Categories: Culture

12 Mind-Boggling Mysteries Of Singapore Finally Solved

Singapore mysteries, solved

 As Singaporeans, there are some things we’ve come to accept and not question. Why the extraordinarily long 6-minute MRT ride from Yio Chu Kang to Khatib, although every other station is just 3 minutes away from the next? Do bus drivers have to cab home every night if they pang gang after public buses have stopped running?

We’ve done some snooping around and found the answers to all these unasked questions. Prepare to be surprised and your curiosity satisfied – you won’t believe the answers to some of them.

1. Why do some traffic lights not have the crosswalk button?

LTA’s control system detects in real-time how heavy the traffic is for vehicles and pedestrians and then adjusts the timings for a change in traffic lights accordingly. If no one pushes the button to trigger the green man, it signals to the system that there are few pedestrians and vehicular traffic is heavier – so, more green time for cars.

In the same way, if there’s an intersection where lots of people are crossing – signalled by the button being pushed frequently – then more green time is given for pedestrians to get across safely. So, how come there are a select few traffic lights that don’t have this button at pedestrian crossings?

There are 2 theories floating around to explain this. The first is that some of these are automated pedestrian signals that detect footfall through sensors and activate the green man automatically. The 2nd theory is that very busy junctions don’t have a button because it is assumed that there is someone always waiting to cross the road.

And kiasu peeps, you might already know this but a gentle reminder that pushing the button repeatedly or harder doesn’t make the green man appear any faster. It just means more wear and tear. Anyway, you may soon see more touchless buttons at pedestrian crossings where you just have to wave your hands to activate the green man.

2. Where do “do not board” MRTs go?

Image adapted from: Wikimedia Commons

Most of us don’t think much of “Do Not Board” MRT trains, and never know where exactly these trains head to. But one guy so daringly leapt onto one at Choa Chu Kang Station and filmed the entire journey to solve this mystery.

It’s not Narnia the train disappears to – it actually travels to the station’s “parking lot” while waiting for the previous train to go off, then makes a round back to the same station to pick up passengers again. You’ll see this happening at stations where there’s a large crowd – deploying these empty trains are train officers’ way of clearing the crowd.

Note: TSL does not condone hopping onto trains you’re not supposed to.

Also, here are some MRT rules you might not even know exist and, thus, could be breaking. You’re welcome.

3. How do bus drivers go home after bus services stop running?

Singaporeans rely on our trusty public buses to get us home. But what about our bus drivers? How do they get home after bus services have stopped running?

Thankfully for their wallets, they don’t have to deal with midnight taxi surcharges – they’ve got SMRT’s dedicated Workers’ Transport (WT) and SBS Transit’s Employee Buses instead. These buses ferry all drivers straight to their doorsteps, both to and from work.

Bus captains in charge often have everyone’s addresses mapped out in their heads, working multiple shifts from midnight till daybreak to get the drivers home safe and sound.

Btw, if you’ve also ever wondered where SG buses refuel or get cleaned, we went behind the scenes of an SBS bus depot to find out for you.

4. What do those shapes below MRT advertisements represent?

Image credit: GunkyEnigma via Reddit

Fiddling with our phones while commuting is like MRT etiquette 101. But when we’re not busy looking at our screens, there’s a good chance of spotting a bunch of curious looking shapes along the cabin’s ad panels.

Made up of rectangles, triangles, and circles, not many actually know what these mean. Is it a secret cipher? An ID? Or simply, a funky design?

Well, it’s kind of a mix of all 3. See, the shapes are actually binary codes – convert them to 0s and 1s and you’ll get the carriage number of the train you’re in.

5. Why is the distance between Yio Chu Kang & Khatib MRT station so long?

Anyone who’s taken the North-South Line will be familiar with the 6-minute-long journey between Yio Chu Kang and Khatib stations and impatiently waiting for signs of civilisation to come back into sight.

Singapore was even in talks with the Walt Disney Company in the 90s to discuss plans for the theme park.

But the thing is, the area wasn’t intended to be that ulu. Singapore was supposed to have its very own Disneyland right between the 2 stops, with Lentor MRT station being built to send visitors straight to the theme park. That’s right folks – Mickey could very well have called Singapore home, and it ain’t a rumour.

