Finally.... reaching the top of the hill, the Istana Negara.
Close up, the three storey Istana Negara is imposing .
With arches and columns of the 18th neo-Palladine style or Anglo Indian architecture adapted to tropical climate. It was designed by British engineers of British India.
So took a moment to appreciate the symmetry and the aura of this main building.
There are several other historic smaller buildings too, including the Sri Tumasek.
At this point, many visitors including Singaporean families, foreign tourists and workers who have come from Philipppines, Indonesia or Vietnam to work in Singapre can be seen to begin to relax and enjoy themselves.
Some sit on the grass of the golf course to enjoy a snack or drink. Others bravely walk on the grass without any interference from the watchful eyes of the armed security personnel.
After all it is Labor Day, a day where rules and regulations take a rest albeit briefly.
Looking down the hill, you can see a majestic view of the city skyline.
When exiting, there is a small garden of different beautiful flowring orchids. I am not sure which one is the national flower of Singapore : Vanda Miss Joaquim.
According to a website:
"Miss Joaquim is the oldest natural hybrid of Singapore. It is also the first Vanda hybrid to be registered in the world. It was found in 1893 by Miss Agnes Joaquim. It is derived from a cross between Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres.
This hybrid was selected as the National Flower of Singapore in 15 April 1981. It was selected because of its beauty, resilience and year-round blooming quality. "
Again there was a security check before entering the inside of the building of Istana Negara.
Alas... no photography inside. Upon entering, on the left is the hall for bangquet. On the right is the hall for conference. One is named the Victoria Hall but I cannot remember the name of the other hall.
There were many exquisite works of arts of paitnings, crystals, silverware, etc given to the President of Singapore by other countries that were displayed for all to appreciate.
We were restricted to check out the ground floor only. Well something is better than nothing and this was a real bonus as I thought we were not allowed inside.
Good news... we were allowed inside the Istana Negara.
But everyone Singaporeans and foreigners have to pay two SIngapore dollars ifwe opted for admission.
The money will go for charity. And so I guess that is fair and reasonable. Donate to the needy on this special open day. Everyone wins.
There are also other souvenir like umbrellas, begs and T-shirts to commemorate your visit with the proceeds going for charity.
Another photgraph spot is the fountain outside the Istana Negara.
The fountain adds a colonial feel and life to the stoic grand looking building of the Istana Negara in the background.
Someone will try to throw some coins into the fountain but I am not sure if it is allowed. Others reach out to touch the water of the fountain. Will the armed security in the distance closed one eye... they did.
Guarding the Istana Negara is symbollically a cannon. Everyone is trying to take a photograph with this cannon.
This Japanese cannon was captured in Burma (Myanmar) and presented to Singapore by the Allied Force Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten after the end of World War II.
Now, you may recall that war time Prime Minister WInston Churchill had declared that Singapore was the Fotress west of Gibraltar but surprisingly easily fell to the Japanese army during the World War II.
So it is historic and yet ironic to see a Japanese cannon here.
You will be surprise to the see the most exclusive golf course in Singapore.
It is located next to the mini Japanese Gardens on the way to the Istana Negara building.
The golf flag pole over the hole is the flag of Singapore.
Apparently the Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew used to play a few rounds occasionally. There are sand pits to add more challenge.
On my right, I saw tall impressive old trees with their slightly exposed buttress roots.
The trees created a barrier separate this Presidential grounds from the city. This was once a nutmeg plantation and the grounds covered over 100 acres of prime city real estates on the slope of Mount Sophia.
So you really privileged for being allowed in this former residence of early English Governros from the late 19th century to the present ceremonial President of Singapore though his Excellency does not live here.
After clearing security, it was 10-15 minutes stroll up a slope on a tarred road with giant tress on both sides.
The sky was cloudy and drizzling slightly now and then. Fortunately, it did not pour. An umbrella would have been a good idea or a cap may suffice.
There was so much greenery compared with the "city" outside the gates. There is a small Japanese garden and a small river and a pond. All of them were well guarded by security personnel. So not a time to get wild and run about and create suspicion.
Like for anything good is Singapore, buying food at famous hawker stall or waiting for taxi, you must have to queue up.
Admission to the Istana Negara was free for all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents. Everyone else has to pa one Singapore dollar.
It took about 15 minutes before entering. Once inside the residence, there was a metal detector and x-ray check of bags. So security is tights and procedure is orderly.
The Istana Negara is open 5 times a year on Chinese Lunar New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa as well Labour Day (May 1) and National Day (August 1).
The compound of the Istana is so big that there is even a mini golf course, used for entertaining foreign VIPs. You can see the lawn and holes of the golf course along the walkway near to the main building of the Istana. Note that this golf course is out of bounds to visitors.
There is a small and nice garden with the statue of Queen Victoria near to the main building of the Istana which is worth visiting for the beautiful ambience of colourful flowers, nice pool and of course seeing the statue itself. To get to this garden, just go to one of the side walkways near the main building and walk down a flight of stairs.
There is an impressive fountain in front of the main building of the Istana, which is an attraction especially taking photos and relaxing there. I noticed that children like this fountain a lot as many of them are running around this place.
Because the Istana is an official compound of the President of Singapore, you will expect to see military guards. These guards can be seen at the main gate as well as inside the compound of the Istana, and the most interesting event is to observe the changing of the guards at the main gate facing Orchard Road. You can also take photos with the guards while they are standing still, just like the Buckingham Palace in London.