Entries in Singapore (6)


World’s Largest Aquarium Opens in Singapore

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SENTOSA ISLAND, Singapore) -- Fans of marine life, time to plan a trip to Singapore.

A new aquarium -- which claims to be the world’s largest -- opened in late November on the resort island of Sentosa.

It is called the S.E.A. Aquarium, and it is home to 100,000 marine animals of over 800 species in 45 million liters -- almost 12 million gallons -- of water. Comprising 10 different zones with 49 habitats, the aquarium aims to take visitors on an underwater voyage beginning from Southeast Asia, and continuing through the Arabian Gulf and the open ocean.

The Open Ocean habitat is viewed through the world’s largest viewing panel. It is 36 meters wide and 8.3 meters tall, or about 118 by 27 feet.

Aquarium admission is about $24 for an adult.

“S.E.A. Aquarium offers not only a stunning display of habitats, but also education and conservation programs in which families and guests can participate,” S.E.A. Aquarium Senior Curator Grant Willis said in a news release. “Younger guests will be thrilled to know that we have specially-designed exhibits such as the Discovery Touch Pool, the Lens Aquarium and Floor Aquarium, to provide them up-close encounters with our marine residents.”

Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium, which opened in 2005, has also claimed to be the world’s largest, with “more than 10 million gallons of water,” according to its website. The Georgia Aquarium was the result of a $250 million gift to the city of Atlanta from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot.

The same day the Singapore aquarium opened, the resort also opened the Adventure Cove Waterpark, with six water slides including a water coaster, a wave pool and a lazy river. There are also opportunities for interaction with marine life. Rainbow Reef offers snorkeling with fish and swimming with sting rays. Dolphin and shark interactions are coming next year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News ABC News Radio


Prince William, Kate Spark Pregnancy Rumors

Niall Carson - WPA Pool/Getty Images(SINGAPORE) -- Kate Middleton’s wardrobe -- estimated to be one tiara and 30 outfits strong -- during her tour through Asia with Prince William was expected to grab headlines.

Now, it’s what her wardrobe could be hiding -- a growing belly bump -- that is making all the news.  

The 30-year-old Duchess, the subject of pregnancy rumors since the day she and Prince William wed last April, is sparking rumors once again that she may be carrying a royal heir after choosing water over wine at an official state dinner with Singapore’s president and prime minister.

While William, also 30, and others raised glasses of wine to toast the country’s Queen, Kate, dressed fashionably in a gown by Singapore-born designer Prabal Garang, twice politely declined and chose water instead, sparking a flurry of speculation.

Pregnancy rumors emerged in April, as the couple celebrated their one-year anniversary, and last November, when the couple were reportedly preparing a nursery and after cameras caught Kate politely declining to sample a bite of peanut paste as she and Prince William visited a United Nations aid depot in Copenhagen.

“Things like this, people do look at them and wonder if they are signs,” Victoria Murphy, royal correspondent for UK’s The Mirror told ABC News.  “People are whispering and going on, 'Is she pregnant?  Is she pregnant?'”

The rumors on this trip were further fueled by Prince William himself when he, for the first time, put a specific number on the size of the royal family he’d like to have, telling a fan he wants to have two children with Kate.

In May, the prince, a helicopter rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force, told ABC News’ Katie Couric he and Kate were eager to have children.

“I’m just very keen to have a family and both Catherine and I, you know, are looking forward to having a family in the future,” the Duke of Cambridge said.  

The revelation came on Wednesday, the couple’s second day in Singapore on a tour of the Far East and South Pacific as part of the worldwide celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

In addition to the state dinner, William and Kate toured a Rolls Royce jet engine factory and unveiled the first engine produced by the plant, which opened earlier this year.  The day before, they visited the nation’s Botanic Gardens where they viewed an orchid named after themselves and one named after William’s late mother, Princess Diana, that she never got to see for herself before she died.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prince William and Kate Pay Tribute to Princess Diana in Singapore

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages(SINGAPORE) -- Prince William and Kate Middleton touched down in Singapore Tuesday to kick-off of their eight-day tour of Southeast Asia to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first stop a memorable one, visiting the city’s famed Botanic Gardens to view orchids, including one named after William’s late mother, Princess Diana, whose death in an August 1997 car crash came just weeks before she was scheduled to visit the gardens to see the orchid.

