Regular travellers to Bangkok would be familiar with Artbox, the pop-up concept which features an array of hipster food and goods in giant shipping containers.
For fans of this famous flea market, the Singapore edition, consisting of over 300 stalls (made up of approximately 500 vendors in rotation) spread across 50 000 square feet, will be held at Marina Bayfront event space for the next 2 weekends.
Given all that hype, is Artbox Singapore worthy of a visit?
While I was certainly impressed by the sheer variety of stalls, the logistics left a lot more to be desired. After all, packing that many stalls in a space smaller than what the recent Gastrobeats utilised meant that there was little to no space for human traffic, which resulted in massive queues, while others had to jostle their way around in the unbearable humidity. I just felt that the organisers should have given more thought to actual human traffic and comfort by investing in spacing the stalls better for the sake of comfort, rather than prizing efficiency and cramming everything.
Still, if that doesn’t deter you from paying Artbox Singapore a visit, here’s how to make your time relatively tolerable:
- Come before 3pm and hit the food stalls first; queue for the more popular stalls at your own risk.
- Bring a portable fan because we all know what humidity does to our mood.
- Ditch the bulky backpack! It’s beyond annoying to be accosted by some stranger’s baggage in a crowd, especially when they are shoving through the queue to get to the other side.
- On that note, remember your P’s and Q’s when moving through a throng of people. Can’t stress enough how manners go a long way in ensuring a happy mood for everyone!
- DO NOT WEAR NICE/WHITE SHOES. LADIES, LEAVE YOUR FLOWY MAXI SKIRTS AND DRESSES AT HOME.
As for what to expect, I’ve broken it down into four categories: F&B, shopping, freebies, and activities. Please take this guide with a small pinch of salt as the stalls are operating on a rotational basis and there could be some changes next weekend! (The online map doesn’t show which vendor is at which stall, just a general overview of the stall numbers and where the headline sponsors are located.)
1. Food, glorious food.
Stalls to watch: Tipsy Bull, Enkou, Churros Factory, TIT, Tio Smoke, The Lab, Rochor Thai, The Wicked Cream, I want my noodle
With Artbox originating in Thailand, you can expect a great deal of Thai cuisine, from the usual pad thai and mango sticky rice to Thai iced milk tea. Having said that, if you’re craving for something else, there are other cuisines to whet your appetite.
By the way – the Artbox configuration goes like this: F&B, non-F&B, and F&B. Don’t be fooled if you see only 2 rows of F&B stalls when you enter from Marina Bay Sands Shoppes; there are more on the other side!
I thought I was being kiasu when I arrived at 2.50pm – but nope! A small queue was already forming at some food stalls, one of them being Tipsy Bull. Aside from US prime grilled steak and iberico pork cubes (approx $12), you can munch on fries topped with umami mentaiko sauce (approx $7-8).
OH OH OH. Did I mention that a splash of Jack Daniels is added to the meat in the grilling process? I paired mine with an onsen egg.
Enkou Sushi is also serving up their aburi maki ($5 for half portion, $9 for full portion), nigiri ($5-6) and skewers ($2-4). Flash this photo to enjoy $1 off their maki.
Desserts wise, there are at least 2 stalls selling churros, soft serve, or dragon’s breath. Take your pick!
Was eyeing Churros Factory’s Churros Burger until the Chendol Soft Serve ($4, $5 paired with churro) caught my eye. Look how fast it melted! This was taken barely 5 minutes after the server passed it to me.
For fans of galaxy-themed food, you’ll be delighted to know that Good Coffee is selling Colourful Doughnuts ($4.50 for 3). Appearance wise, er….I prefer The Lab/Sinseh Grocery’s Galaxy Doughnuts.
If you’re planning to try The Wicked Cream’s unique torched marshmallows and premium soft cream on melon, better hurry up and head there first, or be prepared to queue for over 1 hour.
