Singapore Facts – As one of the most luxurious and expensive cities in the world, Singapore is an ever-evolving place, where tradition meet the cutting-edge. In Singapore everyone seemed to find a spot for themselves; from the merchant traders that sailed through its waters, to the pirate ships that claimed a stake for themselves, along with the many intrepid immigrants that settled here from faraway lands. As such, Singapore is a land surrounded in an exotic veil of mystery.
We’ve all already heard tales of how this city is one of only three city-states in the world (if you hadn’t, this Singapore fact is a freebie!), or of its high standards of living and the largest percentage of millionaire households in the world. But did you know the city holds the largest collection of turtles and tortoises as well? For this and more, here are 10 amazing Singapore facts unique to this fantastic city-state!
Singapore Facts #1 – There Were Never Any Lions in the Lion City
Have you ever wondered where the name Singapore comes from? Or what the name actually means? Legend has it that Sang Nila Utama, a Srivijayan Prince from Palembang named the city after a fortuitous encounter with a jungle dwelling Lion. But in reality, there were never lions on the island for which it is named or in the Malay peninsula for that matter.
Srivijayan was a maritime city-state and quasi-empire based in Sumatra that flourished around the 8th century. By the time of Price Sang Nila Utama in the 1300s, the empire had reached a great level of affluence. Sang Nila Utama set out to explore and landed upon the island then known as Temasek, after a legendary storm in which the king had to throw his own crown into the sea to appease the Malacca’s waters.
On land, the king saw an animal that he had never seen before, one with a ‘red body, black head and white breast.’ The king was entranced by this fast-moving creature as it disappeared into the jungle and asked his generals what it was. His chief minister, Demang Lebar Duan, promptly claimed it was a lion, from the Indian Sanskrit word siṃha. The word lion in Sanskrit is much more common than the one for tiger since lions reign supreme as the main large cat species of the Indian sub-continent. The king then named the city Singapura after the Sanskrit word for city.
But, unbeknownst to the king, there were never lions in the Malay peninsula or on the island of Temasek for that matter, as only one large cat inhabits a geographic region. In this case, the Harimau Malaya or Malay Tiger is the king of the jungle. Even so, as the natural inhabitants of the area, tigers are still popular in the city; you can even pay honor to the region’s native tigers at the world’s first ever night-time zoo, or at the Tiger Sky Tower, one of Singapore’s first recognized landmark attractions (more on the zoo later). Just think, the city could very well be named Harimaupura!
Singapore Facts #2 – Fines, Fines and More Fines for the ‘Fine City’
Singapore may be known as the Lion City, but for locals, the city is also known as a mighty ‘fine city’. Not in part to the high standard of living, or the fine luxurious perks available throughout, but due to the many enforceable laws and regulations that can ensure heavy fines for non-stellar residents or unknowing tourists, including chewing gum or not flushing a toilet.
But, it isn’t just chewing gum or failing to flush toilets that can cost you a pretty penny or send you to the slammer. In Singapore you can also be fined for playing an instrument too loudly that annoys someone, simply because you are not talented enough. Or for flying a kite or taking part in any game which can interfere with traffic (this can also include pedestrian traffic). Or $3000 for walking naked around the house, up to 3 months in jail and $1000 dollars for feeding pigeons, $2000 dollars or up to 6 months in jail for J-walking, and finally a $10,000 dollar fine and up to 6 months in jail for using someone else’s WIFI.
Some may seem obvious (no urinating in an elevator or face a $1000 fine –seems reasonable enough), but others like absolutely no spitting, or no eating durians in public, are curious to say the least (although who would disagree with a durian ban?). The city also incorporates a heavy ‘sin’ tax of just over 40% on all alcohol, tobacco, and err, shall we say, night-time fun.
Make sure you get your pic with a famous sign that says “No Chewing Gum $1000 FINE” which have become popular with tourists, or better yet, get a T-shirt. Some punishments may also include a public caning for good measure, which are still legal and enforceable as forms of public punishment. The city even has a patented caning device shaped as a two-legged trestle for strapping in delinquents and padding to ‘protect the organs’. The strict rules aren’t as bad as they may seem and often allow for progressive social policies that set the city-state apart; such as the aggressive smoking ban in public places that was steadily copied throughout many industrialized nations.
