Each month in our Expat Living print magazine, our regular “Singapore Pages” feature presents a grab-bag of interesting facts, tips and trivia, covering everything from Singapore history to current news. Here are some snippets from our most recent issues, covering everything from the Second World War to natural science, Guiness World Records and more. Check back regularly for new stories!
Flashback – Singapore’s first phones
When was the first phone call made in Singapore?
Possibly 142 years ago, in 1879. That was the year when Bennett Pell (1842- 1912), local manager of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, set up an exchange on the island. Singapore became known as the first city in the East to have a telephone system. (Alexander Graham Bell had only patented his new invention three years earlier, in 1876!) One of the very early connections was made between Raffles Square and Tanjong Pagar.
Despite this, it would be another 58 years before Singapore’s phone network went international, when a call to London was connected on 1 December 1937.
The first public coin-operated phone probably appeared in Singapore in the 1950s; by the early 1960s there were 250 of these, rising rapidly to 650 by 1965. (remembersingapore.org) The switch from coins to cards happened in the mid-1980s, in part to avoid the problem of people stealing coins from the boxes.
As mobile phones came into vogue, pay phones began to be phased out. And, with mobile phone penetration currently at around 150 percent of the population (that is, every person owns one and a half phones!), you’ll likely see fewer and fewer of them.
Did you know?
Singapore phone numbers had just five digits in the 1950s; an extra digit was added in the 1960s, and then seven digits became the norm in the 1980s. The eight-digit numbers we know today were introduced in 1995 for mobile phones and pagers (with the addition of a “9” at the front) and in 2002 for land lines (with the addition of a “6”).
Meet the Malayan Colugo
Along with all those macaques trying to steal your picnic treats at MacRitchie Reservoir, there are some interesting creatures that call Singapore home. Here we take a look 10 facts about one of them, the Malayan colugo.
- Malayan colugo is just one name you’ll hear this animal given. It’s also commonly referred to as the Sunda colugo, Malayan flying lemur, Sunda flying lemur, flying cat, cobego and kubong.
- What exactly is a colugo? Well, it’s not a lemur, and it can’t fly – so a few of those names we just mentioned aren’t too accurate! Officially, a colugo is an arboreal (tree-dwelling) gliding mammal that is native to Southeast Asia.
- The flying reference comes from the fur-covered membrane that stretches between the colugo’s limbs and fingers, which works like a cape (think Batman…) and allows the creature to glide from tree to tree. How far? One individual has been recorded travelling 150 metres in a single glide.
- While they’re elegant in the air, the Malayan colugo is an awkward-looking tree climber, moving up and down the trunk with a stop-start hopping motion. And on the ground they’re even less mobile – in fact, they go out of their way to avoid the jungle floor.
- The animal’s diet includes leaves, buds, flowers, shoots, fruit and sap.
- In Singapore, while they’re relatively common, they can be tricky to spot as they’re almost wholly nocturnal. Take a quiet early morning stroll on the trails and boardwalks at Lower Peirce Reservoir, and you’ve got a decent chance. Colugos have also been seen in more built-up areas – even in the Botanic Gardens.
- The Malayan colugo is also found in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
- It has amazing stereoscopic vision, allowing it to easily see which branch it’ll grab onto at the end of a glide, even in very dim lighting.
- While they look like the most mellow of animals, Malayan colugos can apparently make a racket, especially when two males are fighting. Their call has been described as a very loud “ripping” sound that can be heard from a considerable distance.
- Nobody knows exactly how many of these creatures live in Singapore; in 1994, they were listed as being vulnerable, based on an estimated population of just 200 animals; today, it’s generally thought this number is in the low thousands instead.
Find out more about Singapore wildlife in our series of nature stories at expatliving.sg.
Lovers of military history are in a for a treat, with another important Second World War site in Singapore reopening after a makeover.
Having closed in 2018 for a major reno, Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) is now open again. The museum tells the story of the Battle of Pasir Panjang (12-15 February 1942), when heavily outnumbered soldiers from the Malay Regiment fought valiantly against a much bigger force of 13,000 Japanese troops.
RBC is located on Pepys Road in Kent Ridge Park; it’s housed in a bungalow that was built in 1930 for senior British staff of an opium packing plant further down the hill. Right nearby is “Point 226”, the military position that marks the heroic last stand of the Regiment.
