49 lesser known facets of Singapore

As Singapore celebrates its 49th National Day this week, we feel that it's a good time to reminisce.

We scouted. We dug. And we present to you, 49 lesser known facets of Singapore in a particular rojak style.



1. Merlions


The Merlion statue in the vicinity of Merlion Park and One Fullerton is the one that comes readily to mind when 
someone asks about Singapore icons. But did you know there are 7 official Merlions in Singapore?



2. Hybrid flower, hybrid nation

Singapore has the unique distinction of being the only nation to have a hybrid as its national flower. An apt hint at our multi-cultural melting pot.


3. Not Chilli Crab.

Singapore crab
This tiny freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), measures a mere 3cm across the shell, is indigenous to Singapore.

It is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. Its notable role is in nutrient recycling and scientists believe it can help in predicting pollution & climate change.


4. The classic SIA Girl image

We are all familiar with our SIA Girl sarong kebaya. However, the design was the work of a Parisian couturier, Pierre Balmain, in 1968. Did you picked up that subtle French influence?


5. Forget Gardens by the Bay.  Every Singaporean kid contributed to this garden city.


6. Rollei in the dust

Back in 1970s, this line of cameras was produced here. 

Each camera rear was engraved with the words 'Made by Rollei Singapore'.



7. Grandpa's Tweeter 

Before Twitter, there was Tweeter. Prized birds are kept in cages not only promoted an avenue for recreational 
but also facilitated bonding of the community. Those interested can still observe this activity happening in neighbourhoods of Ang Mo Kio and Serangoon North. 

8. 20-storey Changi Tree

This tree stood at a massive 76m tall and was a landmark printed on maps before the 1900s. It was felled by the 
British in 1942 as a precautionary move. They had feared that the Japanese would use the tree as an alteration point. Planting explosives at its base, they managed to bring the gigantic structure down to its roots.



9. On the back of the Singapore $1,000 note, there is the National Anthem scripted in microtext.

If you happen to come across a $1,000 note, flip to the back and try spotting the lyrics!



10. MRT

The Mass Rapid Transit system is undoubtedly one of the national pet peeves that all Singaporeans can identify with. However, did you know the MRT system had a mascot of its own? 


His name is Captain SMRT and possibly one of the first few superheroes created locally. He was responsible for educating safety measures. SMRT could consider resurrecting him for the frequent breakdowns & line disruptions.



11. Butter up your coffee, literally.

At the traditional coffee shop, Heap Seng Leong, there's an iconic uncle in pyjamas pants serving good old cups of thick kopi. However, their 'speciality' would be kopi gu you (coffee with butter). While the idea of milk fats swimming in your kopi isn't the most appealing, you can be certain that it adds a layer of complexity & aroma.



12. Coke that cost you an arm and an arm

 Located in National University of Singapore (NUS), you can pay using both arms for a can of Coke.



13. Time travel to the last remaining kampong in Singapore.

It is good to slow down our fast-paced lives and appreciate the simpler things in life. Detach yourself from the conveniences of modern life as you enter this time portal.

Directions: Kampong Buangkok is located off Gerald Drive. The major road to note would be Yio Chu Kang Road. Look out for the handwritten white sign!



14. Singapore has 63 islands. Most of the tiny islands are uninhabited. 



15. A common household product, Darlie's old name was actually Darkie. 

Now you know why the toothpaste's Chinese name is called 黑人牙膏. Mystery unraveled.  



16. Parrot astrologers are our gypsies in the east.

They are the mystical yet common faces plying their trade in the neighbourhoods since the 1980s.



17. The city of books - Bras Basah Complex

Since the 1980s, this complex has been the one stop centre for educational & art materials.
Have you ever brought your booklist to the bookstore during the December holidays to prepare for the new term?


18. There was the simple iceball and its version 2.0, the ice kachang. 

There are probably hundreds of desserts you could lay your hands nowadays but for some of us, there is a tingling warm feeling sipping a bowl of traditional ice kachang.



19. Motorcycle with a side of car

Many legal restrictions have rendered the sidecar to be a rarity in today's traffic.

The inability to go on expressways is definitely a halting reason.



20. Enid Blyton Enchantment


Few will not know about Enid Blyton books. A British author, Enid specialized in writing books for children and her global book sales exceed 600 million.

For those of you who grew up reading her books, look out for the Famous Five big screen adventure!



21. Bird's eye view 

Hop down to URA gallery which features a downscaled Singapore city and enjoy the bigger picture.



22. Singa Lion cover up 

The courtesy ambassador is probably the most recognized mascot in Singapore.

The original design featured Singa looking happy pantlessly. 



23. No name roads in Singapore

In certain rural or restricted parts of Singapore, it may come as a surprise to find small roads with no names.

These are labelled as tracks and usually have a single or double suffix.



24. Romance of Hong Kong superstar, Chow Yun Fat.

Once a prominent landmark along Dunearn road, the now defunct Copthorne Orchid Hotel was the courtship ground for movie actor Chow Yun Fat. His Singaporean wife, Jasmine Tan, once worked as the receptionist of this hotel.



25. Disappearance of MacDonald's boys

This prominent case happened in 1986 where 2 primary students went missing in broad daylight. Their plight stirred up a national search and the people from MacDonald's had offered $100,000 for their information.

Till date, there has been no reliable news.




