Report by Travel CNN
1. Food capital of the world
Singapore = Food. The city-state dominates the 'net with
food blogs where hungry netizens compare, dissect, argue and
swap foodie fodder, scouring the island for new tastes. And
nearly every conceivable victual from every earthly corner has
a home here. Fancy authentic Egyptian Baba Ghanoush? Arab
Street's got you covered. Crave something Nigerian besides a
scam e-mail? Find it on Verdun Road in Little India. If it's
edible and fits on a plate, bowl, banana leaf or sheet of
paper, we'll wolf it with zeal. But if you truly want to
sample Singapore’s food culture, head to any of the hawker
centers in the heartlands -- there’s a huge variety of stalls
there at dirt-cheap prices.
2. Green thrives in the big gray city
Singapore's a Garden City, literally. Amid the concrete
jungle we call home, there's the Botanical Gardens, HortPark,
MacRitchie Reservoir, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve -- each
claiming myriad varieties of flora and fauna.
But the most common impression left visitors to Singapore
concerns the rows of trees that line roads everywhere, from
expressways to suburban streets. It's not just a green facade
-- Singapore's a champion of environmental initiatives, from
the world's largest CNG refueling station to its
first Solar Greenlots for electric vehicles.
3. Greatest living politician
No one in Singapore, regardless of political stripe, has
anything but a healthy respect -- perhaps even awe -- for
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. He led Singapore to independence
in 1965 and served as its first Prime Minister for 31 years,
setting the record as the
world's longest-serving Prime Minister. He's the architect
of Singapore's present prosperity, laying a foundation of
nation-building which has taken Singapore from a sleepy little
island to one of Asia's most developed states, despite its
small population, limited space and lack of natural resources.
4. Dedicated to keeping us alive forever
Singapore has one of the best health care infrastructures
in the world, with various dignitaries and royals from the
region patronizing local hospitals -- Zimbabwe President
Robert Mugabe even slipped in quietly for a 'secret
cancer check-up' in 2008. The health care provision system
is also one of the world's best, so good that
some say it beats the proposed ObamaCare model.
5. First and only Night Race in the world
Singapore is the first F1 venue to
host a night race on its streets, and will do so for
several years to come. The inaugural race in 2008 also earned
the city-state an unfortunate distinction for being the one in
which Team Renault boss Flavio Briatore ordered Nelson Piquet
to crash, giving teammate Fernando Alonso the win. It's now
known as the Singapore 'Crashgate' scandal -- which might lend
some cred to Singapore's squeaky-clean image.
6. Water technology so good, we drink our own pee
Time magazine called Singapore
the global paragon of water conservation. Through sheer
effort, and more than a little desperation (Singapore imports
less than half the population's water from neighboring
Malaysia with agreements set to expire in 2011 and 2061), the
island turned to desalination technologies to provide for
thirsty citizens. The result is NeWater, which is non-potable
wastewater filtered into high-purity H2O that can be used for
industrial development and even drinking.
7. Most awesome crustacean dish of all time
The Singapore chili crab is famous. Despite what the
Malaysian Tourism Ministry claims, the dish is distinctly
Singaporean, as evidenced by the
Singapore Chilli Crab Festivals staged all across Europe.
Madam Cher Yam Tian
created the succulent recipe in 1950 and it's now the
unofficial national dish of a food-loving nation, with
restaurants and coffee shops serving it by the ton nightly.
8. English that no one else understands
It's the unofficial 'first language' of most Singaporeans
and one that would bewilder the remaining English-speaking
world. Singlish is the creole of choice for citizens, cobbled
together from various influences including Queen's English,
Bahasa Melayu, Tamil, dialects such as Hokkien, Teochew,
Cantonese, Bengali, Punjabi and even a smattering of various
other European, Indic and Sinitic languages. Word of warning
-- if you don't know it, don't try it. It'll make you sound
sillier than we already do. Eh, dun pray pray ah …
9. Connected, mobile and most oblivious to the
Thanks to its minuscule size, Singapore has the
infrastructure to support island-wide 3.5G mobile and wireless
internet access. According to Singapore’s Infocomm Development
Authority (IDA), there are
6.5 million mobile subscribers (as of July 2009), making
for a staggering 140-plus-percent mobile phone penetration
rate, and over four million in wireless broadband
subscriptions. This is why you’ll see Singaporeans with their
attentions dedicated to their phones, rather than their
10. Campaign-craziest place on earth
There’s a Singapore-wide campaign for everything -- Be
Courteous, Speak English, Speak Mandarin, Stop Dengue, Save
Water, Stop Littering, Be Kind, Don't Spit, and Stop At Two
are just a warm-up. We'd go on, but that would violate the
current Stop Prattling campaign.
