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Thousands throng outdoors as CNY weather stays mostly dry

SINGAPORE – The second day of Chinese New Year could have been part of a rainy long weekend, but the expected downpours did not materialise, allowing locals and tourists to enjoy the day at the Istana and the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

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SINGAPORE – The second day of Chinese New Year could have been part of a rainy long weekend, but the expected downpours did not materialise, allowing locals and tourists to enjoy the day at the Istana and the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

The Istana opened its doors yesterday to 21,930 visitors, and first-time visitor Mr Hock Loo, 62, told TODAY: “This time, I was determined to visit the Istana. All these years, I missed it for some reason or the other.”

Some signed up for the Nature Guided Walk to explore the Istana’s flora, fauna and biodiversity.

Others took a guided tour of the main building led by volunteers from the Preservation of Sites and Monuments division of the National Heritage Board to view selected function rooms and displays of gifts from foreign dignitaries.

“Touring the President’s house is fun, and for kids, it’s also a learning experience,” said Mr Li Gang, who came from Woodlands with his wife and two children.

At 4pm, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary greeted guests and watched performances, which were mainly put up by schools.

Other attractions included Chinese calligraphy demonstration and a display of birds by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Ms Laura Gentry, who is from Hawaii but lives in Taiwan, said: “The diversity here is unreal. I’m totally impressed by the way of life here, and I’m thankful to my friends hosting me, who suggested I visit Singapore at this time of the year.”

This time, however, the Istana Lawn was closed to visitors, owing to renovation works to “improve the existing drainage system and trellis upgrading”.

The works are expected to be completed by year’s end.

At the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, 2,224 people turned up to visit the national monument. Since it was opened on public holidays from Chinese New Year last year, it has drawn 50,397 visitors, a Singapore Land Authority spokesperson told TODAY.

Car dealer Tim Wong, 32, was there yesterday with his wife and two sons, aged two and five, because they had almost completed their festive visiting on Monday. “We thought of coming here and letting my children have a look,” he said. “We’ll then head to our uncle’s house for dinner.”

For engineer Raymond Teo, 40, the former railway station was an alternative choice. “We went to the Istana at first, but we saw the long queue, so we came here,” said the 40-year-old who came with his wife and two sons aged eight and 10.

Happenchance accounted for American tourist David Winge’s visit: He was passing by and saw that the place was open. “It’s a historically significant place; it’s interesting to see how it looks like,” said the 58-year-old IT system administrator.

Meanwhile, at Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple, the Thian Hock Keng Temple, many devotees fulfilled their yearly tradition of praying there during this festive period.

Madam Awyong Liang Rou, 55, said she and her family have been visiting the 176-year-old national monument for more than a decade: “My husband used to stay near here ... so we come here now to pray during Chinese New Year.

Admin accountant assistant Bernice Chen, 33, who went to the temple with her parents, said, “It’s Chinese New Year, so we came here to receive blessings.”

The temple started its 16 days of festivities organised by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan on Sunday.

Tourist Tina Poulsen, who happened to pass by, told TODAY: “The temple is very pretty, so we decided to go in. The Chinese culture is very interesting,” said the 35-year-old.

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