Our journey around the world continues with a stop at Lion City or the Little Red Dot, a region you may know as the Republic of Singapore. Located on the southern tip of Asia at the edge of peninsular Malaysia, this global financial center is unbelievably rich with culture, history, and commerce, which made picking only 10 amazing facts about Singapore a difficult task.
Independence from Malaysia
When looking at the big picture, as a sovereign country, Singapore is fairly young. It wasn’t until August 9th, 1965 that it separated from Malaysia to become an independent entity, and with how the country has prospered, it certainly wasn’t a fool’s move. What’s surprising is that just 2 years earlier, Singapore entered the Malaysia Agreement and the Federation of Malaysia was formed, comprised of Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, and Singapore. Even before becoming one large union, political discord was common among the two political parties, the People’s Action Party and the United Malays National Organization. An outbreak of violence over the tension occurred between July 21st and September 2nd of 1964 and it started to become very clear that the federation may not be able to sustain itself. By June of 1965, separating Singapore from Malaysia was imminent and inevitable.
Singapore and Commerce
When you think of Singapore, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If it’s not commerce and trade, then you may not know the Republic of Singapore as well as you thought! The country has become known as a global figure of commerce and has been declared the most “technology-read” nation, the country with the 3rd largest foreign exchange market, the 3rd largest financial center, and the 3rd largest trading center. All of these accolades have culminated in Singapore being the only country in Asia to earn a AAA sovereign rating with all major credit rating agencies. The lack of limitations on how open the economy is has helped Singapore garner a per-capita GDP that surpassed world powers like the United States.
Singaporean World Records
Every country has records to be prideful over, with Singapore being no different. For instance, how can one not feel national pride for the June 2005 record of the world’s largest collection of tortoises and turtles, which was earned by Danny Tan and his collection of 3,456 specimens? There’s also the world’s smallest optical mouse at just over 1-inch or 42 millimeters, which is both impressive and practical! In this day and age, being able to type the fastest text message is something to tout, and on three separate occasions, Singaporeans broke the record on non-touch screen phones. Finally, who can forget that time 263 people gathered in Singapore donning the classic Ghostbusters’ “No Ghost” symbol to honor the arrival of Melissa McCarthy? If there’s any doubt, that was recognized by the Guinness World Records.
The Islands of Singapore
There are many incredible aspects of Singapore and just off the coast of the city-state are upwards of 60 different individual facets that provide their own worlds of wonder. While many of Singapore’s 60 plus islands are little more than unexplorable land-masses, there are quite a few that serve as their own private paradises. Islands like Pulau Satumu, Pulau Serangoon, Pulau Ubin, and Kusu Island offer bits of historical and cultural wonder coupled with the occasional up-close-and-personal journey through untouched nature. On October 1st, 1958, the United Kingdom released rule of the mineral-rich Christmas Island from Singapore to Australia so that the latter could benefit from the phosphate reserves found on the island.
Singapore may be a beautiful country to visit, but before making any travel arrangements, you may want to brush up on your Singaporean law to avoid being publicly caned. That’s right, caning is still implemented, but not just for crimes. It’s also a means of discipline in schools and the military. In an effort to cut down on the unsightliness of chewed gum being left everywhere, the country enacted a ban on chewing gum. The only gum allowed is for dental purposes or nicotine gum. If that sounds extreme, a statute covering offenses against public order and nuisance technically makes playing a musical instrument in public a possible crime if it’s deemed an annoyance. On a more positive note, that guy that refuses to flush the toilet before letting you use it would also be subject to legal action.
World Toilet Day
In November of 2001, the World Toilet Organization formed and held the inaugural World Toilet Summit as a means of spreading awareness about the otherwise unknown global sanitation crisis. While recognized in the private sector, the World Toilet Organization, which started recognizing November 19th as World Toilet Day, found progress constipated by lack of worldwide recognition – that is until the Government of Singapore stepped in and took the toilet by the seat. In 2013, Singapore filed its first UN resolution titled “Sanitation for All,” bringing worldwide attention to the World Toilet Organization’s movement. By July 24th, 2013, the resolution received sponsorship from 122 countries and the UN adopted World Toilet Day as an official day.
Being an Asian country, clearly, the official language of Singapore would be something influenced by the region, right? Well, that’s partially right. You see, Singapore recognizes four official languages: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and, you guessed it, English! Wait a tick. One of these things is not like the other! Back in the early 19th century, British settlers called a small slice of Singapore home. Though the port colony was temporary, when Singapore gained independence in 1965, it kept English around as a means of bridging ethnic gaps. Over the years, English, which has become more Americanized in the region, has become a predominant language spoken within Singaporean homes.
Things to Do in Singapore
If admiring the sheer beauty of the country isn’t enough, there is quite the offering of things to see and do in Singapore. For a little bit of natural history, the Singapore Botanical Garden is a 156-year-old paradise inducted as the only tropical garden UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers in need of an adrenaline rush will anxiously await a ride on the 541-foot or 165-meter tall observation wheel or a climb up the 429-foot or 131-meter tall Tiger Sky Tower. Of course, if thrill rides and amusement are what you’re looking for, there’s always Universal Studios Singapore. To brush up on your Asian and local history, a trip to the Chinatown Heritage Centre or Peranakan Museum may also be in order.
We could debate over whether or not Jet Li or Jackie Chan are true Singaporeans after emigrating from China, but we’d rather skip ahead and honor the true faces of Singapore - the nationals that have Singapore running through their blood. Actors and actresses that represent Singapore include Chen Guohua, Cheryl Chin, Anwar Hadi, and Melvinder Kanth. Making up the country’s finest athletes are Joseph Schooling, Jasmine Ser Xiang Wei, and Derek Kong, all who participated for Team Singapore in past Olympic Games. Singapore is also home to Singaporean-turned-Canadian actress Erika Tham and Singaporean-turned-American Twilight actor Monroe Jackson Rathbone. Looking for the YouTubers? Be sure to check out channels like Singapore with JianHao Tan, Wah!banana, ClickNetwork, and TreePotatoes.
The Food of Singapore
Wondering what culinary delights await you should you ever make the trip to Singapore? Before diving into the types of cuisine, let’s explore where you may be indulging in these fine eats. Hawker centers, commonly found in Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, are outdoor hubs lined with inexpensive eateries, like an American food court, just government owned and held to a slightly higher standard. Should you find a suitable stall to dine in, you may find yourself chowing down on the “national” dish, chicken rice, or other favorites like fried carrot cake, laksa, kaya toast, rojak, char kway teow, or hokkien prawn mee. Being a coastal country, expect a lot of seafood, including crab, prawns, and the occasional fish head.