Fanie informed me that the president’s resident (the Istana) is opened to public on Friday, 8 Feb 08. Since I have no plan for Friday (actually I planned to look for a pair of nice shoes in Orchard, but then I think I can do it on Sunday-after the Service) and I am always interested in historical monuments, I agreed to go with her at once.
Fanie, Audrey, and me reached the Istana at 11.30 am. It was a bright, sunny yet cool day. We were surprised to see a very long queue in front of the main gate. The queue reached Plaza Singapura! However, as we saw that the queue is moving fast, we proceed to queue. The entrance fee is $1. From the main gate there was a main boulevard leading to the main building. In both the left and right side of the boulevard were parks adorned with some ponds. There were some small golf-court in the middle of the parks. After a pretty long walk, we reached a second gate. Walking and walking for some more time, there stood before our eyes the main building, i.e. the President’s residential palace. There were the Singaporean flag (of course) on the roof. In front of the building there was a beautiful fountain and well-arranged flowers and plants. So many people were taking pictures, and so were we 🙂 It was a beautiful background.
We had to pay additional $2 to enter the main building. After discussing the benefit and the cost (we had been to close to Edy, it seems :p) we decided to pay and enter. It was not as grand as I imagined, yet still pleasing to see. No photograph was allowed within the Istana building. The aircon was so agreeable: cool but not freezing; the rooms inside looked like the usual images of a palace / government houses I’ve seen in movies. The front rooms, both in the left and right of the main corridor, were kinds of large living rooms. There were large chairs, long windows, damask blinds, rich-looking carpets, and display-cupboard showing various souvenirs Singapore received from various countries. We curiously looked for souvenirs from Indonesia, but we couldn’t find one at those front rooms.
Besides the front rooms, there were only 2 other rooms allowed for visitors. First, the State Room. This State Room is the room used for official reception, signing documents, etc. The room was not so large; in the centre of the room there were at about 15 chairs. There were a tea table for each 2 chairs. This State Room was formerly known as Victoria Room because there was a statue of the Queen-Empress in this room. The statue is currently in a special garden in the Istana ground named the Victoria Pond. The second room is the Banquet Hall. This is the largest hall in the Istana. As the name suggests, this hall is used for banquet-reception. There were 2 buffet tables in the hall, but this time instead of containing meals, they displayed more souvenirs. In one of the table we found (at last) the Indonesian souvenir, a glass-pot with silver ornament.
From the main building, we went to see the Victoria Pond. To me, this spot was the most interesting from the whole Istana. To reach the pond we had to descend many stairs; the pond looked very beautiful when we observed it from the top of the stair. The statue stood behind the pond. It was a full-height, white statue of Queen Victoria. From far away, she looked like Mother Mary; but when we approached her, whoa, she was far from the image of the Virgin Mother. Instead, her face was that of a fiery, tough lady. Below the statue there was a plague stated that this statue was dedicated by “Her Majesty’s Chinese subjects” in commemorating her Jubilee. It was also written that the Chinese people wanted to show the gratitude for “the benefits of Her Majesty’s rule”. Wah2, apakah dijajah Inggris itu memang makmur ya.
We ended our Istana tour by taking pictures in the front gate. We went to Plaza Singapura afterward.