“It’s beautiful,” Prince William, 30, said, according to the BBC, pausing to view the flower with his wife, whom his mother also never got to meet.

William and Kate then got to see, for the first time, an orchid the gardens named in their own honor, the Vanda William Catherine.  The pink orchid is described as a free-flowering orchid hybrid with white petals and purple-red spots surrounded by a dark purple edge.

Middleton, 30, whose fashion choices will no doubt grab headlines throughout the trip, stood out in a pink kimono-style dress with an orchid pattern -- seen as a nod to her Singaporean hosts -- by British designer Jenny Packham.

The overwhelming reaction the couple received on their first official overseas trip to North America last summer was matched Tuesday in Singapore, where locals were overjoyed to see the royals.

A crowd of nearly 200 people reportedly gathered outside the Raffles Hotel where the couple is staying to cheer their arrival on Tuesday.

“It was like Christmas,” one local told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff.  “We’re excited.  We couldn’t sleep last night.”

“It’s uplifting,” said another.  “It’s exciting and it’s away from all the depressiveness of recessions and Eurocrises.”

During the rest of their trip, Kate and William will travel to four countries and are expected to engage with the locals through sporting activities, wearing traditional dress and even traveling by canoe.

The pair will conclude their trip with some downtime, staying at a luxurious private estate in the island nation of Tuvalu.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


In Singapore, Do Your Civic Duty: Make Love!

Mentos Singapore(NEW YORK) -- Mentos is known as “The Freshmaker,” but a new ad campaign by the company famous for its brand of mints is asking the residents of Singapore to become baby makers.

“Why are you eating a mint, baby?” “So I can kiss you on the face.”

Those are the opening words of a three-minute YouTube video by Mentos that asks Singaporeans to “make a little human that looks like you and me” and “make Singapore’s birthrate spike.”

The unique national marketing campaign is tied to Friday’s National Day, the annual Singaporean holiday celebrated to mark the country’s independence from neighboring Malaysia several decades ago. The day always involves parades and concerts for Singapore residents to show their pride, but the Mentos ad encourages Singaporeans to skip the flags and cheers and show their patriotism by making love the night of Aug. 9 to solve the nation’s notoriously low birth rate.

“This August the 9th, it’s time to do our civic duty,” a deep-voiced man says in the video, to the beat of soulful rap music.  “And I’m not talking about speeches, fireworks or parades.” (Woman in the background: “But I like that stuff.”) “I’m talking about the stuff after that stuff. I’m talking about making a baby, baby. You ready?”

“I’m a patriotic husband and you a patriotic wife,” the male rapper continues.  “Singapore’s population, it needs some increasin’, so forget waving flags, August 9th we be freaking…”

Over shouts of “that’s right” and “the birthrate won’t spike itself!,” a female vocalist also joins in, singing,  ”It’s National Night, let’s make Singapore’s birthrate spike.”

In the caption of the YouTube video, Mentos explains, “This August 9th Mentos calls on you* to celebrate not just National Day, but National Night too – and help give our population spurt it so desperately needs.”

The caption also includes a disclaimer that, “Only financially secure adults in stable, committed, long-term relationships should participate.”

Singapore has one of the lowest birthrates in the world at 7.72 births per 1,000 people, according to 2011 estimates from the CIA World Factbook reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Past attempts by the Singapore government to raise that figure have included everything from tax breaks and maternity leave, and coaxing by the country’s prime minister.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Changing Cities: Singapore, the Garden City

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ralph Waldo Emerson once said earth laughs in flower.  If that is the case, Singapore is full of laughter.

Gardens by the Bay, set in Singapore’s Marina Bay downtown area, has been open less than a month, but it’s already changing the face of the country.   The project, which cost $810 million to build, covers the space of 177 football fields and houses 80 percent of the world’s plant species — this is not your mother’s garden.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong calls the new garden project “an icon of Marina Bay” and “the latest manifestation of Singapore’s Garden City vision.”

