So I’d never been to the Istana before. I wonder how many Singaporeans have. But I have to admit that I’ve always been awed by its impressive gates along Orchard Road as I walked by thousands of times, and often wondered what the grounds were like. But still, no real push to actually go see it, despite knowing that it is open to the public a few times a year.
Until, of course, my darling American husband who wishes more than anything else to become Singaporean, learnt about this. And given how it is also our nation’s birthday month, there seemed to be no better time than this. So I checked up the dates and learnt it would be August 18th, in celebration of both Hari Raya Puasa and National Day, which took place on August 8th and 9th respectively.
By the way, for non-Singaporeans reading this, the Istana is the official residence of the President of Singapore, much like the USA’s White House. Learn more about it here
. Like at every ‘open house’ the Istana hosts, there had been many events
planned for the day; although we arrived late and missed out on the fun, it didn’t matter as we still got more than we bargained for...
After going through the security checks, we started up the path beyond the beautiful gates. The first thing that came to my mind was how beautiful the grounds were! And huge! Very much like the Singapore Botanic Gardens, but even more impeccably manicured, yet not so much so that it became ostentatious. Instead, it made me feel really proud that this is what foreign dignitaries see when they are hosted by our President. Here’s a selection of shots I took:
Huge trees along the main path
An even huger protected tree on the lawn where many families were picnicking
An idea of how huge the grounds are; the white tents in the distance were where the events were being held
We made our way to the Istana building itself and it is such a pity that no photography was allowed inside because it was nothing short of breathtaking. From the colonial architecture - magnificent entrances, staircases and halls, to the interior furnishings - rich damask curtains, crystal chandeliers and intricately carved wooden furniture, it was really difficult not to try to sneak a shot or two, but offending the amiable but obviously no-nonsense security detail posted in every room and hallway was utterly out of the question.
One particular room stood out for me, and that was the official dining room. For this occasion, it played the role of a museum, with numerous artifacts on display, all gifts from countries the world over, each representative of their native country. The item that particularly caught my eye was a silver filigree box from Russia. The intricacy of the workmanship was utterly mind-blowing!
Here are a few more ‘requisite’ shots at what were obviously the iconic locations on the Istana grounds:
The statue of Queen Victoria having place of honour at Victoria Pond in the valley beyond the Main Building
My boy posing proudly by the impressive cannon...
...and by the nine-hole golf course...no kidding!
On our way back out, we stopped by the lovely Swan Pond to get more photos.
A beautiful water lily in full bloom amongst giant lily pads
A pair of white swans obviously in the background, but the little ducks on the lily pads were too cute
Originally a photo of the overflow to the Swan Pond, it was the towering palm tree that stole the show
Here are the last few shots I took as we were nearing the end of the ‘tour’. But hey, perhaps we’ll visit again during the next open house. Stay tuned!
Ever seen traffic lights in somebody’s yard before?
Fellow visitors heading for the gates like we were
A final shot of my hubby posing proudly by the grand Istana gates