Singapore is a place that I heard about before, but wasn’t overly inspired to visit. Living in Hong Kong, many people compare it to Singapore because they’re both finance centres, both “multicultural”, and both located in Asia. I knew that Singapore was notoriously clean and green — things that Hong Kong is not!
I also knew that Singapore had really strict rules, since Jess told me that doing any kind of vegan activism is prohibited there, so instead she would just stand on the street and try to talk to people without making a “demonstration.” Most importantly, I knew that Singapore had a variety of vegan food which is influenced by Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures.
For my 30th birthday this year, I decided to visit Singapore over a long weekend with a small group of friends, most not being vegan. Here’s a bit of what we got up to!
We absolutely fell in love with the hawker centres, which are basically giant food courts that the government created to house all the street food vendors. These hawker centres are huge, cheap, and full of variety. Some centres had clear vegan stalls, or at least a few stalls which offered vegan options.
On the first day, we enjoyed a traditional Hakka Rice with a tea leaf soup for breakfast, which cost about $4 SGD. On the second day we had mushroom Hor Fun (noodle soup with veggies), which was light and tasty. On the third day, we visited Tekka Hawker Centre in Little India and enjoyed some traditional Indian food as well as Chinese-Indian fusion food.
Beware that if you order a coffee at a hawker centre, it’s usually made with extra sweet condensed milk. Also, Singapore’s famous Kaya Toast (toast made with a clear coconut spread) is definitely not vegan, as it contains egg and some places add butter. It’s quite easy, however, to find vegan drinks and snacks if you take the time to look. I enjoyed a delicious bubble tea made with fresh soy milk one morning, as well as a sugar cane with avocado juice made fresh on the spot.
Considering Singapore is not a cheap city, it felt good to save some money on food and say no to the expensive hotel buffet (which had limited vegan options!)
We had a few memorable dinners. One was at a mostly raw restaurant called Afterglow by Anglow, which we thought was hit or miss. The appetizers, raw lasagna, and vegan burgers were tasty, but the raw pizza was disappointing (just a large cracker covered in chopped veggies!) The server seemed to have no idea about raw or vegan food when we asked him specific questions. But overall, the food was tasty, the restaurant’s decor was cool, and the neighbourhood was perfect for drinks afterwards.
Another restaurant we visited was Original Sin, an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant, which was DIVINE! It was a bit of a drive away from the city centre, but it was totally worth it! The restaurant itself is vegetarian but most dishes can be veganized. Everyone in my group, vegan or not, thoroughly enjoyed their meal.
Our hotel was Amara Singapore, which had a few different restaurants, including a tapas bar with a few veggie options.
Since Singapore has such a diverse mix of cultures, there’s so much to see and do! You can visit Little India for food and souvenir shopping, as we did, or explore Chinatown and the temples. Gardens by the Bay with its iconic trees was beautiful — I wish we had more time to fully explore all of the gardens.
Although I’m not a big theme park person, we decided to visit Universal Studios (the boys were really excited about Jurassic Park and the rides!) As far as ethical parks go, this was far better than other theme parks I’ve been to because they don’t use any live animals in their attractions. And although the food we had tasted mediocre, the park map puts a special veggie icon next to each restaurant which offers vegetarian options, so you don’t need to wander aimlessly in search of something to eat. They had a vegetarian special at one of the food courts in Madagascar, so I ordered it — which turned out to be an extremely spicy curry filled with cabbage. It was better than eating french fries, I guess!
There was also a few giant candy stores at the entrance of the park. We popped in on our way out, and I ended up buying a huge bag of assorted Jelly Belly beans (vegan!) and well as “Sweeties” gummy candies, which were labelled ‘vegan’. Score!
I was warned that Singapore would be incredibly hot, but we lucked out since we visited right after the city experienced a bunch of rain. Our entire weekend was cloudy, but we weren’t dying from the heat. It drizzled sporadically but it didn’t affect our plans. If you’re visiting during summer months, however, I recommend that you definitely get somewhere with a pool to cool down.
If you’re a big fan of the TV show “Friends,” you can visit the Friends-themed cafe called Central Perk, which replicates sets from the show and provides a menu with items named after the show. You can even sit on the famous orange couch and watch episodes of the show, which are played on loop. They offer soy milk for their coffee, but unfortunately were out of it when we visited.
Finally, I suggest going somewhere to catch a view of the waterfront and a cocktail. We didn’t have time to visit the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, but we got a great view from the top of the National Gallery, at Smoke and Mirrors. I also tried a delicious vegan cocktail with edible soil!
Finally, Singapore’s Changi airport is renowned for being the best in the world, because of its expansive size, numerous attractions, and beautiful gardens. Although we didn’t have time to check out everything, we saw signs everywhere advertising the “butterfly garden”, the “cactus garden,” the movie theatre, and the swimming pool. This would definitely be a great place for a stopover.
Compared to Hong Kong, Singapore was a dream for me. The city was extremely clean, people were incredibly friendly, and everyone spoke English. I’m so used to taxi drivers in Hong Kong kicking me out of their cars because they don’t want to take me to my destination. It was wonderful to sit in nice, clean, affordable taxis with drivers who engaged us in conversation.
Every place we went to understood what “vegan” was. At the hawker centres, I tried to get my friends to order food in Mandarin (as I would get my local friends to order in Cantonese at a food stall in Hong Kong), but the vendors always responded in English! It was amazing and surprising to me that everyone spoke English everywhere we went.
Even though we were only there for a few days, I truly enjoyed my visit here and definitely want to come back. This is a great place to go with a group, since there’s something for everyone, but also a great place to travel solo since it’s easy to communicate with locals and get around. I will definitely be back soon, Singapore!