Visitors enjoy sweet treats, performances, nature walks at Istana open house

Above: A child getting up close with a snake at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore booth at the Istana open house yesterday. Left: Pupils from Zhenghua Primary School performing an Indian dance at the open house.
Pupils from Zhenghua Primary School performing an Indian dance at the open house.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Above: A child getting up close with a snake at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore booth at the Istana open house yesterday. Left: Pupils from Zhenghua Primary School performing an Indian dance at the open house.
A child getting up close with a snake at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore booth at the Istana open house yesterday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Visitors to the Istana had a different taste of Deepavali yesterday, with sweet treats flavoured with spices and herbs found in the garden of the President's official residence.

Cookies and ice cream in "Istana flavours" like nutmeg and belinjau were some of the goodies for sale on the sprawling green lawns, where open house festivities were in full swing despite the sweltering heat.

Besides food and drinks, school bands and choirs performed while the Bicentennial Orchid was unveiled to the public by President Halimah Yacob.

The orchid hybrid, The Papilionanthe Singapore Bicentennial, was specially created to commemorate the bicentennial.

Madam Halimah also launched updated editions of four books: The Istana, Gardens Of The Istana, Birds Seen In The Istana, and Trees Of The Istana.

The new editions contain additional illustrations and photographs of the buildings and grounds. Beneficiaries from social service agencies, such as Autism Association and HCSA Community Services, were involved in updating the books.

Madam Halimah also unveiled a new multimedia interactive site about the Istana, created in collaboration with The Straits Times, that offers an immersive experience through augmented reality technology and virtual tours.

"The Istana is not just a national monument protected under our laws, it is also a very important part of our heritage and history," she said. "What the books and multimedia site seek to do is... (get) Singaporeans to read about the Istana, and get a feel and sense of it."

 
 

Software engineer Hasyim Azmi, 35, said nothing beats being there in person to soak in the atmosphere.

Besides the various performances, there were guided nature walks on the Istana grounds, face painting and balloon sculpting booths, and a small display of reptiles set up by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

"The kids wanted to see the 'President's house', and they were really excited to catch a glimpse of the President," said Mr Hasyim, who was there with his extended family of 10 for what was their first visit to the Istana.

Other visitors included Indian national Amarta Choudhury, 36, an associate director in a bank: "We've been here for three years and we try to learn more and be connected with the culture here as much as possible. I wanted my kids to learn more about Singapore's history; they go to school here and mingle with the children here, so they should know more about the country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2019, with the headline 'Visitors enjoy sweet treats, performances, nature walks at open house'. Print Edition | Subscribe