Singapore turns 52 this year, and to celebrate, we’ve dug around and excavated these 52 amazing facts you and the kids may never have known about our little red dot. Read on and enjoy!
First of all, Singapore is unique. Since our 52nd birthday is coming up soon, we’ve delved into our past, present, and future to find 52 weird and wonderful facts about our sunny island. Now you’re definitely ready for a “how well do you know Singapore” quiz! (That’s a great National Day activity idea – Editor)
1. Singapore is the only country in the world that is a city, a capital, and a state. There are only two other city states in the world – Monaco, and the Vatican City.
2. We’re still a little red dot but we’re putting on weight! Since we gained independence in 1965, Singapore has grown by 25% thanks to land reclamation projects. If you’ve been to Changi Airport, the Marina Bay area, or East Coast Parkway, you can say that you have walked on reclaimed land. (Read how Singapore has grown – land-wise – since colonial times here.)
3. One people, one nation, one Singapore? Well first of all, Singapore is not just one island. There are officially as many as 63 offshore islands that are also a part of Singapore. Can you guess the most obvious? Yes, it’s Sentosa (which is also the largest)! Other offshore islands belonging to Singapore include Pulau Ubin, and Kusu Island.
4. Our offshore islands have thriving marine life. At Pulau Hantu, you’ll find coral reefs populated by clownfish, butterfly fish, crabs, starfish, and seahorses. Sisters’ Island is a dedicated site for marine conservation and research and here you’ll see marine life such as sea sponges and sea anemones (above). Furthermore, you may even be able to spot dolphins in the waters that surround St John’s Island!
5. Been to a public toilet in Singapore lately? The reek is moving from eek to sleek thanks to the Restroom Association Singapore (RAS) which Singaporean Jack Sim founded in 1998. He wanted to raise public restroom standards not just in Singapore but around the world too. In 2001, he also started the World Toilet Organisation.
6. The National Stadium at the Sports Hub has the world’s largest dome with a retractable roof. The 20,000 sqm roof dome measures 312m in diameter and can open and close in 20 minutes. In 2016, the National Day Parade returned to the National Stadium after 10 years. The dome roof let performers ‘fly’ through the air in a first for the Parade!
7. Our Night Safari is the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park. It opened in 1994 and now welcomes more than 1.1 million visitors a year who enjoy seeing more than 1,000 animals in their naturalistic nighttime habitats. Visit soon to see the brand new Wallaby Trail inspired by the Australian Outback!
8. The next time you get your hands on a $1,000 note, turn it round to see the lyrics of our national anthem, ‘Majulah Singapura’, printed in microtext. A magnifying glass would probably come in handy as well.
9. Singapore loves being number one. Did you know that when it comes to walking speed, we’re in the top spot too? A survey conducted in 2007 by CNN to find the ‘fastest-walking people’ in the world declared Singapore its winner.
10. Proof that size doesn’t matter: the little USB flash drive that the whole world uses was invented in Singapore! Trek 2000 International came up with the “thumb drive” in year 2000.
11. When the Singapore Flyer opened in 2008, it was the world’s largest observation wheel. Sadly, it lost its title in 2014 when the High Roller in Las Vegas opened. The Singapore Flyer stands at 165 metres, while the Vegas structure is 167.6 metres high.
12. Did you know that there are more tree species on one hectare of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve than in the whole of North America? The 163-hectare reserve has one of the richest and most diverse ecological systems on the planet!
14. Birds love Singapore! We’re part of the East Asian Australasian Flyway and from September to March each year, thousands of migratory birds come to our mangroves at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve as a resting point as they fly from as far as Siberia, to Australia!
15. Gardens By The Bay is home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, standing at 35 metres.
16. But it’ll lose this status once Terminal 4 is open at Singapore Changi Airport. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, T4 will boast the 40m tall Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, when it opens in 2018.
(See also: Changi Airport Terminal 4: The Numbers Edition)
17. Orchard Road might be full of shopping centres now but it got its name as it was lined with fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms over 150 years ago.
