SINGAPORE - After a spate of temperamental weather over the past week, clear skies greeted visitors at the Istana open house on Monday (May 1) and they soaked up the sun at the day-long Labour Day celebration.
Bands and choirs - ranging from post-55-year-olds from NTUC's U Live playing the ukulele to the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir - entertained visitors who strolled the tree-lined driveways or lounged on the verdant grass slopes.
Others gathered at a cluster of tents further down the slopes, where they had the chance to do things you would not imagine possible at the Istana - flirt with live snakes and fire "rockets".
One of them was Mr Kelvin Ng, who let his three children - aged 4, 6 and 8 - get close to a python which was watched closely by its keeper from the Singapore Zoo.
"It gets the children to be close to nature in a controlled environment... the zoo is not so accessible, while the Istana is right in the centre of the city," said Mr Ng, a 37-year-old quantity surveyor.
Unfortunately, they did not have a chance to try out the water rockets, as the "fuel" - water - had run out by the time they got there.
The rockets are upside-down plastic bottles partially filled with water and connected to bicycle pumps via a tube. When the air pressure reaches a certain level, the water is ejected forcefully out of the mouth of the bottle and it is propelled into the air.
The rockets were one of the learning stations set up jointly by the Lifelong Learning Council, SkillsFuture Singapore, President's Office and Science Centre Singapore to teach participants new knowledge and skills.
At 11am, President Tony Tan Keng Yam appeared, sporting a batik shirt. Accompanied by Mrs Mary Tan, he made his way through the Istana grounds by buggy, stopping to watch the performances and try out the activities on offer as crowds scrambled to get pictures.
The mid-day sun and humidity was a bit too much for some, like retiree Nancy Tan, 70, and her daughter Christine Tan, 38, a Singaporean doctor based in Sydney.
They were taking shelter under the covered path encircling the Front Lawn, and looking forward to the indoor guided tour of the Istana where they hoped it would be cooler.
Ms Tan's friend, an aide de camp at the Istana, had persuaded her to visit the Istana.
"She's (friend) very busy today but we're hoping to catch her in uniform," said Ms Tan.
Despite the heat, they enjoyed the visit.
"While standing in line to come in, we met many different people. It was very interesting," said Mrs Tan.