It is late in the morning at 1.41am but I was eager to finish up this blog post so that you all can make an informed decision whether it is a worthwhile trip to catch ArtBox last weekends in Singapore.
It was a pity ArtBox only opens on two weekends. The crowd situation was definitely so much better than the last weekends. It would be even better if it is also opened on weekdays so that the students and tourists need not fight the crowd with working parents like us.
Laogong and I had wanted to go to the ArtBox with our old and young on Good Friday but we were horrified by the overcrowding situation that we changed our mind and left ArtBox and headed for Gardens By the Bay where the kids was fasinated watching the Light Show.
We were glad we made the right decision to brave the crowd again yesterday.
5 Good Things About My Experience at ArtBox yesterday
1. Weather was Great.
Windy and non-humid after the heavy morning-afternoon rain. We do not feel "sticky" or "sweaty" even after 2 hours there. We reached there at about 8.30pm and left at about 10.30pm yesterday.
2. Parking was Easy.
The last time we came, there was no parking lot at MBFC and MBS. Hence, Laogong had to park all the way to Gardens by the Bay and took a long walk to the event location to be horrified by the crowds.
Last night, we parked at MBFC Tower 3. Crowd was manageable too. Average waiting time for the food we queued for was 5-15 minutes. However, the more fanciful food stalls do have long queues but the speed of clearing the food queue is 15-30min, depending on the complexity to prepare, cook and serve the food/drink.
3. Fanciful Food and Beverages
I had never been to ArtBox in Bangkok before so I will not be able to compare the one in Bangkok and the one in Singapore. But I do love night markets in Bangkok, HongKong and Taiwan. I do miss my childhood pasar malams at Chong Pang market area too. And I do love fanciful food and beverages, so I do hope Singapore will consider doing regular monthly pasar malams or night markets, eg every last week of each month. It will be better to make it a week long event too to cater to working and non-working clients. This will hence "spread out" the crowd.
4. I love the Liveband and Cosy Seats
Due to the great weather, the liveband was packed with people chilling out and "lazing" around. Saw the Air Hammock?
Only shortcoming is, the liveband sang mainly the "gentle songs" and not the "happening songs". I presumed this is to "prevent" people from standing up and dance. And to avoid stealing the crowd from the nearby Clarke Quay.
5. Ample Shaded Seating
Unlike most traditional night markets, you have to walk around with your hands full and eat, ArtBox do provide ample shaded seating. So if you come in a group, one can chope the seats while the rest go and grab different varieties of food. Then you all can sit down and eat together and listen to the liveband.
5 Areas for Improvement for ArtBox
1. To have more Authentic Thai Stalls
I hadn't been to ArtBox Bangkok before but I can see ArtBox Singapore does not have many authentic Thai vendors. I even see quite a number of local vendors instead. I feel that this will lose the authenticity of ArtBox Bangkok.
But of coz it is not cheap to ship or fly so many Thai vendors over to Singapore and house them for two weeks. Hence I guess having more local vendors is inevitable.
In this case when we have our own authentic monthly pasar malams, I will hope to see more authentic local vendors selling Singapore delights, childhood snacks and even Chinese/Malay/Nonya Kueh. And also more stalls featuring local young entrepreneurs' products.
2. Wider Walkway for Shopping Stalls
The walkway for food stalls are much wider than stalls selling clothes and other items. Hence, we were not inclined to shop and more inclined to buy food to eat. We also noticed there are so much more space which the event can expand (like iLight did) but didn't.
The stalls are not categorised too, eg clothes stalls in one section and accessories in another section etc. Only the food and shopping items are located in two segments. Hence, some shopping stalls may be "neglected", especially those at the last rows or back rows. But of coz this arrangement was meant to give every stalls a fair play or for those willing to pay more, a more strategic spot.
3. Extended Operating Hours
It will be good to extend the operating hours to 1am like overseas night markets. But I remember our regulation about ceasing music and noise by 11pm in residential area. And we do have a lot of service apartments nearby the event area.
But why not consider ceasing the liveband at 11pm but allow the stalls to continue to operate till 1am?
