Crowds show up early at Istana, as main building reopens to public since start of Covid-19 pandemic

Visitors pose for a photograph at the Istana Open House on May 7, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Visitors queuing to visit the Istana during its open house on May 7, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Visitors pose for a photograph at the Istana Open House on May 7, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Visitors queuing up to take a photo with President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee during the Istana open house. PHOTO: ST FILE
Visitors looking at a state gift from the Istana's collection that was on display. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A queue formed outside the Istana early Saturday morning (May 7), even before it opened its gates for an open house to mark the Labour Day and Hari Raya Aidilfitri public holidays.

For the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, visitors were able to enter the Istana's main building.

Since open house events resumed last August, visitors have been able to visit only the Istana's outdoor gardens.

Among the early birds was Mr Lin Guo Rong, 38, who showed up with his family and friends.

Army trainer Mr Lin Guo Rong (back row, right) with his family and friends waiting in line on May 7, 2022. ST PHOTO: BRYAN CHEONG

"The last time I visited was eight years ago," said the army trainer. 

"So when we heard that the Istana's main building would be reopened, the 20 of us decided to come together, to look around, and see what has changed over the years."

There were 8,146 visitors at the open house, and 3,299 visitors at the main building.

Visitors to the main building were able to tour selected function rooms and view the collection of state gifts as well as room set-ups for state events.

At the event, President Halimah Yacob interacted with students from the pre-schools and student care centres run by the Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (Singapore Muslim Women's Association), as well as volunteers from St John's Ambulance Brigade and Singtel.

President Halimah Yacob tours the Inclusive Garden at the Istana Open House on May 7, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Madam Halimah also had her first meet-and-greet session with members of the public since the start of the pandemic.

Throughout the day, visitors were seen strolling and relaxing in the outdoor spaces and gardens.

Many also took photos with their loved ones in front of the Istana main building.

For Madam Zoe Ooi, 54, and her friends, it was their first time at the Istana.

Accounting employee Madam Zoe Ooi with her friends at the lawn area outside the main building. ST PHOTO: BRYAN CHEONG

"We were not sure what to expect," said Madam Ooi, who works in accounting.

"We wanted to see what's inside the main building, and also have a good time."

Visitors had to abide by the prevailing Covid-19 measures, including wearing masks at all times when indoors.

There were no live performances, tours or food trucks at the open house.

But there were merchandise booths selling limited-edition Istana and President's Challenge souvenirs.

All proceeds will go towards charities supported by the President's Challenge.

Ms Marie Pang, 21, was there with her grandparents, who last visited the Istana grounds 20 years ago.

"They were so excited to be able to visit the Istana again, and were especially thrilled to look at the collection of state gifts," said the student.

"I think the wait was worth it, and it was heartwarming to see them enjoy themselves."

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