There are, of course, all kinds of military-themed artefacts to explore, from rifles and machine-guns to bullets and helmets. What’s also interesting, though, are the everyday objects that archaeologists have retrieved from the site. Here are three of them:
#1 This small bottle made of handblown glass dates to the early or mid-20th century. It’s most likely a Chinese medicine vial, perhaps used by a domestic helper.
#2 Made of tin, this mess cup was owned by the Regiment’s Lieutenant Ibrahim Sidek; he was executed by the Japanese on 28 February 1942.
#3 A more recent discovery is this silver and glass talisman with a scroll inscribed with a Thai writing script. It perhaps belonged to a labourer working in Singapore around 40 years ago.
The reopening of Bukit Chandu comes hot on the heels of the new-look Changi Chapel and Museum beginning operations again this year, also after a three year redevelopment. You can read more about that site in our June 2021 issue.
RBC is at 31-K Pepys Road. Entry is $5 (free for Singapore citizens and PRs) and $15 for a family. Open daily except Monday.
Singapore from South to North
If you’re making the trip from Boat Quay to the Woodlands Checkpoint these days, it’ll take around 30 minutes, zipping along the AYE, PIE or CTE. But what about 130 years ago?
Reverend George Murray Reith (1863-1948) was a Scottish minister of Singapore’s local Presbyterian church (plus a member of the Straits Philosophical Society and the Raffles Library), and a keen traveller on the side. He wrote one of the earliest guidebooks to the island, Handbook to Singapore, published in 1892. Below is his account of the half-day journey to Johor (“Johore”).
From the Wharves to Kranji via Singapore Town, and thence to Johore Bahru.
“If the traveller has ten to twelve hours to spare, he cannot do better than cross the island to Kranji, and thence pass over to the kingdom of Johore on the mainland; for he passes through the town of Singapore en route, and also has the opportunity of seeing the general appearance of the coffee, gambier and pepper plantations, and of the jungle in the interior of the island.
A carriage and horses for this excursion can be hired from one of the Livery Stables. From the Christian Cemetery, instead of turning into Thompson Road, the traveller keeps his course along the Bukit Timah Road, on which, seven miles out, he passes the hill that gives its name to the road: Bukit Timah or “ Hill of Tin”, the highest point in the island (height 519 feet).
The ascent of this hill is made by carriage or on foot. There is a Government Bungalow on the summit, to which residents go occasionally for a change of air. There are two Mission Chapels in the Bukit Timah district, for Chinese converts. One belongs to the English Presbyterian Mission; the other, the Chapel of St. Joseph, to the French Catholic Mission. From Bukit Timah to Kranji, the road winds through plantations and jungle for seven miles. At the village of Kranji there is a small pier whence Chinese and Malay sampans transport passengers across the Strait to Johore.
The Johore Strait (Silat Terbau), varying from three quarters of a mile to two miles in breadth and thickly wooded on both sides to the water’s edge, charms the visitor with beauties that are peculiar to land and water scenery; the ever-changing light and shade throw the landscape into combinations of colour as pleasing as they are varied. Travellers have compared it favourably with the Rhine scenery, with Loch Lomond, and with the best views on the estuaries of the Forth and the Tay.
Johore Bahru (“New Johore”), the capital of the dominions of the Sultan of Johor and Muar, is a town with a population of 20,000. The chief place of interest is the Istana, or palace, which faces the Strait. It has been tastefully furnished in the European style by the present Sultan, who is a staunch ally of the British Government.”
New Street Art
There are a couple of cool new alfresco art installations to enjoy right now – track them down on your next weekend wander!
The People’s Gallery
National Gallery Singapore has rolled out The People’s Gallery, which transforms more than 25 open spaces around the island – mostly void decks of HDB blocks – into galleries for discovering 50 surprising artworks by Singapore and Southeast Asian artists, using QR codes and Augmented Reality (AR) technology. The void decks are located in eight heartland neighbourhoods: Bishan, Toa Payoh, Jurong West, Marine Parade, Serangoon, Pasir Ris, Punggol and Yishun.
Singapore Art Museum
Though the museum itself is closed for a major makeover, it continues to be a “Museum in Action”, by bringing art to everyday and unexpected spaces in Singapore. For instance, keep an eye out for the newly commissioned artworks by Kray Chen and Sam Lo on the hoardings of SAM’s heritage buildings along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street. Pictured is one section of Sam Lo’s piece, Our Future is In(con)clusive.
Find out more at singaporeartmuseum.sg/museuminaction.