Gum is permitted only with a doctor’s note for dental purposes or with nicotine to quit smoking; so, don’t even try to bring in a stick of tutti-frutti or bubblelicious, trust us.
Fact #3 – World’s First Ever Night-Time Zoo
If you happen to be a night owl, or you’re into night owls in general, a stop at Singapore’s night time zoo is a must-see attraction. The world’s first ever night time zoo is located right here! Opened in 1994, the zoo allows visitors to explore the habitat and rituals of animals under the moonlight. Why Singapore? Since the city has a tropical climate all year around, a large portion of the animals that are native to the ecosystem are in fact nocturnal; as the hot and sticky days are better for lounging around and sleeping. Despite world class facilities, the zoo began experiencing low attendance ratios and ticket sales, which was attributed to the number of animals who simply were inactive or uncharismatic during day-time hours.
Through an enterprising spirit that is distinct to the city, the zoo decided to promote itself as a night-time experience, including strategic lighting that adds mood and enhances the animal’s rituals and the customer’s experience. The best are the large cats, including lions and tigers that become particularly lively under the moonlight.
If you are interested, you can book this crazy experience here.
And for more places to visit in Singapore, feel free to read this blog post too: Visit Singapore.
Singapore Facts #4 – Singapore Has the World’s Largest Fountain
The world’s largest fountain is located in right here in Singapore!
Made of cast silicon bronze alloy and costing around 6 million US dollars, the Fountain of Wealth, is the world’s largest manmade water-sprouting mechanism. Located in Suntec City, the Fountain of Wealth serves as a larger atrium to the shopping mall which once claimed the spot as the city’s largest shopping and entertainment arcade. The structure consists of a circular ring with a circumference of 66 meters supported by four 13-meter-high legs.
The structure integrates Feng-Shuai principals and Chinese cultural symbolism of wealth and good fortune of water pouring inwards. Within the larger Suntec City complex, which also incorporates five towers which surround the main atrium, the fountain and atrium serve as the palm of the complex of five towers which symbolize five fingers reaching upwards. The ring thus represents ever-flowing wealth inside of the palm of the city of Singapore.
The fountain also includes a smaller secondary fountain with a spring spouting from the center of the atrium at the concourse level. A recent renovation by the world’s top fountain manufacturer, OASE, was conducted in order to include smaller jumping and arcing ground fountains throughout, making the whole atrium a water bonanza. Come dusk the fountain is the center piece of a laser extravaganza and music show that should not be missed. Make sure to also walk three times around the central ring while continuously touching the water as locals claim this will bring good luck and fortune!
Singapore Facts #5 – Government-Sanctioned Boyfriend or Girlfriend
We’ve all heard about the declining birth rate in the world’s industrialised nations. And while we hear of the impending doom of a falling birth-rate in Japan, or the demise of the rural elderly population in Italy and its traditions, Singapore is a city that has tackled this problem head-on. No non-married Japanese shut-ins and no controversial European ‘population replacement’ emigration policies here.
Instead the city has established a social development network and government agency to promote relationships, marriage and families among singles. The agency is tasked with “equipping singles with relationship skills and ensuring quality and credible dating services.” Known jokingly by the locals as the ‘Ugly, Desperate and Alone Program’, the government of Singapore has enlisted upon itself to make sure that people are getting -ahem- ‘busy’, so to speak.
Fact #6 – Here, There and Everywhere; 6 Different Time Zone Changes Since 1905
Culturally located within East and West, Singapore has had a hard time figuring out just where it really lies, time-wise that is. Since 1905 the city-state has had 6 different time-zone changes. Geographically Singapore lies south and slightly east of West Malaysia’s geographic center which has a time zone of GMT +7.50. For 36 years the city-state was aligned to West Malaysia’s time zone but in 1982, Singapore’s government decided the time just wasn’t their cup of tea.
Since then, Singapore adopted the time zone of East Malaysia located on Borneo which has a time zone set at +8.00. Strategically this allowed for the city to be able to schedule business meetings and conference calls in line with business partners in London, New York and Tokyo, whose clocks tick at the top of the hour and not at half past.
