Blog: A Trip to the K-Pop Store

Ford Carter
I've spent the majority of my life living in regional and rural Australia, and am currently based in Gippsland, a regional area of the state of Victoria. The region is a major dairy and agricultural sector, and the town I live in is roughly 150 kilometres (or 100 miles) from the city of Melbourne.

Being a regional area, the population is sparse, and the number of K-pop related establishments is fewer still (read as zero).

I just so happen to live with two of my best friends, one of whom also happens to be a K-pop fan as well. So, when it comes time to purchasing our K-pop goods, when we aren't shopping online, we need to make the lengthy trip into the city of Melbourne.

And today, we're taking you along for the ride.

Now, round trips of 300 kilometres (around 200 miles) or more don't just happen, and often require some level of logistical planning. At the least, a few days of notice is needed. Sometimes, a couple of weeks.

You don't just need to save money for K-pop goods, but also for food, fuel, and any other number of things that might come up along the way. And you need to plan the entire day as well. Are we leaving early to get there as soon as the store opens? Or are we leaving later and visiting friends who live in the city and getting dinner?

So, we've decided for something in the middle. Leaving early enough to grab a bite on the way, have a late lunch, and be home for dinner.

Saturday comes around, and an alarm is set for 8:00 am. The store, located just over two hours away, opens at 11:00am. We've planned to stop at McDonald's along the way for some hashbrowns and coffee to wake ourselves up.

Hashbrowns at the ready, the playlist we've perfected over the last few days is hitting all the right notes as we're bopping along.

Small towns dot the highway, fields fill the gaps in between, filled with cows by the thousands as we make our way through Australia's thriving hub of a dairy industry. The fields start to disappear as the suburbs come at us, and before long the skyscrapers and the city centre is within view.

Happy Town K-pop has some of the friendliest staff, and also some of the friendliest patrons. Prepare to make a new friend you may never meet again as you gasp over the music videos playing on the television in the corner as music blasts through the store.

The entrance of the store (which you've sanitised your hands at and placed any food or drinks on the table) has a bunch of lightsticks located beside it, followed by shirts from all your favourite groups. Hoodies ate located up the back, along with rolled up posters with a display wall to peruse.

Three aisles feature an array of merchandise, from pencil cases to folders, key chains to photocards, and everything in between. Meanwhile, at the other end of the store, near the register, is what we're all here for - albums!

For the most part sorted by boy groups and girl groups, then sorted by company, you can find almost anything at the store. And for whatever you can't find, the friendly staff are usually more than willing to put in a special order for you, which they can notify you of when it arrives.

Hanging out at the K-pop store is an experience. Anything less than half an hour spent in the store means you haven't had the chance to look at as much as you should. But as the day wears on, we're bound to start getting hungry.

Luckily for us, Happy Town K-pop in Melbourne is located at the Paramount, a building with a back entrance facing onto Melbourne's iconic and esteemed Chinatown. Filled with restaurants serving the best cuisine from around Asia, and a bubble tea store just around the corner, we can choose from almost anything for lunch. If we saved up beforehand and didn't go too crazy with our spending, we can treat ourselves to hotpot or Korean BBQ. If not, we can settle for some take away honey chicken to eat in the car on the way home from a little Chinese takeout place. Bubble tea is a must, though, no matter the weather.

And now it's time for the trek home. More than two hours lay ahead of us, so it's time to pop that playlist back on and take in the sounds of our favourite songs and artists as the city skyscrapers fade to suburban homes, and then on to yellowing field, cows by the thousands, and the occasional small town.

The trip home will usually begin with my housemate opening up her haul, and taking a look at who she draws when it comes to photocards, posters, and discs. If you've made a purchase with us today, you get to open up yours now as well. And when we get home, you'll get to return the favour and watch as I unpack my haul as well.

A logistical challenge? Sometimes. An expensive trip? Undoubtedly so. But would I trade it in for a peaceful day at home? Not for anything in the world.

Our haul for our most recent trip to the K-pop store:
1 X TXT lightstick
1 X TWICE concert DVD
2 X WEEEKLY albums
1 X TREASURE album
1 X EVERGLOW album
1 X KEP1ER album
7 X photocards / polaroids
2 X keychains
1 X photocard pack
1 X folder

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