If there’s one place on the planet you want to be caught in a long layover, it’s Singapore, where travelers can marvel at futuristic architecture, shop for high-quality ethical products, and enjoy mouthwatering vegan food in less than 48 hours. Here’s a guide for the best things to do, buy, and eat in the world’s only island city-state for the vegan traveler on a tight schedule.
WHAT TO SEE
While the island sprawls into numerous suburbs and districts, you’ll want to spend the bulk of your time in the heart of Singapore’s action: the Marina Area. Located next to Marina Bay, travelers encounter Gardens by the Bay, an elaborate natural park showcasing lush tropical flora throughout a series of themed gardens and conservatories. The park’s most distinct feature is its massive eco-friendly Supertree Grove. Resembling natural trees and reaching heights of up to 160 feet, the human-made structures support a variety of unique plants such as bromeliads, orchids, and flowering climbers through the use of sustainable energy. Each night, these architectural juggernauts become the stars of an ethereal light show that is free for the public to enjoy. After gazing up at the Singaporean skies from below, check out the Garden City’s diverse architecture from a new perspective at the Ion Sky observation deck. Situated in the heart of the bustling Orchard Road shopping district, the Ion Orchard mall offers visitors free access to the 56th floor for Instagram-worthy views of the entire city, including the iconic Singapore Flyer ferris wheel and the massive ship-like Skypark on atop of the Marina Bay Sands resort.
WHAT TO BUY
Once you’ve descended from Ion Sky, work your way through the throngs of people on Orchard Road for some cruelty-free shopping. Start inside of the Wisma Atria mall, where you can find travel-sized vegan soaps at international favorite Lush handmade cosmetics. If chain retail stores aren’t your style, look for independent local boutiques such as Actually, a concept store stocked with vegan Freitag bags made from recycled truck tarp material. For thoughtful souvenirs on Orchard Road, head to the Singapore Visitor Centre, where you can find a vending machine that sells books. Operated by BooksActually, an independent bookstore in Singapore, classic works and progressive prose by local authors are sold by inserting some cash and hitting a button on this bibliophile’s dream box. If you’re looking to escape the bustle of megamalls on Orchard Road, check out Haji Lane in Singapore’s Arab Street neighborhood. While visitors come for the kitschy boutiques, they stay for the vibrant street art such as the large warriors with bold geometric-patterned headpieces and the realistic depictions of children in shopping carts with three-dimensional metal cart parts protruding from shophouse surfaces. Nineteenth century multi-story shops that double as living quarters line the narrow Haji Line and provide a colonial backdrop to the fresh, vivid colors of the commissioned murals. Haji Lane’s aesthetic is one-of-a-kind in a city where strict graffiti policies often leave buildings untouched.
WHAT TO EAT
For any trip to Singapore, one Singlish (Singaporean English) word you’ll want to use after every meal is “shiok,” which means “extremely amazing.” Use your new vocabulary word in Chinatown, home to a new veg restaurant called Afterglow where entées include a zesty zucchini lasagna with cashew cream cheese; a raw taco bowl with chewy marinated walnut meat; and the Drag-Pom salad—a mix of sweet dragon fruit, pomegranate, and chopped macadamia nuts in a lemon-mint dressing. Be sure to order the hearty potato salad with smashed avocado mayo or the nut cheese platter as a side, along with a tangy pink beetroot soy latte. If you’re in the mood for more traditional fare, Eight Treasures in Chinatown offers a variety of savory tofu and mock meat dishes. Try the spicy Tom Yam fried rice, the bean curd with monkey head mushrooms, or the veg abalone mushroom made with konnyaku—a yam-like vegetable grown in East Asia. For dessert, head downstairs to the cozy Well-Dressed Salad Bar for a gooey chocolate lava cake or glazed hazelnut Oreo donuts, the only of its kind in Asia. On your way to the airport, set aside an hour for the world-famous VeganBurg, a haven for vegans craving the sloppy fast-food goodness of a hearty plant-based burger. Try the Creamy Shrooms burger for a tangy twist to the common soy burger, or go with the Char-Grilled Satay for a spicier patty influenced by traditional Singaporean cusine. Add a side order of fluffy spinach pops or salty seaweed fries, and you’ll be full until you reach home.
Karly Placek is an animal-loving writer and Fulbright Fellow working in northern Malaysia.
Photo courtesy of Caviar