2. Drinks to quench your thirst with
Stalls to watch: T.I.T., The Juicy Way, The Talad Drink, Sofnade, Cellaraid
Thai iced milk teas are a dime a dozen, and T.I.T. sells half and half bottles so you can enjoy more than 1 flavour.
For the Instagram worthy drink stalls like The Juicy Way and The Talad Drink, which both offer layered teas or juices in tall bottles…it’s your call whether you’re willing to burn 2 hours waiting in line (The Talad Drink’s Mermaid Tears ($5) drink is exclusive to Artbox). The reason why the queues for stalls like these are so long is simply because everything is made to order. Add the multiple bottles that each person orders and you get the wait.
If only the organisers implemented an SMS alert system for customers to make their orders, go off, and return to collect them rather than stand around and add to the waiting time.. after all, the entire event is NETS enabled! What’s another level of technology for them?
For a quicker thirst quencher, Sofnade is one of the few stalls whose queue moves fast. Choose from a variety of lemonades; you can even add some dry ice for that smoky visual effect at the top of the cup.
Feeling classy? Cellaraid’s curated fine wines are available for $8-12 a glass.
For beer lovers, you can enjoy a bottle or two of Desperado’s or Chang in their respective “beer gardens”.
3. Shop till you drop.
Stalls to watch: Blanc Studios, Chou Chou Studios, Box Green, Human Nature, TeddyThotz, Freda’D
Withered bouquets are all the rage now. Get one for $12-15 from Blanc Studios, a bespoke wedding planner in Singapore. Apparently they last about 1 year so you don’t have to worry about changing them out.
Quirky, handmade hats are also on sale at Chou Chou Studios.
A number of vendors from Asia For Good by DBS Foundation, including TeddyThotz, Human Nature, and Box Green will also be setting up shop at Artbox – the latter in the form of a turquoise vending machine.
While handicraft and clothes stores were aplenty, I found my attention caught by Freda’D, a local artisanal fragrance house. Their 30ml bottles are selling for $50 at Artbox (retail price $63)!
4. Freebies, freebies, freebies.
Stalls to watch: DBS Live Fresh Zone, HonestBee, Wantedly
DBS and POSB card holders, you’re in luck – flash any DBS or POSB card to gain entry to the lush, free seating area next to the Artbox stage. You can even print your Instagram photos for free by using the official hashtag, #LiveFRESH.
For tertiary students, the first 50 to show their card will be entitled to an Artbox tote bag.
New to HonestBee? Download their app, add your details and you get a complimentary pack of tissue and a choice of one food or drink item or an inflatable pillow. I chose a bottle of craft beer from Spain for obvious reasons.
Wantedly, a social job app, was also giving out free popcorn for every sign up when I visited. If only all job searches came with a snack, amirite?
5. Artbox Activities
It’s not just about eating, drinking and shopping at Artbox Singapore; visitors can check out some cool activities in between.
Play the ultimate trust game with your mates at the MTV Just Tattoo booth, where you can register to get inked for free. The only catch is: your friend will be choosing what to brand your skin with, and vice versa.
If you’re looking for something relatively tame, try the virtual reality booth (approx $8 per game). I say relatively because, well… you’ll know why when you find out what games are available.
Kombi Rocks is also running a photo booth next to the Artbox stage if you’re keen on taking your memories with you (minus the unwanted run ins with several sweaty arms and the occasional bulky backpack, of course).
Come nightfall, Artbox takes on a more whimsical atmosphere as around 3000 fairy lights lit up above the stalls. The stage will also feature a handful of local acts.
It’s almost a pity that Artbox Singapore has been marred with space constraints and general misses on the logistics side, especially with such hype resting coming from its Bangkok counterpart. Hopefully the organisers would have taken everyone’s feedback into account and return with some improvements over the next four days.
On the bright side, with NETS enabled at the stalls, there’s no need to go scurrying back to MBS for the nearest ATM to draw more cash – that is, if you can even hang around long enough.
Would you still go down to Artbox Singapore?
Address: Marina Bayfront Event Space
Opening hours: 3pm – 11pm (14-16 & 21-23 April 2017)