The first photo above (Take 1) was taken during my trip to London 2 years ago. It was the famous horse guard of Royal Horse Guards building in London – the famous red-shirted, with the Bearskin Cap that the guard wear. They were so iconic that you may probably seen them in person, on TV, magazine, books or the internet. Little did I know that we actually had a similar looking palace guards here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as shown in the second photo (Take 2) above. Istana Negara palace guards, however, is nowhere near the guards of Royal Horse Guards in London in terms of numbers and it’s rich history.
About Istana Negara
The Istana Negara or National Palace of Malaysia is the official residence of His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong (The King) and Her Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong (The Queen). Nestled within an area of 11.34 hectare, the palace is serenely enveloped in stunning gardens with a vibrant assortment of beautiful trees and plants. Historically, the palace’s original building was a privately owned double storey mansion. Built in 1928, the residence held 13 rooms, an extensive ground that was wire-fenced with 3.3 metres high concrete pillars and guard post.
Today, it is one of the most visited tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur, thanks to Hop-on Hop-Off City Tour that makes Istana Negara one of their stops. It is located along Jalan Syed Putra on the slope of a hill of Bukit Bintang. The problem with this place is it’s almost non-walkable from other popular tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur. Just opposite the main gate is a busy street of Jalan Istana. Hop-On Hop-Off seems the best option for tourists to reach this place. But of course, you can always drive if you want to.
At the main entrance of the Istana Negara is a beautiful arch with two special guard posts on each side to shelter two members of the cavalry. Clearly, the main attraction here is the palace guards with only four of them on duty at one time. And if you’re lucky, you will get an opportunity to watch a ‘changing of guards’ event at a pre-scheduled time. As in Royal Horse Guards building in London, it’s OK to pose with the guards of Istana Negara. Don’t ask them to ‘say cheese’ though as what you will get from them is just a stone-faced look (they were on duty, remember?).
For more info to get here, visit Hop-On Hop-Off website here.
Oh, in case you’re interested, more info on Royal Horse Guards and Buckingham Palace Guards can be found here.
Istana Negara on Google Map:
[update:17/11/2011] This palace was eventually closed on 15th November, 2011. The gate was locked in the morning, in a historic royal ceremony, that signaled the end of royal duties at this palace. The grandeur new palace, which was built on 97.65 hectares of land in Jalan Duta, was opened on the same day. It’s being said that the old palace will be converted into a royal museum. I just hope that the spectacular ‘changing of guards’ event will be continued at the new palace.
[update: Nov 9, 2012] Malaysian government had announced that the Changing of Guard ritual will take place twice a day as an added tourist attraction here. Read here for details.