Last year, we previewed the new Hougang Heritage Trail in our Singapore Pages. Now, there’s another new trail to explore! The National Heritage Board’s Sembawang Heritage Trail launched in August 2021 and features 21 historic sites across three different routes, each taking a couple of hours. Here’s a taste of what you’ll discover.
#1 Giant Dock
Sembawang boasted the world’s largest dry dock in the 1930s. Named the King George VI Dry Dock, it was over 300 metres long and could fit the Royal Navy’s largest battleship. Once a ship entered, water was pumped from the dock so repair works could be carried out on dry land. When Britain withdrew its military forces from Singapore in the late 1960s, the dockyard became a commercial operation, the Sembawang Shipyard.
#2 House on the Coast
Sembawang’s Former Admiralty House is a gazetted National Monument and was once home to the most senior officer at the former Sembawang Naval Base. Called Nelson House for a time, after Lord Nelson, it’s been renamed Canberra House and is being developed as a community hub and library, opening in 2022.
Sembawang fact file
- Located at Singapore’s pointy northern end, east of Woodlands, north of Yishun.
- First mentioned in maps from the early 1800s (as “River Tambuwang”)
- Named after the pokok sembawang, a tall tree found in various parts of Southeast Asia, and still in Sembawang Park today.
- Once a major rubber-growing area (early 1900s), then an important naval facility for Britain’s Far East Fleet.
#3 Scoring Goals
A famous Sembawangian (if that’s a word!) is Singapore former national football player Quah Kim Song; he used to live in a coastal kampong in the area and play football with the dockyard workers at the Deptford Road field (pictured). Renowned as a fast striker, he scored two goals in the 1977 Malaysia Cup Final in Kuala Lumpur to help Singapore claim a 3-2 victory over Penang.
#4 Boiled Eggs
Singapore’s only natural hot spring park is in Sembawang. It was converted into an onsen during the Japanese Occupation, before becoming a popular spot in the 1950s to cook eggs or soak sore muscles. (Bathing during horseracing season would apparently bring good luck.) You can visit today – and still cook eggs! Check nparks.gov.sg for updates around COVID restrictions.
#5 From Tree to Temple
The Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple dates to 1962, when a dockyard worker had a dream about a Hindu god and a golden cobra under a jujube tree. The worker then saw the same tree from his dream near Canberra Road and began to pray at it. A simple altar was built, then a wooden shed, and finally, in 1971, a proper temple.
If you’re a history buff, there are 20 other official trails and walks to follow in Singapore – from Tampines to Tiong Bahru – taking you past points of interest and information signs. Find out more and download maps at roots.gov.sg/visit/trails.
At the recent Tokyo Olympic Games, Singapore unfortunately didn’t come away with a medal. While there was a bit of fuss about this from some corners, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Team SG was only 23 strong. America sent 657 athletes to the Games!
Here are some other stats:
Singapore at the Games
Number of Olympic appearances: 17 (1948-2020)
Number of Olympics with no medals: 13
First medal of any colour: Silver, 1960 Rome
First gold: Joseph Schooling, 2016, Rio
Total medal haul over 72 years: 5 (1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze)
Rather than dwell on numbers, though, let’s focus on the stories – and we’re sure the athletes who performed their hearts out in Tokyo have a few to tell. For now, though, here’s the tale of Singapore’s first ever medallist, Tan Howe Liang.
Tan was a weightlifter whose two Olympic appearances were dramatic, to say the least! At the 1956 Games in Melbourne, he blacked out while attempting a particularly heavy lift. The team manager tried to retire him from the competition, but he insisted on finishing, coming a very respectable ninth.
In Rome, four years later, Tan suffered pain in his legs after his first lift, and the authorities tried to shuffle him off to the athletes’ village for treatment. Tan didn’t give up. He went on to beat 33 competitors on his way to claiming silver for Singapore. Oh, and he also broke a world record for the clean and jerk in the lightweight category!
Another nine Olympic Games would pass before the country won another medal, a silver in table tennis at the Beijing Olympics.
100th Anniversary of Amber Road
It’s interesting what you find when you dig into the past. In one of our recent Street Talk columns in our print magazine, we chatted to a family who lived in Amber Gardens. When we took a casual look in the books to see if it had any historical significance, we quickly discovered it does!
Located in Tanjong Katong, Amber Gardens runs perpendicular to the L-shaped Amber Road, at the western end of Marine Parade Road. It was built exactly a century ago this year. The word “Amber” appears in various placenames in the neighbourhood and elsewhere in Singapore from that time, and while its direct origin is unknown, it’s almost certainly connected to the family of Joseph (“Joe”) Aaron Elias (1881-1949). (His mother was sometimes referred to as Mrs Sarina Elias Amber.)
