Maya with her Istana Open Day Fan

We visited The Istana on Sunday and although it was an oppressively hot day it we spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around. The Istana is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore and is only open to the public on five public holidays throughout the year.

No president has lived here since 1959 and so the grounds and buildings are mainly used for state functions and ceremonial occasions. The world's leaders will surely be welcomed here when they visit Singapore for the APEC meeting in November this year.

The grand entrance to The Istana

The Istana was built in 1867-1869, during colonial times using convict labour, and was originally known as Government House. A marble statue of Queen Victoria once stood in an alcove in the State Room, but since independence she has been put out to pasture and can been seen at the Victoria Pond, in the grounds. According to the official website, the stature was presented to the Governor in 1889, the Jubilee Year of Her Majesty's reign, "as a memento of their loyal affections and gratitude for the benefit of her rule".

. The kids with Queen Victoria

There are a few other building in the grounds, I was impressed with the gracious house Sri Temasek, which is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Singapore and was built in 1869 as the residence of the Colonial Secretary. No one has lived here since1959 however, which seems such a pity as it has gorgeous proportions, deep shady verandahs and a peaceful outlook. Not to mention it's own private golf course right in front!

My dream house, Sri Temasek

The grounds of The Istana are beautifully manicured and perfectly like an English garden. There are swans in the pond, golfing greens scattered about, and beautiful shady trees. There is always some entertainment at the open days and we caught the pupils from Greenridge School Band playing some popular tunes. It was a relief to step into the air conditioned rooms of the actual main building and check out the beautiful gifts from the world's nations. Crystal ware, beautiful silver tea sets from India, China, Cambodia and others and unusual pieces like model palaces from Aman and ceremonial daggers.

The Open Day is free for Singaporeans, $2 for others, and an extra $2 to go inside the building. Well worth it.


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