Istana – Residence of the Singapore’s President

Istana – Official residence of the Republic of Singapore’s President


Introduction :

In Singapore, the official residence of the president is Istana. The meaning is “Palace” in Malay language.
When I travelled in Singapore, I had the chance to be on the time of the rare “open gates” day.
This was how my girlfriend, Singaporean proud of her country, gladly made me visit the garden and the Palace.
As you can guess, I’m not telling you all of this for nothing. Let me explore with you this unusual place, this green oasis in the heart of the Lion city.


Location of Istana :



History of Istana :

I’ll start with the history of Istana.
From 1867 to 1869, Istana was built by order of Sir Harry St. George Ord, the first colonial governor of Singapore. Then called “Government House.”
From 1942 to 1945, during the Japanese invasion, Marshal Terauchi Cunt and General Kawamura occupied it.
It was only in 1959, when Singapore was released from the occupation of the Japanese that the building became known as Istana.
Finally, from 1996 to 1998 the Palace was entitled to extensive renovations to add space and to install all the modern comforts.

In fact, the president does not live there and neither him nor the Prime Minister worked in the place.
Their offices are located in an annex.


My Visit of Istana :

When we reached the entrance, the Singaporean rigour showed its sense. The entrance is marked by two ropes and to organize the queue, a simple markings on the ground is visible. You know, that kind of markings that Westerners do not even notice or, at best, ask why there are lines on the ground while they stick all together in the same direction. Well no, the Oriental scrupulously followed the line, making the twists and turns so well ordered. The worst part of it is that the queue is suddenly fluid, the waiting time is reasonable and nervousness totally absent.


Istana - Entrée



To pass the entrance, Singaporeans and permanent residence permit holders are smiling. The others will have to pay an entry fee of S$1. A symbolic price to visit this symbolic place.
Moreover, speaking of symbol, at the gate, you can see a beautiful emblem featuring a lion, the crescent moon and the five stars of the national flag together with the title of the National anthem “Majulah Singapura”.


Istana - Porte



The first impression that catches the eyes when we penetrate into the garden is the vastness. This is actually a park (approximately 3km ²), consisting of a 9 holes golf course and a set of gardens …


Istana - Jardin


In the park we can cross “Sri Temasek” which is a typical house of the 19th century and originally served as minister’s home.


Istana - Sri Temasek



We can also pass in front of “la Villa“, built in 1908 during the independence that was used to welcome the guests.


Istana - Villa



Luck? No, I just enjoyed a favourable context to see the current president, Mr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, elected the 1rst of September 2011.
I would have nicely present him the respect of the French people, but he was listening to a symphony played by an orchestra … As a man of good taste, I could not disturb such a moment. Alas, I had not the pleasure of recrossing him.
He is the man sitting to the left, wearing a red shirt and glasses.


Istana - Président



So if there is one thing that differs between French students and those from Singapore, it is the relationship with respect to school and studies.
Where the French students are generally mocking quite royally about their school at the only exception it will fit nice on their resume, the Singaporean student is proud to be part of his school and if he can, he will keep his uniform at the outputs of the week-end. Then the high class is being photographed in such places as Istana with graduation gown and classmates. You do not see the point? This is normal, you’re French … For my part, I found it amusing and unnecessary, but this is normal as I am French. We all start with a lack of understanding. Maybe you think they have the “first in class” syndrome, you know, the one who looks at you with a haughty air, because you are a sub-shit unworthy of being in the same class as him, while raising his greasy and coated hair and his falling glasses (which speaks of stereotype?). Well, you’re wrong … Because here the elitism’s cult is everywhere, everyone wants to be first in class, and the rare who doesn’t care are those adjusting their glasses under their oily and coated hair.


Istana - Etudiants



And finally here is Istana, The Presidential Palace which in the end is only use today as high-standing receptions, handing over of power and ceremonies.
The least we can say is that the Palace is massive. A perfect example of colonial British force at the time of the East Indian Company.
I have not found much information about the architecture, but it has 3 floors and a height of 28m.
It was opened to the public, something that I did not miss. Access is limited to a reception room and two rooms for diplomatic gifts received from other countries. A portion of the ground floor so. Prohibition of taking photos (I’ll end up buying a smartphone that takes photos as they were crackling in all directions …), so I have nothing to share with you. How I wait for the intra-cranial USB6 to upload memorised pictures?
However, diplomatic gifts are really nice collectibles. They can be as well created for the event or coming from National Museum. This is very interesting and they generally reflects the culture of the offerers’ countries.


Istana - Palais



Continuing through the gardens, we could stay in a nice little enclave with a basin at the end of which you come face to face with a beautiful statue of Queen Victoria offered by the Singaporean’s people in 1889 to Governor Sir Cecil Smith. This as a tribute to their loyalty to the Crown and gratitude.
Until 1960 this statue was placed in an alcove of the State’s Chamber and was then moved to different locations to be restored in 1995 by a specialist conservator from Victoria & Albert Museum in London.


Istana - Reine



Finally we come out of Istana and fall face to face with a national monument honouring the colours and the Singapore’s flag. It is on this vision that the President and the Prime Minister leave their work’s place after a day dedicated to the accomplishment of their duties.


Istana - Drapeaux



My conclusion about Istana :

This palace is an interesting place to visit. Without being essential, it is still nice to walk in the park well maintained and located in the heart of the metropolis. Istana is a very beautiful building that has almost a century and a half and yet seems like new. If you’re curious and come at the right time, do not hesitate to take a look even if the queue is long and that most of the tourists who go there are Singaporeans’ families with everything needed for a picnic.