According to Singapore Infopedia, Elias was a prominent Jewish businessman of the day; he owned one of Singapore’s first shopping centres, Amber Mansions. It was located near where Dhoby Ghaut MRT is today, and was demolished in 1984.
The area around Amber Road was also the site of an earlier Malay kampong, Kampong Amber, which was active in the 1940s and 1950s, and known for the multiculturalism of its Chinese, Indian and Malay villagers.
Another piece of trivia: Mandalay Villa was a prominent house on Amber Road, and apparently the place where Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew proposed to his wife, Kwa Geok Choo!
The Chinese Swimming Club, which is still on Amber Road today, was launched in 1905 as a swimming group for Straits Chinese who couldn’t join the Singapore Swimming Club set up for European members by the British. Some superb swimmers launched their careers at the club, including Patricia Chan, Singapore’s flag bearer at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and Mark Chay, who swam at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics (and who was recently appointed a new Nominated Member of Parliament.
Check out the Chiku
Singapore is a goldmine for fans of tropical fruit. Go to any food centre and you’ll find an amazing array of fruit that you can enjoy either fresh on a stick, or in juices, ice creams and more. We’ve tried most of them, from rambutan and mangosteen, to durian and dragon fruit, but we admittedly know less about chiku (also “ciku” and “chikoo”). If you’re in the dark, too, here are 10 fast facts!
- Native to Central and South America, chiku came to Singapore via the Philippines, where it was introduced during Spanish colonisation.
- It’s commonly known in many Englishspeaking countries as sapodilla.
- The fruit is round or egg-shaped, and up to 10 centimetres in diameter. It has a thin, brownish-grey skin and a light brown-orange flesh with large black seeds.
- The taste of chiku has been described as “caramel-like” – or “pear sprinkled with sugar”!
- In an official tree-planting campaign of the 1970s and 1980s, chiku was one of the fruit trees chosen to be planted around housing estates in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew planted a chiku tree at Spottiswoode Park Road on 3 November 1985.
- In the first half of the 20th century, an area of the East Coast had its streets renamed after tropical fruit. Chiku Road is still there today – it’s a short dead-end street running off Joo Chiat Place.
- Chiku trees are known to attract bats, so you’ll often see the fruit wrapped in newspaper as it hangs from the branches
- Known as chicle, the sap from the chiku tree and other similar tree varieties was once used as the base for making chewing gum.
- The plant is said to have medicinal qualities, with the bark used in the Philippines to treat fever and diarrhoea, and the flowers in Indonesia in a body ointment for women after childbirth.
- The dark and durable wood of the chiku tree can be used to make furniture.
The reviews are in. And they’re … mixed. To commemorate National Day in August 2021, McDonald’s launched a new Crispy Hainanese Chicken Burger, inspired by Singapore’s “national dish”, chicken rice. It features a crispy chicken patty with crunchy salad and three sauces (ginger, garlic chilli and a sweet dark sauce). YouTube has a feast of reviews where the burger’s pros and cons are discussed at mind-numbing length! In the meantime, here are a few other factoids about the popular hawker favourite.
- An average serve of chicken rice has around 600 calories. We couldn’t find a calorie count for the new McDonald’s burger, but a Big Mac has 1,020 calories.
- Chicken rice has inspired at least two Singapore films. Chicken Rice War (2000) is a rom-com featuring young lovers from different chicken rice-making families. (Loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, apparently!) And Rice Rhapsody (2004; Jackie Chan executive producer) is set in a successful chicken rice restaurant in Chinatown.
- There’s a chicken rice franchise in Japan called Mr Chicken, launched by a couple of young Japanese foodies who grew up in Singapore.
- The late Anthony Bourdain did a segment on chicken rice for a show, and the place he chose to eat at was … drumroll … Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre. The stall opened in 1987 and continues to be popular today. (Having said that, everyone has their own “best chicken rice” stall, right?!)
Who would be a snake?
Egerton K Laird was an Englishman (born in Birkenhead in Cheshire) who wrote about his leisure travels around the world in the 1870s. One of these trips brought him to Singapore for a couple of weeks, the details of which he recounted in his 1875 book, The Rambles of a Globe Trotter. There are some interesting perspectives in its pages, including this reflection on Laird’s encounter with one of Singapore’s most confronting animals.
