So, you say travelling is in your blood, and you may have been to several places already but there are some things that you might fail to find out about a place on surface level. And Singapore is no exception.
Sure, you’ve had a long look at Singapore’s perfect skyline and have wandered the busy corners of the city, but there’s so much more to know (and appreciate) about Singapore other than its elegant cosmopolitan aspect that many have come to love and enjoy like we do. Here are the 10 fun facts about Singapore that others may not have heard of.
10 Facts (You Might Not Know) about Singapore
- It’s not just an island city, but a city of 63 islands.
With its towering buildings and bright city lights, it’s kind of hard to place Singapore as a city of many beautiful islands and beaches. Well, in fact, Singapore’s land area covers as many as 63 coastal islands enclosing the main island. The largest of these being Sentosa, and other nearby islands include Sisters’ Island, Pulau Island and St John’s Island. This only goes to show that Singapore has more to offer in terms of local attractions and activities for all kinds of visitors.
- The title ‘Lion City’ may have been coined out of inspiration from a tiger.
If you have been to Singapore, there’s no way you wouldn’t chance upon the Merlion, which is Singapore’s well-known icon. This mythical creature appears with the head of a lion and the tail of a fish. Historical accounts connect the Merlion to the city’s Sanskrit name, “Singapura” which translates to “Lion City”. This is rather strange, because the origin of the name may have been confused by a certain Sumatran prince, Sang Nila Utama, who then ruled a small settlement in Singapura, known as Temasek in the early 14th century.
The story goes – while out hunting for animals, the prince noticed a swift-moving, strange creature, which was then recognized by his advisors as a lion. Interestingly, there were never any recorded spottings of lions, let alone proof to them being native to Singapore. However, it may have been a trick of the eye, and the royal company may have mistaken a tiger for a lion because tigers were believed to roam in the wild in Singapore until the 1930s. Judging from that story, the “Lion City” stuck and has certainly come a long way.
- Singapore has the world’s first Night Zoo.
Opened in 1994, Singapore’s Night Safari is the first of its kind in the rest of the world. The 35-hectare wildlife reserve is home to over 1,000 animals, which can be seen freely interacting in their natural habitats at night.
The park offers a 40-minute safari ride by tram for guests and visitors to have an overview of the reserve’s major attractions. However, it’s also advisable to go for a refreshing walk along the park’s four linked nature trails for a unique nocturnal zoo experience.
- The city of Singapore is among one of the world’s greenest.
Amid skyscrapers and the urbane facet of the city, numerous patches of green land can still be found within the city. To put it in figures, almost half of the country’s land area (or approximately 700 sq. km.) is plotted with lush greens. What’s even more interesting is that in this small patch of earth on this sunny island, there’s plenty of unique plant life housed in distinct locations such as the PARKROYAL on Pickering which highlights the hotel-in-a-garden experience along with its masterful architectural design of a four-storey vertical garden. Of note, Singapore is home to over 2,100 native vascular plant species sheltered in various nature reserves – one of which is the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve which is said to keep more varieties of tree species in a single hectare of land versus the total number of tree species in all of North America. After all, a city full of greens is a sustainable city to live in.
- You’ll find several (man-made) waterfalls when you go around Singapore.
The first ever man-made waterfall was created at the Jurong Bird Park in the 1970s. With a dropping height of 30 metres, it is believed to be the tallest waterfall built within an aviary up to this day.
In addition, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 35 metres can be found in the Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The cooling mist created by the waterfall helps maintain the moisture within the conservatory which houses a variety of plants from the tropics.
But that’s not all – the tallest waterfall in Singapore yet to be made is set to be built at the Jewel Changi Airport sometime in 2018. The new business and lifestyle centre will house the 40-metre tall man-made waterfall, also known as The Vortex, and will be enclosed by a verdant indoor garden.
- Heard of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and ‘VIPs’? Singapore’s got them.
Not to be taken for your usual nature garden parks, the 150-year old Singapore Botanic Gardens was recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015. With its more popular attraction, the National Orchid Garden, the Singapore Botanic Garden has been home to over a thousand of orchid species, which are considered ‘VIPs’ or Very Important Plants for more than a century. As part of Singaporean tradition, there have been over 200 orchids which have been warmly named after key world figures such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Nelson Mandela, and recently, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, and other famous international celebrities including Bae Yong Jun, Zhou Xun, and Jackie Chan.
- Learn the locals’ unique take on English – Singlish.
Singapore has multicultural roots; and where there is a collection of various cultures, a hybrid language is formed which, as the locals call it, Singlish. Although majority of the locals can speak and communicate in English, it is not at all uncommon to hear most of them finish off their sentences with the occasional “-lah” or “-leh”, as influenced by common lingo and fusion of colloquial expressions from various cultures.
Anywhere in the city especially at hawker centres, you may hear people use the word “chope” which means to reserve a spot or a seat, and is typically emphasized by placing a packet of tissue paper on their spot.
Other common words you’ll hear locals speak are “cab drivers” which they use to refer to strangers, and “Auntie” or “Uncle” for hawker stall owners. This is how locals endearingly address older men and women, but you may need to take caution when addressing people as such, as some can take offense at pointing out their old age. We think that is not exactly the kind of impression you would like to leave the locals, yes?
- There are plenty of unique nooks and crannies to explore within the city.
Speaking of Singapore’s multiculturalism, there are various historical ethnic districts such as Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam which will make for a unique colourful trip in the city.
Aside from these, you can discover a number of trendy eateries and shops along the wayside of Art Deco-styled buildings in Tiong Bahru, as well as bright Peranakan-style storehouses and quaint eatery stalls along Joo Chiat Road and Katong.
There are many other emerging neighbourhoods to look out for including Everton Park which boasts of a variety of hip food shops, cafes, ice cream parlours and coffee joints.
- The first F1 Night Race started in Singapore.
The annual Grand Prix Season Singapore which started in 2008, hosts a number of spectacular concert shows, amazing racing and entertainment events for Formula One aficionados and guests from all over the world.
The Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, which is undoubtedly the event highlight of the Singapore Grand Prix, made a mark in racing history for being the very first Formula One Night Race.
The winding Marina Bay street circuit has remained the same since Singapore first opened its streets for F1 racers all over the world. The glaring floodlights that illuminate the race tracks also create a stunning view of the city at night.
- The celebrations never end in Singapore.
Don’t get the wrong idea – Singapore is not literally a 24/7 party joint (unless you want it to be), but there’s plenty of celebrations held in Singapore all throughout the year such as cultural and heritage festivals, art and lifestyle festivities, as well as major sporting events.
Aside from the holidays, midyear festivities such as the Great Singapore Sale and the Singapore Food Festival held in June and July, respectively, draw in a huge number of visitors from all over the world. So come visit anytime and you won’t miss out on any of the fun and entertainment here in Singapore.
Your travel experience becomes richer and more meaningful when you get to see new things and learn more about the culture and background of the places you visit. Singapore may be a small country on the map, but it offers tons of great experiences that would definitely last a lifetime.