Singapore: Believe It or Not

How many surprises can one little red dot pack? You’d be, well, surprised!

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
How many surprises can one little red dot pack? You’d be, well, surprised!
Corbis, TPG/Click Photos
Corbis, TPG/Click Photos

Malay Street, Malabar Street and Hylam Street

If you’ve been to Bugis Junction, you may just have dismissed these street names as something clever a developer came up with. In fact, the three streets – also the only air-conditioned streets in Singapore – are some of the oldest in Singapore, with roots that can be traced back to our island’s earliest colonial history. A Hainanese clan association and Buddhist temple once lay along Malabar Street, while Malay Street was infamous for its red-light activities.

Dr Goh Keng Swee’s pineapple express

The honourable Dr Goh contributed lots of things to the nation but (sadly?) army-run pineapple farms wasn’t one of them. In the book, Goh Keng Swee: A Public Career Remembered, the former Director of Manpower for MINDEF Chia Cheong Fook recalls a comment by Dr Goh: “Eh, we have open fields. So many open fields, you know. Why can’t we plant pineapples? If we plant pineapples, we can get free dessert.” But as Mr Chia points out, “The idea turned out to be unfeasible as the soldiers needed the land for training.”

Singapore is a ghost town

At least, in Michigan, it is. The town of Singapore, Michigan, was founded in 1836 by a speculator hoping to turn it into a port town. It flourished for a while (it even had its own bank and currency!) before being destroyed by a great fire in 1871.

Made by Louis Vuitton, sourced in Singapore

That “exotic” reptile designer bag you’ve been lusting over? It might very well have come from just around the corner – Defu Lane, to be exact. With its fiftyyear history, Heng Long tannery has long been exporting exotic leathers to major fashion houses around the world, and in 2011, luxury conglomerate LVMH bought a majority stake in the business.

The SingaporeFlyer used to turn counter-clockwise

But its direction was reversed in August 2008, following the advice of feng shui masters.

One country, over 60 islands

You may have heard of Ubin, Tekong and Jurong, but what about Ular, Keppel and Jong? The number of islands in Singapore is also always changing, thanks to our ongoing land reclamation efforts.

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Welcome to complaint city? 

In 2014, Foreign Minister K Shanmugam shared a Facebook post that revealed some of the more bewildering requests that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had received from disgruntled citizens, hoping to find a bureaucratic solution to their problems. Some of the more outrageous requests?

1 A Singaporean seeking the assistance of the MFA to obtain a refund
after receiving unsatisfactory (illegal) sexual services from another

2 One chicken-enthusiast wanted the MFA to investigate a
case of “racial discrimination” – claiming that, while travelling, he
had been given a smaller piece of KFC chicken than the locals. Must’ve
been because he was Singaporean, of course!

3 Leave no man behind… or appliance. One traveller wanted the MFA to retrieve a kitchen appliance he had left behind because he had no money to pay for the excess baggage.

4 While the government has attempted to play Cupid with its single citizens, one man expected the Ministry to expedite his foreign lady’s divorce proceedings so that he could marry her, post-haste. Surely our birth rate isn’t that low…