11. Natural disaster-free … for the most part
Owing to our geographic location, Singapore is sheltered
from most of the natural disasters that afflict neighboring
countries and the rest of the world. Still, people get a kick
each time a strong wind blows down from the north or our
houses rumble from the aftershocks of Indonesian earthquakes.
12. Most crooked-backed kids
Small children toting oversized backpacks crammed with
books are common to our neighborhood streets. That would be
due to our educational system, with streaming programs that
start as early as primary four. This goes all the way up past
secondary school, until you are able to choose your preferred
13. Coolest place to get vertigo
Atop the 226-meter Swissotel the Stamford, Southeast Asia's
New Asia Bar is best for watching tipsy tourists and
partygoers try to make sense of its tilted 72nd floor (it
slants 20 degrees downwards for maximum eye-in-the-sky
effect). And if that's not dizzying enough, clamber up to the
top floor helipad for a 360-degree view of the bright lights
of Singapore. On a clear night you can see as far as
Indonesia. Just don't look down. Or fall over.
Swissotel The Stamford Singapore, 2 Stamford Road,
Singapore, tel +65 6837 3322.
14. You don’t expect to get mugged or knifed at 3am in our
Singapore has a
crime rate so low, ladies stroll without fear in the wee
hours of the night.
Humphreys, a UK-born columnist who planned to visit for
three months and ended up staying for almost 10 years,
how safe the island state was in his book, Notes from An
Even Smaller Island. And contrary to Western opinion, there's
no strong police presence poised to cane anyone for spitting,
chewing gum or scratching cars.
15. Craziest adrenaline junkie who won't quit
Khoo Swee Chiow, a.k.a. the first Singaporean to reach
Mount Everest (and once more without oxygen), a.k.a. the
record holder for the world's longest journey on skates
(6088km in 94 days), a.k.a. the man who broke the world record
for the longest controlled scuba dive, a.k.a, the cyclist who
rode from Singapore to Beijing in 73 days (8066km)… You get
the idea. He's off his rocker, but inspirational to anyone
with a yen for danger.
16. 'Public housing' aren't dirty words
In many countries, 'public housing' conjures images of
poverty, crime and places Rambo wouldn't tread without a
Sherman. Not so here. Public housing is actually pretty good,
with most of the population living in government-managed
apartments -- it's just not cheap. In fact, far from poverty,
Singapore has the
highest density of millionaires at 8.5 percent of the
17. The nanny state's loosening its grip
Filmmaker Martyn See's banned "Singapore Rebel" film, about
Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, has been
given the green light for public screening. Yes, it's four
years since it was banned, and it's been watched by half a
million people on
Google Video since, but it's a vital first step to more
liberal arts. Baby steps ...
18. The country's built as if out of Lego blocks
world's third most densely populated country, Singapore is
stacked neatly by an imaginary obsessive-compulsive Lego
master, one who's managed to cram shoulder-to-shoulder
buildings, religious institutions, parks, gardens, a water
catchment or 33, numerous restaurants, cafes, nightspots,
shopping malls and two award-winning zoos into an area just
shy of 700 square kilometers.
19. Vampire shopping
Singapore's stretch of
Orchard Road malls accommodate the most fickle shoppers,
connected as they are by an intricate network of underground
passages, tunnels, sheltered walkways, covered escalators and
the Mass Rapid Transit train line. Shop from
Atrium on one end to
City on the other without feeling the sun.
20. You can call it whatever you want
Digging into the history books,
Sang Nila Utama, the founder of modern Singapore, named
the island of Temasek as such when he saw what he thought was
a lion, took it as a good omen, and renamed the place 'Singapura,'
meaning "Lion city." The English 'Singapore' evolved from the
Malay name, hence the moniker 'Lion City' and one half of the
iconic Merlion. Zoologists maintain that lions probably never
lived there, not even Asiatic breeds, and that the beast seen
was more likely a tiger, probably the Malayan Tiger. Funny how
the island's eponymous animal never really existed. But, then
'Harimaupura' (Tiger-city) doesn't have quite the same kick.
