In my previous post about finding the Lost Horizon in Shangri-La Putrajaya, I mentioned that the hotel was on a hill in the center of the city. There is only one other property on the hill and that is the Istana Melawati, the second national palace and retreat house of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia. Istana means "palace" and Melawati means "guard's tower".
So not only was I in a fabulous garden hotel, I was neigbors with royalty. Well, almost. I don't think the King and Queen were in residence while I was there. Click here to see a picture of how close my hotel is to the Istana Melawati.
I ended up visiting Istana Negara along Jalan Istana, which was the official residence of the King of Malaysia for 54 years up to November 2011.
Beyond the palace gate are cypresses and casuarinas.
A close-up of the intricate design on the columns of the palace gate. Can anyone ID this please? :-) UPDATE: Alex of 1784 suggested that it is a stylized hibiscus and I tend to agree since it is their national flower. Maybe the Malysian bloggers can weigh in?
Gold domes top the yellow palace.
A view from below.
Look at how ornate the outdoor electrical lamps are.
Some areas are closed off to the public.
There are 9 states of Malaysia which have their own sultan. Melaka, Penang, Sarawak and Sabah each have governors. Every 5 years, one of the 9 sultans is appointed King and he leaves his state to rule the country. Below, the portraits of the past Kings and Queens of Malaysia line the wall.
These are replicas of the thrones used by the King and his consort. The motifs are colored gold. These are seen every 5 years when a new monarch is crowned. I wonder how it feels to sit there.
From indoors, let's move to the grounds. On topic. The palace sits on over 11 hectares so that is a lot of ground to cover.
Once back outside, I was drawn to a cluster of palms. These are Ptychosperma macarthurii, originally from Australia and Papua New Guinea. Also known as the MacArthur palm, they were named not after the general but after the Australian horticulturist Sir William Macarthur. These palm clump nicely.
The royal gardener must have a thing for variegated plants. Below are Furcraea gigantea striata.
My favorite of the palace plants, Alpinia zerumbet variegata.
In Malaysia, yellow symbolizes royalty and is reserved for royal usage. I wonder if the variegated plants were chosen by the royal gardener specifically to add regality to the gardens.
The individual plants were wonderful but much more engaging all together.
Elegant pathway down to the expansive outer grounds.
Unfortunately, the King and Queen no longer stayed at the Istana Negara Jalan Istana, having recently upgraded their residence. What an upgrade, too. From over 11 hectares, the new grounds of Istana Negara Jalan Duta are a massive 97 hectares.
So I went to the new palace to get a glimpse. For security reasons, this palace was not open to the public and commoners like us had to be content with just a few photos at the gate sans royalty. Below is the more massive gate of the new palace.
The Mountain Royal Guard.
I personally prefer the guards outfitted in traditional samping.
Here is the new Istana Negara. Notice its sprawling grounds. It is supposed to have 22 yellow domes. Can you count them?
So there I was, the royal retreat house next door to my hotel and a visit to the past and present royal palaces and not a royal in sight. Will I ever get to see the King or Queen?