Singapore Facts #7 – Singapore Imports the World’s Best Sands
We all know of the famed Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Resort, but did you know Singapore imports sand from around the world? Up to 60 islands surround the city-state that serve as private hideaways for the city’s elite. Some also serve as resorts and some are just unexplorable tropical jungle. Some of these islands are carefully tended as tropical paradises and their own worlds of wonder.
In order to create this elaborate, yet seemingly natural wonder, the city requires the world’s best sand, which in Singapore can be readily imported from Bali, or from the Arabian Sea, or from as far away as the Caribbean. Not only sand, nearly all of the city’s fresh water is imported from neighbouring Malaysia as well.
By the way, if you want to read general advices about Singapore, don’t hesitate to read this article: Singapore Travel Tips.
Singapore Facts #8 – The World’s Largest Collection of Turtles and Tortoises is Located Here
Danny Tang, and his collection of 3,456 specimens of lively turtles, has a spot on the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest collection of the charismatic prehistoric shelled creatures. As the world’s foremost collector and tortoise enthusiast, Danny has been a fan of turtles his entire life and along with his wife Connie, the couple have been collecting tortoises for over 36 years.
So just how does a couple care for over 3,000 live animals? All of Danny and Connie Tang’s live collection are housed and live in the couple’s Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum operating since 2002. Here you can meet an 82-year-old-turtle that is said to grant wishes, or you can get close and personal at the live petting corner. Popular among kids and families, the museum has served as a strategic way to care for all the creatures.
The couple receive tourists from all over the globe who share a passion for their lively yet timid friends. Part of the experience for tourists is feeding the reptiles. In this way, the museum’s caretakers rotate which turtles need feeding, with the tourists that want to feed the turtles a piece of lettuce or a carrot. One thing to note is that although they’re charismatic and friendly, the tortoises can be quite stinky!
Fact #9 – The World Toilet Day
In November 2001, The World Toilet Association held the first ever World Toilet Summit. For over a decade the association found it hard to get international recognition outside of the private sector sponsorship of large corporations such as Japan’s TOTO and Kimberly-Clark. This was until the government of Singapore took the lead in promoting the organization through its first ever UN resolution named ‘Sanitation for All’ in 2013.
Thanks to the city-state’s initiative and the subsequent sponsorship of 122 countries, November 19 has been designated as World Toilet Day by the United Nations. With vast investment and promotion, Singapore has been the world leader in sanitation awareness and improvements around the world, with a special focus in India. Since then India has seen a dramatic increase in public and private toilets as well as indoor plumbing.
Singapore Facts #10 – There are Actually Two Singapores in the World
If you’re booking a trip to Singapore, make sure you are booking it towards Southeast Asia since there are two Singapores in the world. If you find yourself over 15 000 kms away in Singapore, Michigan, USA, you may have gotten the wrong city. With a vastly different climate, cold winter storms and lake-effect snow, you may also find yourself way underdressed. You will almost surely start to feel very lonely since Singapore is one of Michigan’s most famous ghost towns.
The town of Singapore, Michigan was founded in the 1830s by New York land developers wishing to turn the outpost near the mouth of the Kalamazoo River as a lakeport rival to Chicago or Milwaukee. By the 1870s Singapore was already a small but busy lumbering town complete with three mills, general stores, a bank and two hotels. Soon the city’s lumber supply dried up and the once bustling waterfront town was abandoned for the livelier town of Saugatuck located southward down the lake (which despite its Malay sounding name, is also not in Southeast Asia).
Since then the town has been slowly buried under the shifting sands of Lake Michigan. So, don’t be surprised if half of it is underwater. Next time, make sure you check out our guide on 10 Things You Need to Know Before You go to Singapore (link coming soon), to ensure you get to the other Singapore.
I hope you enjoyed this article about Singapore Facts! 🙂
From ill-sighted ‘lions’ and government-sanctioned significant others; to night-time zoos and the largest collection of tortoises housed anywhere in the world, it’s impossible to call the great city-state of Singapore boring. Considered both modern and ancient, Singapore is chalk-full of fun and interesting things to do. A unique and out-of-this-world adventure awaits anyone who has doubted its many hidden charms.
For more travel tips, feel free to check out these posts: Singapore Travel Blog.