A three-minute walk west along Orchard Road from Dhoby Ghaut MRT takes you past the Plaza Singapura mall, beyond which stern-looking soldiers guard the main gate of Singapore’s Istana (Malay for “palace”), built in 1869. With ornate cornices, elegant louvred shutters and a high mansard roof, the building was the offi cial residence of Singapore’s British governors; now it’s home to Singapore’s president, a ceremonial role for which elections are nonetheless contested. The first Sunday of the month (except in July and August) sees a changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the main gate at 5.45pm. Visitors can only enter the grounds fi ve days a year ($1, or $2 with access to part of the Istana buildings); details on www.istana.gov.sg.

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