Rain fails to dampen spirits of largest crowd at Istana CNY open house since pandemic
Though it was raining, university student Rayan Mansoor stuck to his plan and took his friend, an exchange student, to visit the Istana on Monday.
The 21-year-old Singapore permanent resident and his friend from the Netherlands were among 17,554 visitors at the Istana on the first full-scale open house on Chinese New Year since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Rayan, who is from Pakistan, said he and his friend Souhail Boussalem, 22, whom he met playing recreational floorball at the Singapore Management University, decided to visit the Istana on the second day of Chinese New Year as it is not open all the time.
He added: “It is the perfect opportunity to show him and check out the place for myself.”
The open house on Monday had the largest crowd since the pandemic. It was the third full-scale open house since Covid-19 restrictions were eased significantly.
The 2022 Chinese New Year open house saw about 3,000 visitors. With Covid-19 measures in place, it did not feature performances, tours or food trucks. In 2021, there was a small-scale open house, with 18 beneficiaries and caregivers from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore and St Luke’s ElderCare in attendance.
Performances returned to this year’s event between 8.30am and 6pm, including musical performances by students from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts School of Young Talents, which was attended by President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee.
They also took in a Chinese drum performance by students from Maris Stella High School, before mingling and taking pictures with members of the public.
This year saw the return of guided tours of the Istana’s main building to view selected function rooms and a collection of state gifts presented to Singapore’s leaders.
National Parks Board volunteers also conducted guided tours to showcase the flora and fauna around the Istana’s grounds.
The guided tours cost between $2 and $4 for Singaporeans and permanent residents, and between $2 and $10 for other visitors, depending on age.
At about 3pm, about 100 people were in the queue for the tours, with some deciding to skip them due to the long wait and poor weather.
Among those who persevered was Ms Sandhya Gopinathan, 43, who was there with her nine-year-old daughter.
Noting that the full-scale open house came at a perfect time for her daughter, who is in Primary 4, the court officer said: “She knows a bit of Singapore history now that she’s started learning it in school with social studies.”