19,500 celebrate CNY at Istana despite rain showers
Dark clouds and intermittent rain showers did little to dampen the mood at the Istana on Feb 12 as about 19,500 people visited the President’s official residence to mark the third day of Chinese New Year.
The main gate in Orchard Road opened at 8.30am for the first Istana open house of 2024 and the second for President Tharman Shanmugaratnam since he took office in September 2023.
The 40ha estate was filled with families, couples and tourists enjoying the day out despite the mostly gloomy weather.
Armed with brollies, they toured the Istana’s grounds, watched a variety of performances, and chowed down on meals from food stalls and a food truck that were set up for the occasion.
It was the second time marketing director Abduh Ismail, 33, was at the Istana with his two girls, aged six and two. They were also at the Deepavali open house in November 2023, which drew nearly 15,000 visitors, but Feb 12 was the first time for his wife, Ms Sharifah Alhabshi, also 33.
“It was already quite cloudy when we left home, but we weren’t worried about that. We prefer it to be cloudy rather than it being too hot,” said Mr Abduh, who arrived at about 11am.
The family of four were able to take shelter from the rain at a large tent where the performances were held. Booths were also set up there for activities like Chinese calligraphy and for merchandise to be sold by social service agencies Touch Community Services and Minds.
Ms Joy Liu, who was on a seven-day holiday to Singapore with her father, husband and two young children, also arrived at the Istana at about 11am and stayed for four hours.
Visiting from Yunnan province in China, Ms Liu had read about the open house before arriving here and decided to go since they happened to be in town.
Though it rained twice while they were there, the 40-year-old still enjoyed it. “The place is very beautiful. It is a good place to take the kids,” she said in Mandarin.
Entry to the Istana grounds was free for Singaporeans and permanent residents. All other visitors had to pay an entrance fee of $20 per adult and $10 per child aged between four and 12 years.
For an additional fee, visitors were able to go on guided tours of the Istana’s main building. A guided tour by National Parks Board volunteers was also on offer for those interested in the Istana’s flora and fauna.
All proceeds from the entry fees and guided tours will go towards charities supported by the President’s Challenge.
Mr Tharman and his wife, Ms Jane Ittogi, turned up at about 3.45pm to a sea of mobile phones held aloft by those hoping to snap a photo of them.
While rain pelted down, they were treated to a series of performances, including a multicultural dance routine by a 30-strong troupe, which added bursts of colour and sound.
The dancers, aged between six and 45 years, were from TheDanceTribeSG, a dance school run by Ms Preeti Agrawal, 37.
She said they had practised since January, and that incorporating Chinese and Malay music into the performance gave them an opportunity to learn more about the different cultures.
By 4.30pm, the skies cleared, in time for a dragon dance in front of the Istana’s main building.
Mr and Mrs Tharman then held a meet-and-greet session with the public, posing for photos with the crowd for about 30 minutes before taking their leave.
As the sun shone, so did Ms Fion Phua, 54, who got a picture with them. The founder of social welfare group Keeping Hope Alive said: “I am so happy. I came especially for this.”