Singapore’s Haw Par Villa
If you are traveling to Singapore, you don’t have to be afraid that you won’t be able to travel in budget. In fact, cheap traveling in Singapore is highly accommodated by its varying cheap hotels and attractions, one of such that you will encounter in Haw Par Villa.
Haw Par Villa is a Chinese mythological theme park in Singapore, located along 262 Pasir Panjang Road. You can get here with 10-minute bus ride from Harbour Front MRT Station then walk for 2 mins from Exit A to Haw Par Villa. It opens daily from 9 am to 7 pm and it costs no admission fee at all, which is the reason why backpacking in Singapore is not impossible.
Originally known as Tiger Balm Gardens, the park was founded in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the Burmese brothers and businessmen behind the popular herbal ointment Tiger Balm. Wanting to give back to the community, they designed the park as a place where children could learn about traditional Chinese values as expressed through myth, legend and the tenets of Confucianism. So was born the idea of extending the place to incorporate a garden in which Chinese legends would come to life. In 1979, this place was sold by the Aw family to the Singapore Tourist Board.
Haw Par Villa is like no other place in the world, with over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that dramatize Chinese legends and folklore. Founded on Chinese legends and values, this historical theme park has large, imposing statues from famous legends of old – featuring characters like Fu Lu Shou, Confucius, statues of the Laughing Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy, as well as dioramas of scenes from Journey to the West. Prepare to be fascinated by stories and images of ancient times, told vividly through storytelling here at Haw Par Villa.
The most well-known is probably the Ten Courts of Hell exhibit, which depicts gruesome scenes of punishment and reincarnation popular to Buddhist belief in Chinese mythology, all set in a 60 meter-long trail of a Dragon. While it’s questionable if a visit to Haw Par Villa will make your children better behaved, it will almost certainly give them nightmares. The dioramas in the Ten Courts of Hell illustrate the extremely specific punishments for different sins in extremely gruesome detail. This is followed by Journey into the West, which retells the classic Chinese legend of monk Xuanzang in his search of Buddhist scriptures.
Of course, the Ten Courts of Hell is just one of the many things to see at Haw Par Villa. Most of the space is hilly gardens containing large sculptures and dioramas reflecting the art movements of the late thirties, with a strange mix of art deco and surrealism. It ranges from violent depiction such as a war between fish-men and a boy who’s been hit by a car, to out of place statues like the Statue of Liberty and a kangaroo, even to downright perplexing such as a wolf speaking on the telephone and a crab-lady. While these creatures’ statuettes must make sense to someone who already knows the original Chinese mythology, there are no signs explaining the story or significance behind them. Although it might seem weird, the Haw Par Villa is one quirky experience you must do while in Singapore.