Infrequent in most Singapore travel guides is perhaps one of the city-state’s most prized possessions. The Istana, Malay for “palace,” is the official residence and office of the country’s president.
Situated along the materialist paradise that is Orchard Road, its unambitious white gates certainly seem oddly misplaced and are often overlooked by passersby. It is also rarely included in the plans and itineraries of travelers as it is closed to the public for most of the year. In fact, it only opens its doors to everyone (locals included) for four days annually in celebration of Singapore’s public holidays.
Istana’s Open House features various cultural performances on the palace’s sprawling grounds and offers a chance to explore selected function rooms and view the exhibit of gifts from different parts of the world presented to the President and Prime Minister.
While the impressive and interesting collection of fancy presents was easily the highlight of the Open House for me (No photography was allowed), I didn’t think much of the other activities that seemed to cater more to families and to locals. But I did get to bump into the President and his wife out of nowhere and be 2 feet away from them while they were being interviewed, so that randomness was pretty cool too.
Top tip: Make sure to take a senior citizen or a toddler with you to skip the bizarre queue under the face-melting heat!
For the Open House’s schedule and rates, visit its official webpage.