18. Singapore’s first supermarket, a Cold Storage, was opened in Orchard Road in 1903, at the spot where The Centrepoint now stands. There’s still a Cold Storage supermarket there, in the basement of the shopping mall!
19. The Formula One night race isn’t the first car race in Singapore. From 1961 to 1973, car races took place at the Thomson Road Grand Prix circuit, which measured 4.865km per lap.
20. The youngest person in the world to score an A in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) physics examination is a Singaporean! Mark Sim was eight years and three months old when he took the exam in November 2014.
21. Public transport was first introduced in Singapore in 1862, when the Lambert brothers established the Singapore Carriage Works in Orchard Road. Anyone from the public could come here to rent horses and carriages for their personal use, even at short notice. That’s like, uber amazing!
22. We might not see them much on our roads these days, but trishaws were first registered in Singapore in 1914. They were known as “pedal rickshaws”, with chairs bolted to tricycle frames. Would you believe that there were only 15 of them?!
23. Singapore’s first multi-storey carpark Market Street Carpark, was opened in 1964. It was 10-storeys high and had space for 700 lots. The first underground carpark in Singapore was built in 1965 at Raffles Place. It could accommodate 250 cars. In 1990 it was replaced by Raffles Place MRT station.
24. It’s mostly hot and wet in Singapore, and sometimes hazy. But guess what, we’ve also had hail (balls or irregular lumps of ice)! The Meteological Service Singapore describes one such incident: “An intense thunderstorm in the afternoon over western Singapore brought hailstones the size of small pebbles to the Bukit Batok area on 25 June 2013.”
25. When Singapore’s cable car service was opened in 1974, it was the first in the world to go over a harbour, travelling from Mount Faber to Sentosa. The Singapore cable car system also has the world’s first glass-bottomed cabins! These cost a whopping $30,000 each and give you that “Oooh I’m falling!” feeling when you look down.
26. The Vanda Miss Joaquim is Singapore’s national flower, and the only hybrid that holds that title. This mix of the Vanda hookeriana and the Vanda teres became our national flower in 1981.
27. Jurong Bird Park is the largest bird park in Asia. It opened in 1971 and is home to more than 5,000 birds from 400 species. The Park will be relocated to Mandai by 2020 to join the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari, creating a nature-themed precinct. This new bird park have nine large aviaries housing one of the largest collections of birds in the world.
28. Singapore has the world’s largest Peranakan Museum. We love its Straits Family Sunday activities on every second Sunday of each month, where kids can engage in arts and crafts based on the museum’s collection, go on a tour of the galleries, and even dress up in traditional Peranakan garb!
29. Benjamin Sheares might be better known as the second President of Singapore (1971-1981). But did you know that he was also the first Singaporean to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology in 1931? This talented man was also the first Singaporean to be appointed to head the O&G department of the University of Malaya in 1946.
30. The Mint Museum of Toys is the world’s first museum for toy artefacts. It houses a world-class collection of over 50,000 vintage toys and collectibles, of which 8,000 are on display in the museum.
31. The longest road in Singapore is the Pan Island Expressway (PIE), which stretches for a total of 42.8km from Tuas to Changi. The shortest one? It’s just 26m long, and goes by the moniker Tua Kong Green.
32. Suntec City’s Fountain of Wealth is the largest fountain in the world! Made of cast iron, it cost almost US$6 million to build in 1997.
33. Completed on 5 August 1985, Toa Payoh was the first MRT Station in Singapore, although it only opened two years later. Fun fact: Toa Payoh MRT Station was the first underground station in the world to be fitted with platform screen doors.
34. Did you know that the Singapore Philatelic Museum is Southeast Asia’s one and only philatelic museum? Outside the building is the only colonial posting box in Singapore, a red pillar box. It’s still operational so go ahead and send that postcard to someone you love!
35. It’s scorching hot in Singapore but that doesn’t stop people from going to a hot spring – yes, in Singapore! Visit the Sembawang Hot Spring soon if you want to try it out, as it will be undergo redevelopment from the end of this year.
