What is Singapore famous for?

For Singapore’s installment on the famous things across the globe series, we have asked our fellow Singapore travel blogger Mar from “Once in a Lifetime Journey.” This is her awesome response!

Singapore is a small island state in Southeast Asia located at the tip of Malaysia and surrounded by Malaysian and Indonesian territory.

As a relatively new country founded in 1965, Singapore has a short history as a political entity but a long past as an inhabited part of the world first occupied by Hindu empires in the 14th century.

One of these empires is the one that gave it the name Singapore which means lion city in Sanskrit, for a lion sighting in the area. Or so the Hindu Prince thought, as there have never been any lions in Singapore.

But for such a small country, with a mere 6 million people all contained in an island that does not take longer than half an hour to drive across East to West and North to South, there are quite a lot of famous elements and places that people immediately recognize and associate with Singapore.

Things Singapore is famous for

Avatarish Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is without a doubt, one of the most famous things in Singapore. The illuminated blue, purple, and red Supertrees that inspired the movie Avatar are a sight to behold, and at night, they light up in a show of music and light that is very cool and attracts thousands of visitors every day.

The massive gardens have lots of different sections, smaller gardens, exhibitions, plants, and flowers as well as a myriad of photo opportunities that have made them one of the most photographed parts of Singapore. But come in the morning, and you are likely to still have it for yourself.

Make sure to allow enough time to visit because, apart from their size, the gardens host a few pavilions and entertainment areas worth visiting.

Entry to the park is free and possible from 5 am to 2 am daily, but if you want to enter the Flower Dome or Cloud Forest, you will have to pay an entry fee. Walk around spotting all the different art pieces scattered throughout the park.

What is Singapore famous for
Gardens by the Bay – What is Singapore famous for | photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

Deliciously spicy Chili crab

I always tell visitors that in Singapore, eating is a national sport. Singaporeans and residents of Singapore love to eat, and the proof is in the number of hawker centers and restaurants that exist. People love to go out and share a meal.

Perhaps one of the most famous dishes visitors always seek out is chili crab. 

Chilli crab is nothing more than a crab, usually a pretty large one, that is cooked slowly with a thick hot, and spicy chili sauce. You will be given an apron so you don’t get the red sauce on your clothes and the freedom to eat the crab with your hands with the proper tools.

This meal takes a while as the effort required to pull the crab meat out and suck the sauce is time-consuming. Make sure to order the balls of fried bread so that you can dip them in the sauce – the best part of the meal.

famous spicy Chilli Crab in Singapore
Deliciously spicy Chili crab- famous dish in Singapore | photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

Stunning Marina Bay Sands pool

If you asked anyone what Singapore is famous for or what they think about when the word Singapore is mentioned, they would most likely talk about Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

This iconic symbol of Singapore is a five-star hotel with three main towers topped by a platform that contains the world’s highest and largest infinity pool. It is fair to say that anyone coming to Singapore wants to take their photo at the Marina Bay Sands pool, but access is served to guests and strictly controlled, so you will have to book a room.

Marina Bay Sands has a convention center, a shopping mall, and many celebrity chef restaurants in the complex.  You can also attend a show at the theatre or watch the light and music show at the esplanade by the Marina water every evening.

The hotel is permanently fully booked, which is why in April 2019, Marina Bay Sands announced that it was going to build a fourth tower that would be located adjacent to the current three but only connected underground. This will be a suites-only resort, and it will also have huge entertainment areas and an amusement park. If you can’t book the Marina Bay Sands, there are plenty of other great hotels and hostels in Singapore.

What is Singapore known for
Marina Bay Sands Hotel has the world’s highest and largest infinity pool | photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

Being a rich country

Singapore is a young country but has achieved a lot in its short history. Perhaps the most important is becoming a very wealthy country despite its small size and lack of natural resources.

The country is incredibly efficient and ranks highest in the easiness of doing business (having a company here, I can testify to that). In just 70 years, it has managed to climb the ranks of wealth and now ranks in the top 10 wealthiest countries in the world in terms of per capita GDP.

This is not an easy feat considering that, at independence, Singapore was a poor agricultural country that had no resources or industry. 

This success has been achieved through a focus on innovation and the shipping and financial industries, two of which Singapore excels at because of its strategic positioning in Asia, both geographically and culturally.

Singapore famous for
Singapore Skyline and the Marina Bay | photo by leungchopan via Depositphotos

The Singlish language

Singapore’s official language is Malay Bahasa. However, not many people speak it, and it is not the language the government uses for official communications, that is English. 