Sadly, plans fell through because of money matters. We never got our Disneyland – but at least we’ve got Universal Studios Singapore and Adventure Cove

6. Why are HDB multi-storey car park staircase doors so heavy?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

These heavy car park doors aren’t part of a conspiracy to make your life harder. The reason is simple: They’re intentionally designed to be thicker and sturdier in order to prevent fires from getting into the stairwell for up to 30 minutes.

But we also hear there’s another reason for the heavy doors. They’re more difficult for children to push open, thus acting as a safety barrier, preventing them from rushing out to the car park and getting langgar-ed by an oncoming car.

7. How rainbow bread in our $1 ice cream sandwiches is made

If you’re one of ‘em $1 ice cream sandwich lovers who just eats with no idea of where your bread comes from, you’ll find the answer in traditional bakeries like Jackson Bakery & Confectionery.

In order to get the bread’s signature marble effect, the bakers machine-knead pink and green dough together, then fire it till warm and fluffy to form the delicious concoction we love eating with slabs of ice cream.

8. What goes on behind the scenes of the Istana?

The Istana may look all glam and polished on the outside, but its inner workings are a mystery to us all. Kudos to the personal butlers and gardeners of our President’s home, who make it run like clockwork 24/7.

Image credit: The Istana

Besides Istana open houses throughout the year where it’s open to the public, the Istana is known to host state dinners most of us don’t get access to. Butlers like Mr Jacob Emmanuel work tirelessly behind the scenes of these events, preparing dinner tables, and giving their 100% attention to serving dignitaries.

Image credit: @through.sam.eyes via Instagram

And all the Istana’s perfectly manicured lawns are the handiwork of landscape technicians like Mr Hamid Sudi. He slogs under Singapore’s heat from dawn to dusk, trimming the golf green and replacing golf holes when they fall prey to wear and tear.

9. What happens to your library book after you return it?

At most public libraries, returned library books are manually checked, sorted, and stacked by NLB librarians.

But at some libraries like Sengkang, Yishun, and Bukit Panjang Public Library, everything’s mechanised – all thanks to the AutoSorter. This system automatically separates returned items into their respective categories and picks out popular titles for shelving in the “Just Returned” section.

10. What happened to these disappearing sights of Singapore?

Donation boxes mark a time when cashless payments weren’t mainstream just yet.
Image credit:

Remember the 1m-tall Suzy Doll donation boxes at supermarket cashier counters? She was the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore’s poster girl for donations, with her perpetual sullen expression and trademark blue dress.

Image credit: Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore

You won’t see the IRL version of Suzy Doll around much nowadays as she’s been rebranded into a happier looking online version instead. Sad Suzy was supposed to make shoppers pity kids with Cerebral Palsy, but cheerful Suzy is the charity’s way of showing that people with disabilities can lead a happy life too.

11. Why is one-north the only MRT station that doesn’t start with a capital letter?

If bad formatting ticks you off, you’ll be ripping your hair out at one-north MRT station. It’s the only MRT station name that doesn’t start with a capital letter, and the answer to why? It’s purely for stylistics.

And just like Toa Payoh Rojak that’s located nowhere near TPY, the station’s called “one-north” though it’s far from the northern part of Singapore. We hear the name comes from the station’s proximity to one-north business park, though. In addition to that, one-north is a reference to Singapore’s location being 1 degree north of the equator.

12. How Singapore’s heaviest trees are transplanted

Lush green trees line almost every road in Singapore. But transplanting these massive shade-providing giants can be quite a chore, with the heaviest ones weighing in at over 80,000kg! Here’s how the folks at NParks ensure the trees are moved from one place to another without getting hurt.

This 2-week-long process starts with rafts of pipes and a hoisting platform being shoved under the tree. It’s then carefully lifted by heavy-duty cranes and transported by a separate crawler crane to its new home.

But that’s not all. The process in between also sees the tree roots being watered to keep them hydrated, with soil added as fertiliser and branches being pruned if they’re too heavy.

Mind-boggling Singapore mysteries solved

Whether or not you’ve wondered about some of these things before, you now finally know the answers to them – so go forth and wow your friends with your newly-learnt trivia.

If you’re curious, here are even more mind-blowing facts about Singapore you probably never knew.

More questions answered:

Cover image adapted from: @through.sam.eyes via Instagram, Wikimedia Commons, GunkyEnigma via Reddit
Originally published on 30th May 2017. Last updated by Aditi kashyap on 19th September 2023.

Stella Soon

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