4. More Shades during Rainy Season
To ensure customers come rain or shine, it will be good to provide more shades like the Chatuchak Market. But of coz this may means money have to be thrown in ventilate the place too. So definitely the rental and operating costs will become more costly.
I wanted to say then why not host the event in Singapore during less rainy months to minimum inconvenience. Then I realized, Singapore is rainy all year round anyway, unlike Taiwan with 4 seasons or Bangkok with a clear monsoon season. So it is really about Heng Suay sometimes. So try to go after 8pm as advised and as I did too. The concrete ground is less hot and the wind is more cooling. There is less crowd too (seems to be) as it is past the conventional dinner hours. Well, we all know when hungry people are angry people! Haha!
5. Host a Week Long Event instead of 2 Weekends Event
As mentioned earlier, it would be even better if the event is also opened on weekdays so that the students and tourists need not fight the crowd with working parents like us.
Of coz, it is inevitable to see students and tourists on weekends too, but at least they have another option to go on a weekday after school or during the "off peak" hours. So that the crowd is more manageable for working parents to bring along their children to experience this annual event on weekends.
5 Must Eat and Do Things at the ArtBox Singapore
1. Chatuchak Egglet with Ice cream
This is definitely my top choice! It was the last on our bucket list as the queue seemed long. However, it takes not more than 15 min for me to get this Egglet with Icecream!
See my happy face! I was so full already after all the previous food we had, but I proved the "women always have a separate tummy for desserts" myth right! We finished this dessert totally!
For $10 I got a huge chocolate egglets and a scoop of chocolate ice cream! It seemed "expensive" but I had to comment that the stall holder was really generous with the ingredients it put into this yummy dessert. The chocolate ice cream was thick and had chocolate flakes in it too! In comparison to the many expensive brands of ice cream, this dessert is a worthy buy! I am craving for it again!
2. Hau Cheong Gai with Ice Glacier Drink
I just love Hau Cheong Gai or Prawn Paste Chicken Wings so much! Even better, the set comes with either a glow in the dark Ice Glacier Drink or the Poppin Candy Yuzu Drink. I chose the Ice Glacier Drink!
The wait was less than 5 min because there happened to be a new batch of freshly fried chicken wings! The 4pc wings was 6 and the drink was $4 if you order them separately, but we got them for a set at $8.
See my pretty Glowing Ice Glacier Drink! If you are a Thai Spicy Chili person, you will LOVE the chilli that comes with the chicken! But for mild-moderate chili person like us, we started to choke, cough and sweat after tasting the chilli. We decided to do without the chili because the chicken wings itself taste really flavorful already! The drink was syrup and soda. Not too tasty but I give points for its fancifulness.
Hehe, and I brought the glowing cube home to amuse my kids.
3. Phad Thai and Pork Collar
If you asked me what is my favorite signature Thai dish, I will say "Phad Thai" instead of Mango sticky rice or Coconut Ice cream or Tom Yam Soup. I love those 3 too but somehow I feel Phad Thai is inevitable the Thai dish to me.
Apparently, this stall owns a local thai eatery in Singapore, somewhere in Rochor Road. Try googling for its address if you will like to go there for 2nd rounds. I guess it was good publicity for the local eateries at this event and it will definitely invite many tourists and local foodies to their flagship eateries even after the event.
Once again, we were lucky that the new batch of Phad Thai was ready in less than 10min! Meantime as we waited, we even tried the Pork Collar.
Usually this is not something Laogong and I would eat but it was worth a try for its unique texture. Cost us $8 for a small plate.
We are usually not big fans of thai milk tea because it is very sweet, like most thai desserts. But how can we not drink Thai Milk Tea in a Thai Night Market event? But almost every food stall also sells Thai Milk Tea. So which one to buy from is the questions.
We were attracted to this traditional van be selling "authentic Thai snacks, old school sodas and Thai Milk Tea. Seeing this van really reminds us of Koh Samui! So we made up our mind to buy from it. It also sells beer! The milk tea costs $4. I love the packaging as I can hold it on my fingers if I am not drinking it so it did not freeze my hands like those served in plastic cups.