21. Last bastion of colonialism
Raffles Hotel still plays refuge to the time-displaced,
khaki-shorted British jocks of pre-Independence Singapore.
It's also home of the original Singapore Sling and one of the
best places to have an old-fashioned English tea. Just don't
ask about the tale of the tiger under the hotel or you'll get
an hour-long history lesson.
1 Beach Road, Singapore, tel +65 6337 1886.
22. Most educated, comfortable and honest taxi drivers
OK, so our cabbies aren't the most educated, but we do have
Cai Mingjie, the "only taxi driver in this world with a
PhD from Stanford and a proven track record of scientific
accomplishments." But educated or not, like cabbies
everywhere, our taxi drivers are full of opinions and
political commentary -- just ask what they think of the
government and watch their mouths outrace their motors in RPM.
Plus, all taxis are meticulously maintained, with twice-daily
washes and a rigid fare structure. The rides might cost more
than other Southeast Asian countries, but you'll never get
cheated or over-charged.
23. The best Airport in the World
It's the pearl of Singapore's eastern end, voted
Best Airport by more magazines and organizations than anywhere
else. Families plan weekend excursions here, students
spend inordinate amounts of time studying and daydreaming
within its four terminals, and over 37 million passengers
passed through its gates in 2008. There's a great transit
hotel in the form of the
Hotel Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, an orchid garden
complete with a koi pond, free video games and movies 24 hours
a day and free wireless internet throughout the airport. Why
does anyone ever depart this place?
Singapore Changi Airport, 75 Airport Blvd, Singapore, tel
+65 6595 6868.
24. World’s youngest iPhone developer
Lim Ding Wen has written an
iPhone app called Doodle Kids that allows you to paint on
the iPhone using shapes like triangles, circles and squares
composed of random colours and sizes. Within a week of Doodle
Kids' release through the App Store, it was downloaded more
than 1,100 times. Ding Wen's now busy porting his Apple IIGS
title Invader Wars to the iPhone. What's the big deal? He
turned nine this year.
25. The greatest theme rides this side of the Equator
With the newly opened
Universal Studios Singapore offering 24 movie-themed rides
and attractions, including a pair of carefully coordinated
roller coasters, seven zones (The Lost World and Hollywood
Boulevard, for example), dinosaurs, lemurs, ogres, Egyptian
mummies and the world's first Transformers Ride, Singapore's
monopoly on amusement in the region is secure. Universal
Studios has promised that this will be the only park it opens
in Southeast Asia for the next 30 years.
26. The most morbidly named island
Our very own pleasure island of
was once known as
Pulau Blakang Mati, which in Malay means "Island (pulau)
of Death (mati) from Behind (blakang)."
All of this was swept under the dead grass carpet when the
Singapore Tourist Promotion Board launched a campaign to
rename the island 'Sentosa,' a Malay word meaning "peace and
tranquility." It obviously worked, considering it's visited by
some five million peace seekers a year.
Sentosa Island Singapore, tel 1800-SENTOSA (736-8672).
27. Nostalgic about Communism
Museum of Shanghai Toys (MoST) is home to tin toys made in
China during the early 1900s. The displays are packed with
wind-up walking robots, classic car replicas and ruddy-cheeked
dolls, just for starters. And if you’re itching to get your
hands on one, the museum store sells the actual tin toys
imported from China, along with postcards and retro posters
smacking with "messages" from the Cultural Revolution. Mao
you're talking! Museum Of Shanghai Toys, 83 Rowell Road,
Singapore, tel +65 6294 7747.
28. Flimsiest excuse to gather thousands of people and
play with lanterns
During Swing KPE! in September, 2008 over
10,000 people took to the KPE Tunnel with lanterns in hand,
breaking the record of 2,204 lanterns previously set in Kiel,
Germany in November, 2001. Singapore bagged the longest
Guinness lantern parade record with an overwhelming 10,568
29. Every healthy male can shoot a gun
Compulsory conscription in Singapore of all male
18-year-old Singaporean citizens and permanent residents means
that every one of them can aim and fire a gun. Whether they'll
ever put it to use is another matter altogether, since
national service lasts only two years.
