lemon-infused water, and password-secured Wi-Fi to diners – all of which were of utmost importance to frenzied travellers with dying phone batteries. Like Panera Bread and recent McDonald outposts, electronic discs/remotes were presented upon completion of orders; these remotes would buzz to notify clients when their meal(s) were ready for pickup from the counter.
Due to extreme famine, I cannot recall the precise names of the rolls that made up my customized Chef’s Special Bento Box. However, I can firmly state that some pieces were fleshy and well-seasoned, while others were on the stale side. Nine pieces of sushi proved successful in curbing my appetite.
This was not synonymous with lack of room for dessert, however.
The aim was to arrive in Los Angeles by late Friday morning or early Friday afternoon, just in case we happened to encounter any unforeseen circumstances along the way.
I had managed to secure myself a spot on the same departure and return flight as a friend (whom I regularly refer to as my “favourite fangirl”), thus we were able to travel together and keep each other company during the brief periods before our flight.
International flights generally suggest that fliers arrive at least two hours in advance of the estimated departure time, though three hours is the window that guarantees the highest level of safety. I pulled in about two and a half hours before the stated departure time, and proceeded to spend just over one hour to undergo security inspections after dropping off checked baggage.
I successfully made it through the gates with about twenty minutes to spare. In the end, our flight was delayed by a half hour anyway. The body of the plane was relatively new and spacious; no obstacles were experienced en route to LAX. (For the first time ever in all my travels to the West Coast, the passenger in front did not recline his/her chair to the height of my nose during flight.)
Despite the delayed takeoff, time was caught up during the flight and we landed at LAX only ten minutes behind schedule. Disembarking the aircraft, I set off to locate the baggage claim area. Signage was plentiful and the area was, in fact, fairly close to the arrival gate.
The street exit was conveniently located next to the baggage claim area, and across the street was the hotel shuttle pick-up area. I initially attempted to find the shuttle corresponding to my place of stay, only to later discover that shuttles were not offered for my selection. Alternatives of taxis, Uber, or Super Shuttle were made aware to me. At this point, I had already waited close to one hour for a hotel shuttle.
The next step of action was to locate the Super Shuttle stop. From the information of two traffic regulators, I retraced my steps to find the Super Shuttle pickup area. Then, I relayed my desired destination to the man at the stop. He inquired if I had a reservation, to which I responded in the negative. My name was added to the list of passengers in need of a ride to downtown Los Angeles. More waiting was involved.
I almost collapsed in relief when the sight of a packed shuttle bus came into view. Stained, cramped seats were no longer of my concern – I merely wanted to drop off my belongings and begin the West Coast adventure.
Of course, the ride did not progress as smoothly as I would have liked. Congestion on the highway was ridiculous for a weekday morning – at off-peak hours no less! – and being the second-last stop on the shuttle, I did not arrive at my place of stay until three hours after I had landed.
After obtaining room keys and laying out my belongings in an orderly fashion, I changed into attire more fitting of LA conditions and set out to obtain a Tap card at 7th Street/Metro Centre.
Orangecane had warned me of the homeless culture in Los Angeles, though I had been much too distracted by the insane amount of construction taking place to acknowledge this. 7th Street/Metro Centre is listed as a main transfer point on the LA Metro Map, hence I had expected at least one service attendant available to answer my concerns regarding the public transit system. Instead of attendants, three to four fare machines were situated next to the turnstiles.
I descended the stairs while still gazing around in hopes of finding someone of greater knowledge to speak with. When my prayers were not answered, I strode onwards to the fare machines, only to recoil in shock upon laying eyes on a homeless man curled up behind one of the pillars. He had been entirely camouflaged from view until I had reached the underground level, rendering his appearance even more startling.
Reinstating focus towards the fare machines, I followed prompts for purchasing a Tap card with a loaded fare and a Day Pass. I had assumed the Tap card to work similarly with PRESTO in the GTA and Compass in British Columbia, while the Day Pass would be a separate, single-use card like TTC’s version. Little did I know that all fares were issued in the form of Tap card – both loaded fares and day passes. Before I had realized, I had purchased two identical-looking tap cards for $1 each. Worst of all, I tapped the wrong one when entering the turnstiles.
I had taken the time to download and visually scan the LA Metro map before departing, but still found the platforms difficult to navigate with limited familiarity. Directions (North/East/South/West) were not to be described anywhere. Wilshire/Western station was my desired destination, but there was no way of determining whether a train would be taking the Purple Line to Koreatown or Red Line to North Hollywood.
Somehow, I was able to reach Wilshire/Vermont station (the splitting point for the Purple and Red Lines) without having to backtrack. It was also a miracle to successfully join the remainder of the group at Palga Grand Hotel with zero knowledge of downtown Los Angeles and its neighbouring areas.
It was nearing 4 PM PST by this point, and not a single proper meal had been consumed since evening EST hours the night before. Palga Grand Hotel was not a hotel by any means – the rundown environment and lack of air conditioning was an immediate turnoff. Had my favourite fangirl and her friends not chosen such a questionable place of residence, I would have ducked out of the area immediately. The surrounding shops and businesses were dilapidated and well deserving of concern.
Weekend in LA | DAY 0: A Foreword
KCON LA is a three-day convention held between the Los Angeles Convention Centre and Staples Centre that celebrates “All Things Hallyu”. The event celebrates a broad selection of interests, ranging from Korean dramas (“K-Dramas”), traditional and modern Korean food, Korean pop music and pop culture (“K-Pop”), Korean Beauty (“K-Beauty”), and much more.
KCON also exists in other parts of the world such as Mexico, Japan, and France, with some executed as a joint effort between Mnet / CJ E&M. As one largely unfamiliar with the event(s)’ past happenings, further comments cannot be made on the basis of insufficient knowledge. Readers are encouraged to learn more about the event and its history on the official website.
KCON LA 2017 comprised of two portions: Convention and Concert. The Convention included panels, gatherings of like-minded fans, and a range of special events, while the Concert spanned two nights and included a lineup of twelve artists/groups and two special guests.
With the promotions for KCON LA circulating social media, the artist lineup was revealed little by little as the convention date neared.
As the K-Pop artists were announced, minimal attention was paid towards the girl groups and idols whose songs never made their way to personal social media feeds. SF9 was the first to pique any sort of interest, followed by ASTRO – both idol groups were strong contenders from the 2016 rookies, and it had been an unspoken mission to witness ASTRO perform live at some point in the future. However, the announcement of only two groups of interest was inadequate in establishing motivation to attend.
The number of days shortened until the release of concert tickets, with only a few artists remained unrevealed. All thoughts of attending the event had been banished until a shocking revelation was made: GOT7 was added to the roster only two days before Combo tickets would be released. Moreover, they were noted to be performing on the same day as ASTRO and Wanna One.
IGOT7 is stamped on this very forehead. When one’s favourite group is added to the lineup, it’s almost a sin to stop oneself from hopping on the ticket bandwagon. GOT7’s appearance was the deciding factor in this situation.
Please refer to: KCON LA 2017 Recap for further details on the planning process.
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.