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For the 70,000 people who visited the garden within the first two days of its opening it was a sight to be seen.

“I’m just speechless, this is life,” said Sanjay Bhatt of the Seattle Times.

[More Photos of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay]

Visitors take in awe-inspiring views, including the world’s tallest cooled conservatories, housing some of the most endangered habitats and plants in the world, and a grove of 18 gigantic solar-power, man-made “super-trees” ranging in height from 25 to 50 meters, all designed to collect rainwater.

“The idea and feel for the super-trees was in part inspired by the ‘Valley of the Giants’ in southwest Australia,” said Andrew Grant, CEO of Grant Associates, the firm that won an international competition to build the project.

“I had visited these amazing trees when I went to see my brother who lives near Perth,” he told ABC News. “The striking experience of changing from the normal eucalyptus forest into the super tall worlds of the Karri trees, along with the experience of the elevated walkway was very inspiring. We merged this physical reference with the magical experience of the forest seen in the Studio Ghibli film ‘Princess Mononoke’ to create the character and scale of the supertree grove.”

The project is a futuristic take on nature and as well an awe-inspiring vision for the future of a city.

Gardens by the Bay is also a marvel of sustainable energy and water usage. An underground biomass boiler system that runs on tree and grass clippings and organic waste has been installed. The boiler system, along with onsite solar-photovoltaics, generate energy to cool the garden’s two conservatory domes.  Water collection from the supertrees acts as another imaginative irrigation source.

“We hope that this project does convey something to the wider world about the importance of beauty and wonder in our parks and gardens, as well as the potential for imaginative integrated thinking to deliver a more stimulating and environmentally sustainable future,” Grant told ABC News.

But Garden’s by the Bay is just the tip of the iceberg for Singapore’s green vision.

The 272-square-mile city-state has undergone an economic miracle in the last half a century: From 1960 to 2010; the city-state’s GDP increased 41-fold, as it became the world’s fourth-largest financial center.   In the midst of reshaping the economy, the city-state created another miracle by managing to remain a garden nation.

Singapore’s green efforts began in 1963 when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew initiated a tree-planting campaign that added 1.5 million trees.  As a result, Singapore — even though highly urbanized — looks more like a garden than a concrete jungle.

Today, the city is still trying to reinvent the country of 5.2 million as “a city within a garden.”

“Sustainable development is a journey, not a destination,” Cheng Hsing Yao, deputy executive director of the Center for Livable Cities in Singapore told ABC News. “No matter how developed you are, there will always be new challenges.”

All around the nation you can see little signs of gardener’s care.  Plantings have been installed to soften the look of cement retaining walls, and various green areas throughout the island have been interconnecting with overhead pedestrian bridges.

The government is going out of its way to ensure the city remains a place where plants and parks live in harmony with the city.

“Gardens by the Bay is one of a number of groundbreaking landscape projects that are shaping the identity of Singapore as a City in a Garden,” Grant said. “Others include the Bishan Park, Tampines Eco Park and the round island green corridor. A common thread within these projects is the desire to create attractive and functional outdoor space for the people of Singapore where the cultural and ecological benefits of plants and habitats are emphasized.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Singapore PM Takes Big Pay Cut, Still World’s Best-Paid Leader

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(SINGAPORE) -- The prime minister of Singapore just accepted a 36-percent pay cut but is still the highest-paid elected official in the world.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's U.S. $1.7 million salary is four times more than President Obama earns.

Lee appointed a committee in May 2011 to review the level of political salaries after coming under attack from his political opponents amid mounting concerns about income inequality and the cost of living in the city-state.

The committee said Wednesday that despite the recommended cuts, salaries for those that hold political office still need to match those in the private sector in order to attract the brightest and the best to public service.

“Salaries must be competitive so that people of the right caliber are not deterred from stepping forward to lead the country. Political service ethos entails making sacrifices and hence there should be a discount in the pay formula,” the committee said.

The big salaries that politicians receive in Singapore are often cited as a reason why it’s considered one of the least corrupt countries. Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Singapore as the fifth-least corrupt in the world.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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