5. Chicken and Beef Kebab
This is actually the first stall we bought from but not our top favorite. We simply bought it because the stall had a strategic position at the first row and entrance to the food segment. It had a short queue too. We were hungry at 8.30pm and will like to be "happy" while we looked for more food.
But I won't say the kebab is not nice at all. I actually like the chicken kebab more than the beef kebab because the meat was tender and the teppanyaki alike sauce was nice. But I only took picture of only the beef kebab. What I don't like is the thick wrap. Cost us $13 for 1 chicken kebab and 1 beef kebab.
The liveband was nice and if you can spare the time, do linger around to enjoy the nice music and singing. It is free!
7. VR Experience
For $8, you can experience a SAO alike VR experience!
Laogong tried the "Walk the Plank" VR experience and said it was so realistic, he really thought he was falling off the building. He tried to "land" safely and ended up injuring his knee.
For those with fear of height, you can try the Fruit Ninja VR experience instead.
8. Things/Food we wanted to try but did not, due to the long queues or other reasons
a. Chupitos Shot
If I ever go again, I will definitely queue up for this drink! Went to Chupitos before and a believer of their unique shots and cocktails. The pricing looks reasonable for a alcoholic drink that comes in a bottle! The colourful drinks look really pretty! But be ready for minimum 20-40 min queue because the preparation seems slow.
b. Talad Drink
This looks like an alternative to Chupitos Shots for those who cannot drink or not good in drinking alcohol. Pricing is affordable and the drinks look very pretty and colourful! Queue was long too, about 20-40min.
c. Grilled Steak
A plate of steak of that size and some garnishing cost more than $12. Seem a bit pricing but the queue was about 30-45min long because it takes time to cook steak.
d. Chang Beer Garden
e. Wicked Marshmallow
f. Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
These days it is no longer super fanciful to see stalls selling Dragon Breath or Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream. There are actually at least 2 stalls selling this in ArtBox but we did not try any because the preparation time is long and slow. The queues were 30-45 min long.
g. Shaved Ice Cream
We saw something interesting called Choco Kebab at the stall selling Meat Kebab but did not buy it coz we were more hungry for food. Beside it was tugged at the Kebab Cashier Counter so few people will actually notice it unless they stood there to pay for their Meat Kebab.
h. Scotched Eggs
Not sure what is this but it looks fanciful for a stall selling eggs. But we are not willing to pay $5 or more for eggs. But if you are adventurous enough, do give it a try and let me know how it tastes!
3 Tips to ensure you enjoy yourself and eat your full at the ArtBox
1. If you come with an empty stomach, grab something light from a food stall with the shortest queue first. Because human tends to more impatient when they are hungry, hence if you decide to start with a food stall with a 30-45min queue, you will end up feeling not so satisfied or happy even if the food is delicious. After you feel less hungry, then you start to go for alternate long and short queues or look out for food stalls that shout, "New Batch of xx in 3-5 min"!
2. Wear something cooling and light, especially for those who sweat easily. Leave your heavy bags at home so that you won't get worn out easily. Put on a pair of comfortable shoes. If you go after rain, please don't wear your favorite or light colour sneakers because you are bound to step into puddles of water. We went home after work to rest, change our clothes and shoes, before we headed out to ArtBox.
3. If you go in a group, get one of you to chope a seat then the rest can spread out yourself to queue for different food stalls. This is more efficient and less time consuming than all queue for same stalls at the same time. But if you go as a couple and prefer to stick together (like we did) , then do so because waiting together gives you time to do a "stall scan" of other stalls around too. Then you will know which is the next stall to chiong to after buying the food from this stall.
Hope my tips and sharing help! Enjoy yourself if you are hitting the ArtBox this weekends!
Overall, ArtBox is a good experience for me and Laogong who had not been to the one in Bangkok before. We both are big fans of Taiwan night markets too! Hence, we do look forward to more international events and also local night markets in Singapore! The next on the list is Star Wars event in May 2017! Woohoo! Every month is a happening month! So no chance to complain Singapore is a boring place! Good Effort from our government agencies and private organisations!