Friday, September 7, 2012

The new Istana Negara

Istana Negara is the national palace (which is exactly what it means in Bahasa).  I sometimes surprise myself with the amount of the language I've picked up despite not making any systematic and concerted effort to do so.  Since I can see the palace from my bathroom windows this post could also be titled "visiting the neighbors".  The ability to see someone's house from the comfort of your bathtub definitely makes them your neighbor.

The king is far newer to the neighborhood than I am.  For the entire history of an independent Malaysia, the palace was located in the city on Jalan Istana.  That all changed last year when the king's official residence was moved out to the suburbs nearly a month before the new king's installation.

For my non-Malaysian readers, the installation of a new king isn't as big of a deal as it sounds.  It happens every five years so if you miss if it all you need to do is wait a while and it will be happening again.  The Malaysian Constitution requires that the King be a Muslim male from one of the country's royal lines (of which there are nine).  Twice a decade the nine Sultans get together elect a new king from amongst themselves.  The current new king is the Sultan of Kedah, who has already been the king once as a young man, making him the first king in Malaysian history to hold the position twice.  

Now that the palace has moved, I'm not sure it's such a great stop for a tourist exploring the city.  With all due respect to my neighborhood, it can be difficult to get to as traffic between it and the city is never a given.  Getting there requires a car, taxi, or a bus.  Wheeled transportation is a must because the only way to get to the front of the palace is via the specially created entrance and exit ramps off of Jalan Duta.  

If your time in the city is limited, the amount of time you'll spend getting to the palace will make you resent the little bit of time you'll spend actually looking at it.  The palace isn't open to the public so a visit just involves seeing the palace on the hill and the guards out front.  If you're really not that interested in watching military guards the entire stop won't take you more than five minutes.  However,  if you happen to be in the area anyway and are looking for something to do, it is worth stopping by for the novelty factor.


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