36. Singapore is the only country in the world that reclaims and recycles water. Our five NEWater plants meet up to 40% of our current water needs.
37. Up till this year, Singapore held the record for the longest human tooth extracted! It measured 3.2 cm and was removed from the mouth of Loo Hui Jing on April 6, 2009. This February, the award was given to Urvil Patel, 18, of India, whose tooth measured 3.67 cm!
(See also: Taking Care of your Teeth during Pregnancy)
38. There are seven Merlion statues in Singapore. You know the Merlion and its smaller counterpart at the Merlion Park next to One Fullerton, right? There’s another at Sentosa, one outside the STB office at Tourism Court, and one at Faber Point on Mount Faber. Two more (unauthorised) Merlion statues stand guard at the carpark entrance for blocks 216 to 222 along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. The biggest Merlion is the one at Sentosa. It stands at 37m, with 320 scales and 16,000 fibre-optic and iridescent lights. It’s quite a sight at any time, but most of all at night!
39. Singapore is the only place in the world where hawkers can have Michelin stars. Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle received theirs in July 2016. Have you eaten at these places yet?
40. Hey four-eyes, you have company! Singapore has one of the highest rates of childhood myopia in the world, with one of highest prevalence of short-sighted children in the seven to nine years age range.
(See also: Childhood Myopia: 9 Common Myths Busted!)
41. Say hello to Wong Ah Mooi, the first female taxi driver in Singapore! She got her taxi licence in 1958.
42. 2016 was Singapore’s hottest year on record, with a mean annual temperature of 28.4 degrees Celsius. Will 2017 beat that? It sure feels like it at the moment!
43. Our national anthem, ‘Majulah Singapura’ (meaning ‘Onward Singapore’), was written by the late Encik Zubir Said (1907 – 1987). The Singapore Chamber Ensemble first performed it during the official opening of the renovated Victoria Theatre on 6 September 1958, and it was given its official status as the national anthem in November 1959.
44. You know how to recite the pledge but do you know its origin? In 1966, the then Minister of Culture and former journalist, S Rajaratnam wrote it. Subsequently in July that year it was introduced in schools. You can sing the Pledge in the National Day song ‘We Are Singapore’!
45. Most Singaporeans were born here so it’s no surprise that Kandang Kerbau Hospital (as it was then known) once held the record for the largest number of births in a single medical facility. This was in 1966, when there were 39,835 births. The hospital held this record for 10 years in total. You’ll know it now as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
46. There are gorgeous new housing estates now, such as Punggol 21 and Sengkang. But the one that started them all? Queenstown, our first satellite town. Built in the 1960s, it housed 110,000 people in 17,000 units.
47. Singapore set the record for world’s largest (toy) duck race in 2002. The Singapore River had more than 123,000 of these yellow ducks floating in it!
48. The Arts House is the oldest colonial building in Singapore. It was built in 1827 and has served as a courthouse, government offices and even as the parliament of Singapore. In 1992, it was gazetted as a national monument.
49. The tallest HDB apartment blocks are at Pinnacle@Duxton – all seven blocks are 50-storeys high. Its 12 sky bridges also add up to make the longest sky garden in the world.
50. Singaporeans living in the United Kingdom have the right to vote in British elections. This is due to a law that gives citizens of Commonwealth countries voting rights in Britain, one of the several legacies left behind by the British empire.
51. Singapore is the largest exporter of ornamental fish, dealing with fish such as guppies and koi. We don’t find the fish here though – we import them, and then rear or breed, or re-export them.
52. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is our first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It received this accolade on 4 July 2015. This lovely area of green in the city also the mother of all tropical botanic gardens — it’s the first and only such attraction on the list!
Annnnnnnndddd there you go! 52 things about Singapore that you may or may not have known. Tell the kids and let them go “Wah!” In the meantime, are you ready for the pop quiz yet? Just kidding lah. Here’s wishing you and yours a shiok-alicious National Day holiday!