Locals all speak English and their native language depending on the ethnic group they belong to, Tamil if they are Indian, Bahasa if they are Malay, or Mandarin if they are of Chinese descent.

One of the funniest aspects of Singapore is the fact that locals, among themselves at least, speak Singlish. This non-language language combines English with many of the words that come from historical and ethnic groups, for example, the Chinese Hokkien or Teo-chew. 

Singlish also uses lots of English words to mean something else. For example, instead of Yes, many Singaporeans will say Can. Other fun Singlish words include Kai Pow, to describe someone who always wants to know everything, or Kiasu, to refer to the fear of missing out, which is quite strong in Singapore.

There have been efforts in the past to eliminate Singlish because the government saw it as subpar English. However, society has pushed against it as it is seen as an element of national identity. If you spend enough time here, you will quickly find yourself using Can instead of Yes and Cannot when you want to say no.

Its many names

Singapore can be called and referred to in many ways by the press and has received many nicknames over the years. 

It can be the Little Red Dot, a term that was first coined by the Indonesian Prime Minister. It can be The Lion City (queue the Hindu Prince) for its non-existent lions. It is also often referred to as the State Island because it is indeed one of the few state islands in the world, or the City-State because it is one of the few countries where capital and country are the same. 

The Merlion statue

The Merlion is another symbol of Singapore, once which was created by the Singapore Tourism Board in an effort to find an element of identity for the country.

Made of a half fish, for Singapore’s maritime and trading past, and a lion head for the reasons already explained, the Merlion has become a sort of logo and one of the most popular souvenirs you can find in Singapore. 

There are many Merlion statues across the country, but the most famous one is in Merlion Park, across from Marina Bay Sands Hotel. This one spits water right into the Marina reservoir area and makes for the best photos because of its size and location. 

Come down to the front, and you can photograph it with the Central Business District skyscrapers behind. Shot it from behind, and you will have a great image against the backdrop of Marina Bay Sands. 

Things Singapore is famous for
The Merlion statue is a symbol of Singapore | photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

The best airport in the world

Changi Airport has been awarded the best airport in the world for many years and is indeed one of the best airports to travel through, land, or depart from. 

It is incredibly efficient, quick, and has great facilities, and no matter what your reason for being there is, you will find it incredibly easy to navigate.

In 2019, Changi Airport opened the Jewel integrated complex adjacent to the airport with a host of restaurants and shops as well as an entertainment zone where you can chill and take a break if you are in transit. Note that you will have to enter the country, so if need be, you will have to get a visa.

Jewel has quickly become one of the most Instagramable spots in the world, and its concentrical fountain is quite a sight.

Interesting things about Singapore
The Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore | photo by MariaArg via Depositphotos

Its unique laws

Most people get quite shocked to discover that Singapore has banned chewing gum since 1995 and that the fines for checking it are very high. The government took a very practical approach to things and realized that people were throwing gum on the floor, causing mess and dirt. So they decided to ban it. You can’t buy it, and you shouldn’t bring it in.

But this is not it, there are high fines for cycling a bike through a pedestrian underpass, for jaywalking less than 50m from a pedestrian crossing, or for stepping on the grass. Littering also carries quite hefty fines. 

The result? A pretty clean, efficient, and civilized city that is free from rubbish and always in tip-top condition. Everything has a cost.

Being an Expat City

As mentioned before, Singapore is a small country with only 6 million people. Of those, about 1 million are expats. This puts Singapore quite high in the ranking of expat cities and other places in the Middle East, like the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. 

Many of the expats in Singapore come from the same ethnic origin as the locals, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, etc… Still, there is also a sizeable Western population, with countries like Australia, the UK, or New Zealand has a sizeable contingent of nationals living here.

This makes Singapore a multicultural and plural society with many cultural celebrations year round and all religions living in harmony. 

Public holidays are allocated throughout the year to celebrate various religions and traditions. For example, in January, the largest festival, Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year, is the largest holiday. It is then followed by Easter, the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, usually falling between May and June, and then Eid, although Eid can sometimes fall before Vesak.

Eid follows Eid Al Fitr at Adda, and in the summer, we also have Singapore’s National Day, a huge celebration with a parade and tremendous fireworks. In Autumn, there’s the Hindu Festival of Lights, or Deepavali (Diwali in India), and the year ends with Christmas and New Year’s.

What is Singapore famous for
Chinese New Year is the largest holiday in Singapore | photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

Mar is an ex-Googler turned online entrepreneur published at the luxury travel portal Once in a Lifetime Journey.

* Cover foto by photo by Once in a Lifetime Journey

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What is Singapore famous for?

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