SINGAPORE - A queue had formed even before the gates to the Istana opened at 9am for an open house to celebrate Deepavali on Thursday (Nov 4).
Among the early birds was Ms Lim Mui Eng, 50, a mechanical engineer, who was there with her cousin.
"We really like to travel but there's no travelling during the pandemic. So when we saw that the Istana would be open to the public, we jumped at the chance to do something different," said Ms Lim.
About 2,000 people visited the Istana over the course of the day.
The Deepavali open house, which is typically held every year, was cancelled last year in favour of a virtual presentation due to the pandemic.
For this year's edition, visitors had to apply for tickets that gave them a slot allowing them to enter for two hours. Thursday's event did away with previous years' highlights such as performances, food trucks and the sale of souvenirs.
Safe distancing officers were seen patrolling the grounds to ensure that people remained in groups of two, in keeping with prevailing Covid-19 restrictions.
Still, the chance to visit the iconic Istana proved irresistible to many, given that its grounds had been closed to the public since February last year, before it reopened on Aug 28 in celebration of National Day.
Visitors were seen lounging and strolling in the outdoor spaces and gardens, with some stopping to watch swans at a lake.
Mr Andrew Chew, 38, who works in finance, lapped up the chance to have an Istana experience with his wife and three children.
"It was a good opportunity to let my children run in a big open space, especially after a year of them being cooped up at home for home-based learning and enrichment classes."
President Halimah Yacob encouraged all Singaporeans to enjoy the public holiday.
In a Facebook post on Monday, she said: "Although this year's festivities may be limited by Covid-19 restrictions, I hope that you will find creative and meaningful ways to celebrate the festival safely."