“I saw a boa-constrictor brought into town today, 25 feet long; it was caught only 6 miles from here and was killed whilst in a state of stupor, having just demolished a large sow weighing about 200 pounds [90kg]. It’s not pleasant to think that there are such customers here at hand. I only weigh 118 lbs [53kg], so I would have been a mere pastime for it; but I flatter myself that I would have been somewhat angular and more difficult of digestion; however, if he had, as they always do, covered me with saliva I dare say I would have glided down easily enough – what a curious idea. I was told that one was once found with the head of a deer sticking out of its mouth, as the horns were rather too much of a good thing, even for a boa; so it would have slept until the horns gradually dropped from decay. Who would be a snake?”
Singapore commemorates Anzac Day (25 April) each year with an annual service at Kranji War Memorial in remembrance of Australians and New Zealanders who served their countries. (See cwgc.org for more info.) Here, we take a look at a key event featuring Australian soldiers in Singapore’s Second World War history.
In December 2020, a Japanese flag made by Australian and British troops in 1943 sold at auction, together with some WWII medals, for around S$70,000. The flag had been used to help conceal a boat, the MV Krait (pictured), during an Allied mission in Singapore titled Operation Jaywick.
That mission saw a 14-man crew disguise themselves as Malay fisherman and sail the Krait – named after a type of snake – all the way from Western Australia and into Japanese-occupied Singapore Harbour in September 1943.
On the night of 26 September, six soldiers in three canoes paddled into the harbour and placed explosives on the hulls of a group of Japanese ships. The men escaped safely. When the explosives were detonated, at least three of the ships were destroyed, with three more damaged in some way.
The raid was considered a success by Allied forces – not only from a strategic viewpoint, as it further stretched the already thin Japanese resources, but also from a morale standpoint. However, there would be unfortunate ramifications for those on the ground in Singapore. Since the operation took the Japanese by surprise, they believed it had been carried out by the civilian population. In what became known as the Double Tenth Incident, more than 50 people were arrested and tortured. Though, of course, they also had no idea how the ships came to be destroyed.
Among this group was Elizabeth Choy (1910-2006). Together with her husband, she had been risking her life smuggling messages and food to prisoners-of-war at Changi. She somehow survived the Double Tenth ordeal, going on to become an educator and politician, and known as one of Singapore’s war heroines (swhf.sg/profiles/elizabeth-choy).
New Chapter at Changi
Exciting news for history buffs: after closing in 2018 for a major redevelopment, Changi Chapel and Museum (CCM) reopened recently (May 2021). There’s a whole bunch of interesting new stu to see, including fascinating artefacts donated and loaned from families of internees at the infamous Changi prison camp.
The 114 artefacts are showcased across eight galleries highlighting the daily lives of internees, and how they responded to the hardships they faced. Over 80 of these items have never been displayed before – here’s a glimpse at just four!
#1 Toothbrush Fashioned From Scratch
These toothbrushes were made between 1942 and 1945 in a broommaking workshop at Changi. POWs used their skill and innovation to produce 30,000 items during the workshop’s operation. Coconut fibres were used as bristles, and attached to a bamboo handle by bitumen from roadways.
#2 A 400-page Diary
Arthur Westrop was a civilian internee at Changi who risked retribution by keeping a diary, with entries styled as letters to his wife (in Rhodesia at the time). He took care to hide the diary under the floorboards of his cell, and it was never found by the Japanese.
#3 Christmas Dinner Menu
When Private Albert Riley of the Royal Army Medical Corps was interned at Changi, he had in his possession a Christmas menu he’d enjoyed aboard the US troopship that brought him to Singapore in 1941. The menu features roast turkey, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, plum pudding and other goodies, and includes the following poem: “We’re way out here upon the sea And not where we should like to be / But don’t complain on Christmas Day / Just smile and to each other say / ‘Merry Xmas’ – that’s the way / To be real happy all the day”.
#4 An Old-school Camera
Like Arthur Westrop’s diary, this metal Kodak Brownie Camera was painstakingly hidden from Japanese troops by internees for the duration of their time at Changi. It belonged to Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston, and was given to him by his wife.
Other highlights include a section of the Changi Wall, a Morse code device hidden in a matchbox that was used by internees to transmit messages, and replicas of biblical murals that were painted for spiritual comfort.
