Istana Negara or the National Palace is the official residence for the reigning monarchy in Malaysia, the Yang Dipertuan Agong or simply, the Supreme King. Unknown to many, Malaysia is actually a constitutional monarchy country and not only does she has a king, she actually has 9 kings/sultans/raja/Yang Dipertuan Besar, rotated among each other to become the Yang Dipertuan Agong for a term of 5 years.
As complex as it seems, let’s not talk about the system any further as today, we are going to visit the Istana Negara, located on top of a hill at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.
Istana Negara is a unique palace as compared to other well renowned palaces such as the Istana Nurul Iman or the Buckingham Palace. Those palaces were long built to cater for the royal families who reign the country. However, as the royal throne for the whole Malaysia keeps changing every 5 years, it was specifically built to fit the purpose.
When Malaysia gained independence and the position of the Yang Dipertuan Agong as the head of state was created, there was no official palace for the country and as such, a mansion owned by a wealthy Chinese was bought by the government and converted as a palace. The building served as Istana Negara well until 2011, when the construction of this new Istana Negara complex at Jalan Duta was completed.
Now, the old Istana Negara is used as a Royal Museum and is open to public.
As for this new palace, it is a very huge complex situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Kuala Lumpur. I was told that the reason for such position is because having the palace on top of a hill shows supreme command over the land. Or at least it appears so.
The main complex is inaccessible to the public but the public has access to the square and the gate of the palace. From the gate of Istana Negara, one can see the mixture of elements in its architecture which includes Malay, Western and Islamic architecture.
With the inaccessibility of the main complex of Istana Negara, honestly, there is nothing much that can be done here. However, there is one attraction that keep drawing people to Istana Negara ever since it was located at the old venue.
The attraction is guard mounting or changing of the guards.
If Buckingham Palace is famous with the guard mounting ceremony, Istana Negara is also famous for the same reason. And for me, to catch the guard mounting ceremony will at least do some justice to an otherwise nothing-to-do visit.
Below is a video shot by me during the changing of horse guard at Istana Negara. It may not be as ceremonious as the one in England, but at least it is an experience to be remembered.
To go to the palace, apart from self-drive and taxi ride, another convenient way is to go with the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Visit here for details. As for the guard mounting ceremony, it is usually held around noon. The video above was shot at 1.3o pm. It is STRONGLY advise that you bring along an umbrella, a hat, sunglasses, or a visor as the sunshine might give you an extreme tanning which you will regret later.
The old palace, now Royal Museum, is open to public from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.