Singapore is one of those places you think you know. It has lots of rules, lots of signs, plates of chilli crab and the glitzy Marina Bay Sands. But there are lots of things you don’t know about one of Asia’s most modern and fast-changing cities.
1. Singapore has saltwater crocs – big ones!
In the north of the island is Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which has a number of native “salties”, the largest of which was named Barney. Barney died last year but he measured 3.6 metres long and weighed in at 400 kilograms. The year before, a school trip to Sungei saw a two-metre croc lounging on the main footpath – they sensibly went back the other way.
2. It has the largest alfresco rooftop bar in the world
Sitting on the roof of the soaring skyscrapers of One Raffles Place is 1-Altitude, which puts just a shoulder-height glass wall between you, your Singapore Sling and the 282-metre drop to the ground. But you have to have good weather, as the bar is a lightning rod during bad weather. Lucky they have the exclusive, indoor Altimate bar just a floor below.
3. Much of life happens in a ‘void’
The Singaporean “void deck” is a unique and versatile space. The deck – part of almost all public housing and some condos – usually takes up the space where the ground floor would be, making the block seem like it is up on stilts. It’s acrafty piece of design. In a land short on space, the void deck gives these apartments large areas of public space and the lack of a ground floor means you can walk through, rather than around, the large blocks. They are also social spaces where weddings are held, family members are mourned in large funeral feasts, or where you can sit and play checkers.
4. Singapore is not afraid of the dark
The Night Safari is the world’s first nocturnal zoo that only operates once the sun goes down. The Singapore Grand Prix, which fires up the Lion City each September, is also the world’s first Formula Onenight race.
5. Raffles Hotel was once on the beach
The address of Singapore’s most famous hotel is 1 Beach Road and it is not just a name. There used to be sand at the steps of the grand lobby and it was even known to flood. All you see now when you look out from the lobby is reclaimed land. Land reclamation is a huge business in the city-state that was just 581 square kilometres when it became independent in 1965. Now? It is a whopping 716.1 square kilometres.
6. It is one of only three city-states in the world
The other two are Monaco and Vatican City.
7. Singapore has a thing for record-breaking waterfalls
At 30 metres high, the waterfall in Jurong Bird Park is the highest manmade waterfall in the world. But not for long. Singapore is about to beat itself by building the Rain Vortex, a 40-metre high manmade water feature that will be the centrepiece of Jewel @ Changi, a new $1.5 billion shopping complex being built at the airport.
8. Singapore is not one island – it’s more than 60
Some of the islands, such as Pulau Ubin, can be visited for day trips or overnight stays, and most are uninhabited. Pulau Ubin is just a short bumboat ride from Changi Village on the east coast of Singapore proper, and has walking trails and a look out and is popular for those looking for how Singapore looked many years ago. Other islands include Ghost Island, Junk Island (made from landfill) and Frog Island.
9. The Singapore Sling is not the national cocktail
Not this year anyway. To celebrate the island nation’s 50th birthday in 2015 there was a competition to find a new national drink and the winner was the Singapura Nacional, a mash-up between a Sling and Cuban cocktail from the Hotel Nacional. It has gin, apricot brandy, fresh pineapple and lemon juice and spice syrup and was created by Ricky Paiva of Manhattan Bar at the Regent Hotel. He beat 35 other creations.
10. Singaporeans love acronyms
We may have a few in daily Australian life but the sheer number of acronyms that Lion City residents have to deal with will make you LOL. There are the roads: the Pan Island Expressway, the Kranji Expressway or the Central Expressway. You can ride the Mass Rail Transit to Choa Chu Kang station, if you don’t have a certificate of entitlement to drive on the roads, besides the roads of full of foreign talent who get their employment passes from the Ministry of Manpower but they can’t own Housing Development Board flats like the locals can. Even the prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and founder of the Singapore Lee Kwan Yew get the acronym treatment.
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Resource references: traveller.com