30. Tissue Paper Phenomenon
Loiter around any food court or crowded working class
eatery during lunchtime, and you'll likely find tissue packs
scattered about the tables. But they're not freebies courtesy
of the management -- they're how the natives 'chope' (reserve)
their seats. It's bizarre, but strangely BYOT does make some
sense in a time-saving way. Sort of?
31. TNG-TWSTG, MND-BGLG ACRNMS
There's a whole new subculture of acronyms permeating
Singapore, and it's ingrained enough to have spawned
a Wikipedia glossary, from AMK to AYE, from CPF to COE.
Though the only one you'd likely use is SOS. It makes us
32. Stretch a dollar till it hollers
Get a decent chunk of ice cream wrapped in soft, fluffy
bread along Orchard Road, quaff a nice piping cup of jet-black
coffee in any of the numerous 'kopitiams' (coffee shops) or
stay at a spanking new hotel for just one dollar. How's
that for recession busting?
33. Perpetuating the stereotype that Asians are
Singapore loves its books -- there are
22 well-stocked public libraries scattered throughout the
island, with the monster of all literary stockpiles at the
Central Lending Library shelving over 200,000 books for
loan, browsing or killing eight hours. If that's not enough,
specialized bookstores such as
Polymath & Crust,
have sprung up for insatiable readers.
Central Lending Library, Level B1 National Library
Building, 100 Victoria Street, Singapore, tel +65 6332 3255.
34. Highest place in the world to watch the wheels go
round and round
At 165 meters (the height of a 42-story building and some
30 meters taller than the London Eye), the Singapore Flyer is
the biggest observation wheel in the world. It's worth the
half-hour ride for its 360-degree view of Singapore, from the
Marina Bay to the Singapore River, Raffles Place, Merlion
Park, Empress Place and the Padang.
30 Raffles Avenue, #01-07, Singapore, tel +65 6854 5200.
35. Gong Li and Jet Li are at home here. You don't think
you're better than them, do you?
Two of the biggest Chinese names in Hollywood call
Singapore home -- she married Singaporean businessman Ooi Hoe
Soeng in 1996 and became a Singaporean citizen in 2008. He
followed suit in 2009, choosing Singapore for its exemplary
36. The Origins of Tech Legends
The Sound Blaster family of sound cards, credited to have
brought real audio to the average PC in 1989, was the
brainchild of tech poster boy Sim Wong Hoo of Singapore-based
Creative Technology. The first Macintosh classic was also
said to have been assembled and built in Apple's Ang Mo Kio
plant, as was rumored the first iMac, iBook and iPod in its
top-secret research facilities here.
37. Magicians meet fruity umbrella drinks -- finally
Bar 84 is famous for its on-site Japanese magician. But be
bold -- its regulars have been trying to keep Bar 84 under
wraps since it first opened a few years back, and the bouncers
at the door can scare you into questioning your suitability
for entry. But once inside, you can enjoy the nightly magic
show by owner/bartender Hashi-san.
The Gallery Hotel, 1 Nanson Road, Singapore, tel +65 6235
38. The coolest pairing of comic book superheroes (or most
unfortunate name ever)
Batman Bin Suparman, born in Singapore to Javanese
parents, has a lot to live up to if his namesake is any guide.
He's even got his own
Facebook Fan Club. The wedgies this kid receives must be
39. Greatest collection of ‘-opolis'es
Entrepolis -- we can make an ancient Greek society out of
anything, like these government names for major institutes,
events and agencies. Welcome to Imaginapolis!
40. Iconic buildings inspired by nocturne sex
Beijing has its Bird's Nest Stadium. Taipei has its Bamboo
Skyscraper. And Singapore has the Durian Theaters. The
Esplanade Theatres on the Bay were designed to express
harmony with nature, reflecting the balance of yin and yang.
But they've, instead, been compared to the eyes of flies,
copulating aardvarks and Chinese dumplings. Locals just call
them the "Durians."
The Esplanade Theatres, 1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore, tel
+65 68288 377.
