The last time I visited the Istana was when I was about 6 to 7 years old. That’s a few decades ago! Memories were still vivid till now as I recalled it was a Chinese New Year Day. I wore a yellow and white long jumpsuit and a little sun hat. Ok – I can’t remember that well. It’s more because my parents kept photos.
After having kids, one of the places I had always wanted to let my boys experience is The Istana – “Palace” – in Malay. On the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, we were not required to do any house visits and thus thronged out early in the morning to pay a visit to The President. Turned out, he was not at “home” but we had a good time running around the huge lawns and turning cartwheels on the green green grass.
As described on it’s official website, The Istana is a “green lung amid the arteries of metropolitan bustle”. Located at Orchard Road, one cannot imagine it’s vastness till you really stepped in for a visit yourself.
Thankfully we arrived early and fitted into 2 categories (young infant below 3 years old and elderly above 60 years old) – thus we joined the express Q and didn’t need to wait too long in the sun.
Tip: If you are planning a visit during any of the open house days (especially CNY), it’s best to be early. When we left around 12+pm, both queues (regular and express) were snaking towards the mall. I am probably not one who enjoy being in a queue under the sun with tired kids. Do remember to bring along your identification cards too! Singaporeans and PRs enter free; others pay $1 entry fee.
Upon entering the premise, one of the first few sights that greeted us were The Swan Pond. This is the largest ponds in the grounds.
The swans were a little shy with all eyes peering at them.
The most impressive part of The Istana to me is not the iconic architectures but the spacious and luxurious greenery. This is the first year a new Nature Guided Walk led by National Parks Board is conducted at the Istana. Believed they might bring this initiative back for future open houses due to it’s popularity.
Tip: If you are a nature lover and keen to hear the flora stories of the Istana; do go early and purchase the tickets. We heard that the tickets were sold out by the afternoon.
My kids were not too interested to hear the flora stories and history. Instead they were more interested in this:
I am not sure if the playground is a permanent display at The Istana. But it is definitely a delight to the young ones to enjoy some swinging fun while we take a breather on the grass patch.
Of course, besides the extensive greenery, there is the iconic The Istana Main Building which is sited on top of a hill. This is a restricted place where we can’t take any photos of the interior. We paid $2 per adult to enter and viewed the ground floor which hosted many foreign diplomats. This is also the place where The State Room is located; it is commonly used for official presentations and ceremonial purposes such as swearing-in. On display at the same time were collections of gifts which were presented by foreign countries to Singapore. It is definitely worth the $2 (which goes to charity by the way) to tour the building. Probably the only few chances commoners can enter and view the building (you will recognise the familiar scenes from the news channel!).
Hang around the gardens for a while and you will get a chance to see the guards marching for change in shifts.
We were happy that we made this excursion for the kids and for ourselves! I am not sure if it might be another few decades before we head back for another Open House.
More photos for the album and memories:
If you are thinking of going by for one of the Open Houses, do check out The Istana website for updates.
For Year 2014, it is open to public on these dates:
1. Chinese New Year (2nd Day): 1st Feb 2014
2. Labour Day (Actual Day): 1st May 2014
3. Hari Raya Puasa & National Day: 2nd Aug 2014
4. Deepavali (Actual Day): 23rd Oct 2014
Book in your calendar and bring your kids/parents/friends/visitors for an experience!