The Istana.

Okay. I apologise for not updating on Wednesday. Work and life has caught up with me. For some reason, everyone wants a piece of me.

On Labour Day, I went to the Istana in Singapore for the first time in my life. Yes, I have checked. I am Singaporean. I suppose it is more difficult to enter the Istana compared to, say, the Gardens by the Bay because the Istana is only open 5 times a year!
These days are:
1. The 2nd day of Chinese New Year
2. Labour Day
3. National Day
4. Hari Raya Puasa, and
5. Deepavali.

Please see the link above for dates this year. Entrance to the garden of Istana cost S$1 for foreigners and free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. All proceeds go towards the Community Chest.

The Istana is supposed to be the residence of Singapore’s president, but upkeep of the building is sky high so it does not make economic sense to maintain it for one family. Today, it is used as the offices of the President and the Prime Minister. The then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew did stay in the Istana for a short period of time (shortly before the independence of Singapore) but moved out because he thought the butlers and servants around the Istana were spoiling his children. 😀

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The Istana.

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The National crest

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The queue. (I shouldn’t have lingered at home!)

I got in after 30 minutes and an x-ray of my bag. I guess they didn’t want people to bring bombs into the compound.

Once past the first gates, one is able to see many families lounging around on their mats. Clearly, the Istana is a good place for families to relax and let their kids run around wildly.

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The DIY map of the area.

I read somewhere that the guided tours into the Istana are quite good, so I walked quickly into the compound towards the main building. The place to sign up for the guided tour is right next to the Istana.

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The Istana looks like this.

Entry into the Istana cost S$2 regardless of your nationality, while the guided tour cost an additional S$4. Places on the guided tour do get snapped up really quickly, so act fast. The last tour was at 4.30pm, but do arrive a couple of hours before to get a place on the guided tour.

While waiting for the guided tour to start, I went around the compound. To my delight, there was a free classical music concert by the Singapore Symphonic Orchestra!
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Free concerts are always good.

There were also booths set up by various NGOs like the Community Chest and the Wildlife Reserve Singapore to raise funds for their causes.

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It was like a mini carnival. Youths were sitting in a circle to chat. It was a healthy family environment.

I wanted to take pictures in the Istana, but no pictures were allowed. But I managed to sneak a picture of this very important spot:
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Where presidents are sworn in and important international treaties are signed. I suppose this is the equivalent of a throne room.

The guided tour was like a quick history lesson about the history of Singapore from the British Rule to Singapore’s independence. It’s great for anyone wanting to know more about Singapore’s history (tourists!) or kids wishing to refresh the stuff they learnt in history class.

Conclusion:
The Istana is a good place for families to hang out on a public holiday without spending a lot of money. Kids can have fun getting their faces painted or running on the well-kept grass. The only drawbacks are the tight security at the gate, and the fact that this place is only open 5 days a year. Family friendly places like these should be open more often!

Brochures and pamphlets from this trip:

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