After a spate of temperamental weather over the past week, clear skies greeted visitors at the Istana open house yesterday.
Bands and choirs - ranging from post-55-year-olds of the NTUC's U Live playing the ukulele to the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir - entertained visitors at the day- long Labour Day celebration. Some strolled the tree-lined driveways while others gathered at a cluster of tents, 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 four, six and eight - get close to a python under the care of a keeper from the Singapore Zoo.
"It gets the children 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.
Others fired rockets, which were really 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 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 as crowds scrambled to get pictures.
The midday sun proved a bit too much for some, like retiree Nancy Tan, 70, and her daughter Christine Tan, 38, a doctor. They took shelter in a covered path, and were looking forward to the indoor guided tour of the Istana where they hoped it would be cooler.
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.