41. Artery-choking, coma-inducing, prehistoric milk drinks
Milo Dinosaur has made its way across the Malaysia border
and has spawned new offspring in Singapore. The ultra-chocolatey
drink, which is basically a cup of Milo topped with an extra
spoonful of undissolved Milo powder, has the Milo Godzilla
(added ice cream and whipped cream) trailing after, together
with siblings "Horlicks Dinosaur" (a variant with the malt
drink power) and "Neslo" (combined with Nescafe powdered
42. Best little alternative culture shop in the heart of
Straits Records specializes in straight-edge culture,
stocking obscure punk music tee-shirts, niche books and titles
in various formats from around the world. Vegan owner Ridhwan
hosts ad-hoc indie performances, ﬁlm screenings and art shows
in his little store, on rooftops and in basement car parks.
Can't this guy do anything mainstream?
766, North Bridge Road, Singapore, tel +65 9769 4837 /
Opens Monday to Friday, 3pm - 11pm, Saturday & Sunday,
12pm to 11pm.
43. Most complex coffee ordering procedure ever
Everyday, in kopitiams (local coffee shops) all over
Singapore, coffee stall attendants with bellows for lungs yell
out drink orders in the most perplexing code this side of the
Causeway. "Kopi-o peng gao jit puay" means one iced thick
coffee without milk and less sugar, while "teh-si siew dai sua
neng puay" means two cups of tea with condensed milk and less
sugar. Don't bother, most Singaporeans just place their drink
orders in plain ol' indecipherable Singlish.
44. Hang out with purple-haired artists doodling on walls
while blowing smoke rings out of an Egyptian shisha
is Singapore's must-visit street, where streams of curious
tourists, design students and wannabe fashionistas gather to
hunt for great local finds, designer clothes and accessories.
Expect rows of small boutiques packed with vintage dresses,
classic bags, shoes and even cameras. Take time to check out
the graffiti on the walls -- it's one of the best collections
of street art around.
45. Toilets are taken (too) seriously
Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) wants its public
toilets so clean you can eat off the lids. To do that, they
comb the island in search of the causes of dirty crappers and
spread the Good Word on good toilet etiquette.
46. We keep it Old School
Old School by name, old school by design and old school by
location. With local artists shacked up in the old retrofitted
schoolhouse, art galleries, design studios and agencies, and a
cinema that plays regional films, Old School's is a magnet for
those with an alternative bent. Hang around in the evening and
get to know the local musicians and their followers who flock
to the beer and live music at
11B Mount Sophia, Singapore, tel +65 6338 7682.
47. We're more than happy to kick the crap out of you
(it's for your benefit!)
There's no mystic sensei-student bond, no sagely David
Carradine figure offering cryptic advice, no special effects
to fake the blood and bruises, no "Eye of the Tiger"
soundtrack in the background. What there is at
Evolve Mixed Martial Arts, however, is full-on,
knuckle-cracking, blood-and-sweat contact sport, with hellish
routines that’ll leave you feeling like a puddle of pâté.
#02-22 POMO Mall, 1 Selegie Road, Singapore, tel +65 6337
Open Monday-Friday 7:30am-10pm, Saturday & Sunday 11am-6pm
Spread over a sprawling 70,000-square-foot space,
St James Power Station was Singapore’s first coal-fired
power station, but now is nine separate clubs housed under one
red-bricked roof. Do a salsa in Movida, hop over to Powerhouse
for house beats, goof off to campy top-40s in the Boiler Room,
try yum seng glasses of Martell in Dragonfly, or catch local
bands such as EIC at Bar None.
3 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore, tel +65 6270 7676.
Opens Sunday to Thursday 8pm-3am, Friday & Saturday 8pm-4am
for most outlets
49. Everyone's apparently related
It's strangely comforting when everyone (and we mean
everyone) is accorded a familial term, including the Ice Cream
Uncle on Orchard Road, or that Toilet Auntie at Far East
Plaza. If your taxi driver's younger than you, then it's 'brudder'
or 'sistah', or just 'boss,' if you want to score some brownie
50. Cutest appellation for a country
The Lion City. The Garden City. The Asian Tiger. The 'Fine'
City. All venerable nicknames, but the perennial favorite has
to be the Little Red Dot. We're so small and unnoticeable on
the world map, some dusty cartographer with Harry Potter specs
had to use a red dot to denote our location. But notice us the
world did, with accolades such as the 'easiest place for
business,' the 'most livable city in Asia' and the 'best city
in the world to live in for Asia expatriates.' We are
Singapore, hear us roar.
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