Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Visiting The "Palace" in Singapore : Istana

istana open house
Palace in Singapore - The Istana

The Istana is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore. It's grounds and selected function rooms of the Istana are open to public on 5 occasions each year Chinese New Year, Labour Day, National Day, Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali.

Entrance for Singaporeans and Permanent Residence is free, while others are required to pay $1. You can access the Istana from the Orchard Road gate (besides Plaza Singapura Shopping Center / Dhoby Ghaut Interchage MRT Station). Opening hours are usually from 8.30am - 6.00pm though sale of tickets for the selected function rooms of the Istana stops at 5.30pm.

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@ The Istana Open House 2013

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My kids running on Istana grounds

It was our first visit to the Istana and we actually didn't know what to expect. We came after lunch at about 2.00pm (we were very fortunate that the weather was breezy and cloudy that day) and we didn't know that the Istana grounds were so huge and you have to walk up quite a distance just to get to the Istana. With two small kids in tow, we could have used a twin stroller. Some visitors seemed well prepared with picnic blankets, picnic baskets and even a ball to play with the kids. The grounds are absolutely lovely. Its simple and not really artistically landscaped but the wide open green field and old trees with a delightful pond that is home to a few ducks and a pair of swans are something that you rarely get to enjoy in Singapore. The kids enjoyed running and falling down all over the green grass.

istana open house activities
Some birds on display at The Istana Open House 2013

Halfway through to the Istana, there are a few tents with some activities for visitors. Face painting / body painting, a display of some birds by Wildlife Reserve Singapore, a performance by Singapore Symphony Orchestra and a play area for kids. We stopped at the tents for a short while for the kids to catch a breath and at the play area for quite a bit before starting back to head to the Istana. 

istana singapore reviews
My 5 year old with a teenage mutant ninja turtle body art
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The play area @ Istana grounds during its open house

The fountain area opposite the Istana building is such a picturesque spot and the grass at that area so perfectly manicured that some people just walk bare footed to enjoy the feel of the grass beneath their feet  while my kids were wistfully looking at the fountain just waiting for the nod of our head to allow them to play with the water. Of course, since no one is doing it, we didn't dare give our kids the green light. But oh how I wish they could have :) 

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The fountain opposite the Istana

We bought the tickets to enter the function rooms of the Istana, but no picture taking is allowed plus the crowd was quite bad. We were not really interested in looking at the special display of gifts presented to the President / Prime Minister and are not really art aficionados so we were out of the building in 10 minutes.

All in all, it was a nice day out and the kids actually didn't want to go back home cos they were enjoying running on the grass so much but the parents' legs were already wobbly.. haha.. maybe next time, when armed with picnic supplies, we will stay longer :) 

visit singapore palace
My boys at the Istana