Welcome to Haw Par Villa
Like something out of the twilight zone, the near-forgotten theme park “Haw Par Villa” is a must for anyone seeking something out of the ordinary, rich in cultural learning!
In it’s glory days, this avant guard theme park was an iconic symbol in Singapore, and considered a must see by locals and foreigners alike. It was built by the sons of Aw Chu Kin, inventor of a simple homemade balm, which ended up being a world wide success, known today as “Tiger Balm”. As the country of Singapore developed, and became almost futuristic in it’s modern appearance, the thousands of dated figurines that make up this park began to lose their luster along with much of their original appeal. Some of the areas of Haw Par Villa have been shut down due to lack of preservation, such as the amphitheatre (I am still curious as to what kind of shows one might have been able to see here) – yet there are also other areas which seemed to be undergoing repairs. I was happy to see that someone still cares about this hidden treasure, and insists on it’s preservation.
Haw Par Villa is divided into several areas. Each of the areas artistically portray stories and events based on famous Chinese Historical personalities, mythology and legends. From the ‘Eight Immortals’, to the ‘Pond of Legacy’, the “Hua Song Museum”, or “Madam White Snake” – the diversity of exhibits at Haw Par Villa seems unending. There’s also giant memorials to members of the Aw family, in addition to the Haw Par House – a giant circular house built for one of the Aw brothers.
I felt the main attraction of Haw Par Villa is the enclosed tunnel which takes you through the 10 courts of Hell. I felt it was as highlight because it was fascinating to see what was considered a punishable and intolerable crime in old Chinese scripture – or at least how the Aw family interpreted this. Additionally, it was interesting to see how some of the severities of crimes were categorized and separated. For instance, ‘Cheating during examinations’ wasn’t found until the eighth court of Hell.. worse than ‘Abducting others’ found earlier at the sixth court of Hell, and punishable by having your intestines ripped out! A little harsh I would reckon – but I guess ‘kids these days’ gotta learn somehow! Fear seems to be most effective.
I have separated the post depicting the Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa due to the graphic nature of the torturing of the figures found within. If you think you’ve got the stomach for it, please visit the post HERE.
Haw Par Villa was definitely an odd and unexpected highlight to my visit in Singapore, though I felt very enriched with the amount I was able to learn. When in Singapore with a few extra hours, I’d highly recommend visiting this one-of-a-kind attraction. It is definitely not like going to Universal Studios, but is surely somewhere where the sidewalk has ended, and you are able to learn more of the culture in which you’re visiting.
At the time of this publication, Haw Par Villa has free admission. I have a feeling that if the city tries to revitalize this that there will be a hefty admission fee to go along with it. My suggestion is to go while it still has some of it’s original charm, and while there’s no crowds. This made it very easy to stroll around and take the time to read all the informative plaques found at almost every step of the way while exploring all the fascinating and unique sculptures.
Are there any theme parks you’ve been to which seemed to have been all but forgotten? Any cultural attractions which seemed to have been left behind? Share your stories in the comments below!