Usually closed to the public, the Istana grounds are open on five occasions – Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labour Day and National Day. Admission is free for citizens and permanent residents. Foreigners pay an entrance fee of $1 per person. For the first time in months, I feel proud to be a citizen.
The plan was to reach the Istana before its opening at 0830. However, the night before, back from Chinese New Year celebration, I was still finishing up my research and sending them for printing. As a result, I slept a little late and thanks to the nice weather, I got up at the time I should be on the road.
I arrived at the Istana Gate a little after 0900. There a queue – less than 10 people – had formed in front of a small booth. A lady volunteer was gesticulating to the approaching visitors, “citizens and permanent residents this side”, referring to her left (my right). Apparently the booth was a ticket booth and, as a citizen, I could skip it. However I couldn’t help but notice there were more people at the booth than skipping it. It was an ominous sign.
A male volunteer stood at the gate. I knew the ritual. Out came the pink card; I didn’t even stop for him. Up to this point, the card appeared to have magical powers. It was exhilarating too when a fellow civilian – not a police – checked your card.
Past the gate, another ritual greeted me. This should be no surprise. I laid my bag onto the conveyor belt and crossed the gate. Luckily, it did not beep.
Istana Main Gate at 0914. They have hidden the tentage for the second ritual behind the gate, to the left of the photo, away from public sight.
Notice and map after the main gate. The map shows you the public areas (shaded) and forbidden areas (presumably what’s not shaded). Looking at the sheer number of Men in Blue in the previous photo standing idly behind the main gate, do you expect any less in the Istana Domain?
I had great fun inside the Istana Domain, doing what I do best and trying not to get caught.
Two hours later, I decided I had enough
At 1130 I was out and WOW WHAT A SIGHT!
Left photo shows the queue waiting for their second ritual behind the gate. Right photo shows the queue outside the main gate. Remember the queue was less than 10 originally?
The human snake outside the main gate. The last stretch must be the most demoralising. From just outside the gate, the queue turns right, all the way to Plaza Singapura before making a U-turn back to the gate.
I captured the whole spectacle from Istana Park across the road. The crowd outside was beyond my expectation. There was this indescribable feeling - I was finished, ready to go home and these people were still queuing under the midday sun. Should I pity them
The spectacle from across the road. If you want to laugh, better do it here, away from the crowd.
Do you know how long the queue was? See below.
The Atrium@Orchard. You have to admire those who are last in the queue. Last in the game, but never lose sight of their goal.
Judging from the crowd, the Open House was overly successful. You have people who are dying to shake Nathan’s hand (I did not meet the President inside) and you have people – like me – who are curious about what’s inside. Or maybe it is the cheapest way to ‘escape the New Year’ (闭年).