In addition to artefacts, you’ll find new multimedia offerings in the revamped CCM, which help to convey stories of the time. These include a projection show of the key events of the three-and-a-half year Japanese Occupation; you can also step inside a recreated Changi cell to get a sense of the cramped living confines, while listening to historical recordings of internees’ conversations.
Did you know? The logo of the Changi Chapel and Museum incorporates the site’s acronym (“CCM”) in a way that shows the silhouette of the chapel’s architectural shape, while also representing prison bars. It’s a clever nod to the site’s history and significance.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9.30am to 5.30pm. For info and tickets, visit changichapelmuseum.gov.sg or CCM’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
One of Singapore’s earliest hotels
Today, there are over 400 hotels in Singapore, including dozens of big-name international brands. Back in the 19th century, however, only a handful of lodgings existed. The best known were Raffles (of course!), the Adelphi Hotel, Hotel de la Paix and the one we’re looking at here, Hotel de l’Europe.
Originally built on Hill Street in 1857 by a French entrepreneur, the premises shifted to its final location – the spot now occupied by the Old Supreme Court Building (the current National Gallery) – in 1865. In the early 1900s, it was rebranded as the Grand Hotel de l’Europe. By this time, it had over 100 luxury rooms, with all the “mod cons”, including electric lights and fans. There was even a roof garden.
In the 1930s, the hotel was demolished, and replaced by the courthouse of the Supreme Court, which opened in 1939.
About the photo: The image dates to around 1900, with the Hotel de l’Europe front and centre. The Padang is in the foreground, with Fort Canning Hill in the distance. Out of shot are St Andrews Cathedral, to the right, and the Cricket Club, in the left foreground.
A review of Hotel de l’Europe
Here’s what American author and travel writer Frank Vincent had to say about the hotel in his 1882 book, The Land of the White Elephant.
“This hotel we find to be very large and comfortable, situated in the midst of beautiful gardens, facing ‘the green’ and commanding a fine view of the straits, the large island of Bintang [sic] in the distance, and the Chinese junks and foreign shipping in the harbour. Attached to the establishment, which is kept by a German, is that ‘peculiar institution’, an American barroom, where California mixed drinks are served. There is also a ‘regular down east’ Boston Arctic soda-water fountain; a billiard-room; and a reading-room, where one will find papers and journals in four or five languages, from New York, London, Bombay, Calcutta, Batavia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama and San Francisco.”
4 world records
We have our fair share of world beaters in Singapore. Here’s a handful just to begin with!
#1 Fluoro Flowers
Anyone who’s strolled in the Botanic Gardens knows that Singapore does a great orchid. The national flower is a type of orchid. And the country leads the world in creating new hybrids of orchids. But have you ever seen one that glows? Back in 1999, Professor Chia Tet Fatt from the National Science Academic Group produced the first ever successful bioluminescent flowers – orchids, of course – and set a Guinness World Record in the process.
The professor used a white-petalled strain of orchid known as the “Dendrobium White Fairy #5” and transferred biologically active DNA containing a gene from the firefly into the orchid’s tissues. He then propagated them, and was eventually able to grow stable orchids that retained the firefly gene. The flowers emitted a greenish-white glow from petals, roots, stem and leaves that lasted up to five hours at a time.
#2 Yoga Guru
A more recent record was achieved in Singapore by Jeyaseelan Venkadasamy of India. On 4 December 2020, he set a new Guinness World Record for the “longest time to hold the tree pose”. His time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 59 seconds eclipsed the old record by around six minutes. Known as Vrikshasana and named after the Sanskrit word for “tree”, this balancing yoga pose is centuries old. It involves placing one foot on the inside of the opposite thigh, while leaving the other foot on the ground.
#3 Longest Satay
The world record for the longest satay stands at just over 140 metres. (That’s nearly the length of one and a half football pitches!) The Kopitiam Group of Companies (Singapore) set the record at famous food centre Lau Pa Sat on 21 July 2007. Around 150kg of chicken was marinated with cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, onion, sugar and salt, and then grilled over charcoal by 150 staff.
#4 Largest Game of Pass the Parcel
A record-breaking 3,918 students gathered at Nanyang Technological University on 28 February 1998, where they played a 2.5-hour game of Pass the Parcel, removing 2,200 wrappers from an enormous parcel (1.5m x 1.5m x 0.5m). Though they still hold the record for the most participants, the record for the largest parcel used in Pass the Parcel was set in the UK in 2014. It was the size of a car!
This article first appeared in Expat Living. Purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
For more interesting facts and trivia about Singapore, see our Things To Do section.
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