Just off Orchard Road is the Istana grounds, a 106-acre estate which houses the President of Singapore's office and official residence. For those reading this back home, I guess you could compare it to the White House. The Istana is also where the Prime Minister works from. Although it is the official residence of the President, no one has actually lived at the Istana since 1959. We saw the President cruise by on a golf cart, though.
The land on which the Istana grounds currently sits used to be a nutmeg plantation. In 1867, the British government of Singapore acquired the land to build a home for the British governor. The building now known as the Istana was once called the Government House. The name was officially changed when Singapore became self-governing in 1959. Istana means palace in Malay.
On five national holidays a year, the Istana opens its gates to the public (Chinese New Year's, Labor Day, National Day, Hari Raya Puasa, and Deepavali). This past Sunday, Labor Day, we went to the Istana to check out the beautiful grounds for ourselves.
The Istana. For SGD2, you can buy a ticket to enter the Istana and see the artwork and many gifts presented to the Prime Minister and President of Singapore. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.
Many people come to the Istana Open House to check out the grounds and to see inside the Istana, but many also come to take advantage of the impressive backdrops for photos...
...like this guy.
We had no idea this much open space was tucked away off busy Orchard Road. You can see the tall buildings around the estate in some of the photos. The landscaping on the grounds is impressive. For an interesting peek into a day in the life of an Istana gardener, check this link out: Inside the Istana.
The state seal on the main gates to the Istana.
The two guards at the front gates were subjected to lots of photo-taking from people visiting the Istana. It was pretty comical to watch as people lined up to pose with the guards. They never cracked a smile or said anything to the visitors!
Since we are not Singaporean, we were charged SGD1 to enter the Istana grounds. All money collected from visitor entries is donated to charity. We waited in line for about half an hour to enter, and then had to go through security.
Not all of the estate is accessible to visitors, but there is plenty to see and enjoy. Apparently one could see out to Indonesia on a clear day from the Istana before all the tall buildings went up in Singapore.
The next chance to visit the Istana is on National Day. If we get a chance to come back, we're definitely bringing a picnic.