Sunday, 28 August 2011

Haw Par Villa

To those that aren't familiar with Haw Par Villa. It is without a doubt, the strangest tourist attraction in Sunny Singapore. It's a park where old Chinese mythological stories are told through statues. These statues are made to recreate scenes in Chinese myth and folklore. It's really quite old, it was built before world war II. You can read a brief history of Haw Par Villa on Wikipedia here. It's displays are going to appear bizarre to those unfamiliar with chinese folklore.


Haw Par Villa was one of the more exciting school excursion destinations for me back then, along with the Zoo and the Singapore Science Centre, (the botanical gardens and the National Museum were the ones I found the most uninteresting), I've learnt to appreciate them now that I'm older. 

"Stay Away! She has crabs!", Or maybe "Let's say no to eating shellfish "campaign.

I remember when Haw Par Villa was revamped as an amusement park back in the 90s. There were boat rides and amphitheaters where you could watch laser shows that told you the Chinese legends of the Earth's creation, the creation of the sun and all that kind of stuff. Although it was very much a family park, I was always a little intrigued by how graphic the depictions of violence, torture and nudity were in this park. There was definitely some rated R stuff going on. The funny thing is, I never really thought about the statues being too gory and unsuitable for a 9 year old at the time, I just looked at them and took them for what they were- depictions of Chinese folklore.  Although I must admit, some of the statues gave me nightmares and some made me feel slightly embarrassed (especially the titty type statues).

A pond of topless mermaids!Well, all except one.
"Grandpa Pai mei, why are you drinking my lunch?" says kid in background. Honestly, I don't know what is going on here.

I found out that there was another Haw Par Villa built in Hong Kong that was pretty much exactly the same as the one in Singapore. The land has since been sold off and only the Mansion (now converted into a museum) and the private Garden remain, what a shame, huh.
Haw Par Villa, Hong kong (Tiger Balm Gardens)

Here's a real fun fact- In Capcom's 1993 installment of Super Street Fighter II. (One of the main reasons why I was throwing all my hard earned part time work money into the slots of the arcade machines. Good times.) Fei Long's Home Ground was actually Haw Par Villa, Hong Kong. The Chinese characters on the ground actually said 'Haw Par Villa'. Neat, huh?



The Chinese characters say Haw Par Villa! Reference the first picture in this post. It's the same words!
My Fei Long impression
 A couple of months ago, I decided to pay a visit to Haw Par Villa to see how the park has gotten on since my last visit, which was easily more than 15 years ago. Parking was paid per entry ($4 or something like that) and admission to the park was free. It was actually a little sad to see that this place didn't attract more people, but then again, it was a Monday afternoon. I'm not complaining cos' I really don't like crowds. If I can help it, the less people around, the better. Walking in the park was very nostalgic, I'm very happy that the Singapore Tourism Board still made sure that the paintwork on the statues were re- touched. Props to you tourism board.

There were more red ear slider turtles than people at the park that day.

I am not very well versed in Chinese mythology and folklore so I didn't recognise some of the scenes in the park but there was a lot of 'Journey to the West'/ Monkey God stuff. There was a very strange area with Australian animal statues like the koala, some frogs and an ostrich that looks completely kitschy and out of place. I loved it!
"Stop him! He's trespassing and wielding a weapon!!"

"Your money or your life! I need to buy me more of these old school Ne Zha styled lingerie"
"Just remain calm, these super barefoot vixens are no match for my prayers!", says the Monk

The park seemed a lot smaller than before and I finished walking about in a pretty short amount of time. I have a habit of always saving the best for last. In this case, the section that I was most looking forward to visiting was the "10 Courts/Levels of Hell" part of the park. It was a section where you see hell and the the depictions of various punishments for the different sins that one commits while on earth. For example, I think there's statues of people with their tongues getting cut off by demons for telling lies. A must see, right?!  So after I finished checking out the whole park. I walked to the 'Main Event', the "10 courts of hell" was closed! Damn it! The park closes at 6pm, and the "Hell" section closes at 5pm! I thought half an hour would be enough time to see it. I'll just have to make another trip to visit the most gruesome, disturbing part of Haw Par Villa.
Sometimes i wish I can have this done and shout out- "Let this be a lesson to you all!" HAHA!

Apparently, there are a whole bunch of abandoned statues dumped at the back of the park and they certainly make for really eerie viewing. I didn't bother trying to find them that day.

When a place is as old as this, there are sure to be stories of the paranormal that may surround it. Especially so, given the nature of the park's mythological displays... the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI) have a whole section of their website dedicated to the Myths of Haw Par Villa. There are a couple of interesting finds and fun reads. There's a more historical type entry about Haw Par Villa on another blog, read on here, if you're interested. I'll probably go visit the park again in the next few months just to see the '10 courts of hell' that I missed this time.
This is one huge Guan Yin statue that you'll see when you drive out of Haw Par Villa.

I hope this place never gets torn down. It's one of the few places in Singapore that has something that the rest of the world doesn't. It's eccentricity, age and art work should always be available for everyone to see.
Recreating the 70s.

3 comments:

  1. i don't think the place will torn down and by the time the Haw Par Villa MRT Station open, i think the place will get a little crowded.

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  2. i remember going there during primary school excursion. I remembered that they revamped the place a bit & then there were rides.. & i liked the wrath water ride but the entry ticket was superbly expensive. ah..those were the days..
    I didnt know that the place is still opened to public until u posted this. I thought it was closed..anyway, thanks for sharing. :)

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  3. hey jon, if you don't know by this now the visitorship of haw par villa has been up by 3x ever since the mrt station open...

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