26. Ah Meng, Singapore Zoo

Singapore's poster girl who rubbed shoulders with dignitaries such as Prince Philip and Elizabeth Taylor. The news of Ah Meng's death in 2008 had eclipsed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, who died on the same day.



27. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - Last primary forest of Singapore

According to Dr David Bellamy, this nature reserve has almost 100 more tree species than the entire North America continent. That's a compact treasure trove of valuable flora and fauna in 1.64 square kilometres!



28. Singapore has been growing through land reclaimation and the land size in 2013 measured 716 kilometres.



29. Our less fortunate twin in the USA

It is said that deforestation contributed to the downfall of Singapore, Michigan.

Few would doubt that greenery helps sustain life.



30. Singaporeans - fastest walkers

A CNN study conducted in 2007 made that conclusion.
The head researcher, Professor Wiseman, suggested that walking speed is an indicator of the pace of life. They compared data collected from 32 cities and Singapore emerged first.



31. East Asia Chinese turtle oral disposal system.

The Chinese turtle is said to excrete waste from its mouth instead of kidneys.

Professor Ip Yeung Kwon and colleagues, from National University of Singapore, said that this ability to pass urea via oral route is unique to the species.



32. Hot Spring in Singapore

The only natural hot spring in Singapore whose source is unknown. Unlike the typical Japanese hot spring that jumps to mind, the well has been sealed in concrete walls. The steaming spring water flows freely from metal pipes into 3 different areas. If you are looking to dip in hot water, you'll need to bring your own bucket or inflatable bathtub.

Location: Along Gambas Avenue
Opening Hours: 7am to 7pm



33. Bukit Brown Cemetery

The direct line of Confucius can be traced in Bukit Brown Cemetery.

This perhaps emphasise the importance of preserving our heritage so that future descendants know their origin. 



34. The world's only night race - F1

Happening this Sept 19-21 2014,  those fuelled with F1 passion can look forward to an exhilerating night.



35. For the willing hearts

The absence of slums in Singapore do not signify a lack of less privileged people. 

Let kindness radiate, give back to society today!



36. Some traditions do not fade with passage of time.

Our coffee variations exceed 15 types and all are served in a humble plastic bag.



37. A moment on the lips but not to the hips?

According to Bloomberg (2012), Singapore is the healthiest country amongst 145 countries.

Another reason to celebrate with more food.



38. Not everyone is out to get you.

Be kind to one another. Start a ripple of kindness today and you might be surprised to see it return someday.



39. An army of 70, 000 

Clean and green. Singapore reputation for cleanliness is renowned, however, it can be attributed to these workers behind the scenes. It would be another milestone when our locals exhibit the same recycling habits as their European and Japanese counterparts.



40. Hawker Villain turned Hero

Lagoon Food Centre on ECP is Wang’s masterpiece: creating a beachfront-dining experience at affordable prices

A movement initiated by Daniel Wang and his team in 1973 consolidated mobile street food vendors into a permanent cluster creating the hawker centre. This turned out to be a defining feature for Singapore and our favourite national pastime.



41. Singapore Botanical Gardens Zoo. Not a typo.

This picture features a monkey house funded by Cheang Hong Lim in 1877.

It may be hard to imagine but in the 1870s, there were once animals housed in the Botanical Gardens.

The animals were mostly donated and included orang utans, rhinos, kangaroos and exotic birds.

Read more about it here.



42. Singaporeans, citizens of the Commonwealth

Singaporeans are entitled to certain rights in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.

Singaporeans enjoy the same civic rights as British citizens which include the right to vote in all elections (parliamentary, local, and European), to stand for election in British House of Commons, to sit in the House of Lords, and to hold public office. Terms & conditions apply!



43. Who is John Crawfurd?

Many of us know Sir Stamford Raffles or even William Farquhar as our founding fathers. It doesn't help that we associate the prestigious name 'Raffles' with grandeur either. Crawfurd was responsible for concluding the agreement started by Raffles in 1819. 

After all, in Amelia Earhart words, 'It is far easier to start something than it is to finish.'



44. Chop crocodile oil

Established in 1916, Chop Wah Oh medical hall is nearing a century old and sells its own products such as crocodile oil. For the skeptics, here is an article to consider.



45. Punggol = 'Hurling sticks at the branches of fruit trees to bring them down to the ground'

Punggol was once a fishing village and a district for growing fruit which may have conjured the current name.

The picture depicts Gallop Stable. Families can enjoy horse and pony riding here but the wagon shaped buildings are actually chalets open for booking to the public!



46. Mint

The world's first museum solely dedicated for toys.

The brainchild of Mr Chang Yang Fa. His collection exceeds 50,000 pieces of vintage toys and childhood memorabilia cherry-picked from over 40 countries ( For example, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States, and even Bulgaria).



47. Panasonic veggies

Singapore first licensed indoor vegetable farm

Logic dictates electronics and vegetables don't mix, but Panasonic is one defiant electronic giant. Sky Greens, a unit of Panasonic, is a 248 sqm farm located in a factory building on the outskirts of the city. 

The farm is said to produce up to 1 tonne of vegetables a day! Read more about it here



48.UIC Consumer Products

Singaporeans know many acronyms but UIC detergent is famous for its environmental-friendly detergent and its

infectious song.



49. Home

Little needs to be said about our nation's favourite song rendition. Dick Lee's work injected with indie vibre by our very own local band, The Sam Willows. 


Have a bashing good weekend !



Squalet Team


Acknowledgements: Photos originate from different sources and credits are to be given to the origins.