Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa, formerly known as Tiger Balm Gardens, was originally constructed in 1937 by "Tiger Balm King" Aw Boon Haw as a grand residence for his younger brother, Aw Boon Par. It was then turned into an entertainment park to teach and preserve traditional Chinese values. Today the park is a shell of its former past, entrance is free but it still is home to 1,000 statues and dioramas centered around Chinese folklore.
It was 2011 when I revisited the place. This time it was with my own young children. I ended up being sorely disappointed. It was just a lifeless place with no stories to tell. My children wanted to leave because it was so boring! The exhibits were all gone and replaced with simple statues.
Maybe it's because I've seen and experienced Har Par Villa in all its glory - so I felt an extra load of disappointment when my second experience was nothing like the first. So no, don't go there even if it's free.
As part of the GenY, it was a fascinating eye-opener as we tread through the different exhibits. Such as those depicting the shocking outcomes should we for example, waste any morsel of food. One would not have imagined such a trivial matter was actually believed to bring about horrible retributions like having your tongue cut out. Scary, isn’t it?
The miniature exhibits were really cute and well maintained but the location wasn’t really that accessible. I could still remember the hot sun as we struggled to find the nearest bus stop and any bus that could bring us “back to civilization”.
So be prepared to have 3G, functioning maps on your smartphones, and plenty of water with you. I suggest this attraction be one of the last just in case you might have exhausted much energy walking around and finding your way out.
Having visited it a year back for a school project, I witnessed first hand the pathetic state it has became.
The stagnant waters from ponds no attendant bothered to upkeep was a plus point for all mosquitoes, only problem was all they've got to sting all year was peeling and chipped statues. I guess that's why they flew by the swarm over to us the minute they sense human blood.
It is truly saddening, this place.
Another interesting attraction would be the Ten Levels of Hell. It is actually a cave, portrayed to be dark and eerie to create a scary effect. In it, you can walk through a path and there would be statues at the sides, showing you what would happen to you if you go different levels of hell. Scary or interesting? You decide. To me, it was quite enriching to learn of all the punishments that we would receive if we were to go to hell. One thing to note before going Haw Par Villa though- the place is getting quite run down and the statues did not look like they were well-maintained. In fact, I went last year and we even spotted a 4-legged lizard in the lotus pond. You might want to bring your own food and drinks if you are worried that you might get hungry and thirsty as there are no eateries around or in Haw Par Villa itself.
I find it quite a waste that nobody really visit Haw Par Villa anymore. Maybe that is the reason why there is low maintenance of the statues and they seem to get more damaged and dustier as years go by. As a chinese, I am very intrigued by chinese culture and would learn to love more by visiting attractions like these. I am sure tourists would love to learn about chinese culture this way too. Renovations of the place would be needed to attract tourists and locals to pay this place a visit again.
The tiger balm brothers must have had balls of steel, being brave enough to build themselves a garden of tribute around a phallic shaped monument of ego.
"But it's all statues of the deities whatttt," you whine. False, friends. When you make the hot, sweaty climb past the intestinal-like decorations and up the steep slope of hell you will find yourself in a shady spot where an algae-filled "river" is guarded by an ancient politician holding a fishing rod. You will sit there, slurping your cold cold water and sharing shade with all the other poor plebeians, looking up towards the bearded man and noticing that the river's algae flows around miniature structures. You will be curious and read the plaque, only to discover that the river is in the shape of the tiger balm brothers' surname, and it hold a city within the letter! Some brothers might have been growing a little bit too big for the hexagonal shaped packaging...
Either way, if the stinking hot heat of the hill of tribute doesn't scare you away, the tortured faces of agony, spread throughout the "attraction" should. While amusing, it begs the question that has no answer: WHY?! This goes for the ten courts of hell too.
Ah people. You never fail to amaze me.
But to give them face I shall say this: The place was extremely well maintained. Every blood stain practically gleamed and wounds from bodies sawn into half looked positively fresh.
P.S. If you drove, you'll have to pay $5 entry. Take the train instead. Amuse your ang mor friends who visit.
One of the most disturbing attractions of Singapore but definitely a place to go to fully appreciate the beliefs of the Chinese Culture. Despite the terrifying demeanour, there is much to explore. There are statues that are slightly aged and weathered but are still standing strong which are intimidating at first sight. Though intimidating, these statues imbue a sense of fear which is intended by their image - an individual is supposed to reduced to a mere human being at the whim of these scary-looking gods that can whisk one's life away.
Although it was scary at first sight, the trip was definitely a good experience for me to understand the beliefs of the more traditional Chinese. Small children are not recommended.
As a Buddhist, I have been brought up with traditional beliefs that in a lifetime, should we do any unforgivable or morally wrong things such as cheating or theft, we will be punished by being sent to Hell. Those beliefs and myths told by my grandparents could all be seen by the exhibit displayed at Haw Par Villa.
I think it is a rather good place to be kept as it has been around for eons. Not only can it be served as a historical site, it can also be used as a place for education purposes. In recent years, I have seen articles reporting about the removal of Haw Par Villa and I begin to question that decision.
Visit Haw Par Villa while you still can. Moreover, entrance is complimentary and it is quite convenient as it is located just right beside their new Haw Par Villa MRT station.
I remember visiting it in the 80s when it was still a major attraction. Previously it was called ‘Tiger Balm Gardens’. Why? From the medicating balm which was sold in the early 1900s (and is still sold) and made a fortune for the Aw family. The Aw family are the reason the name changed to Haw Par Villa.
Despite the fact that it has fallen on hard times, Haw Par Villa is amazing. There must be over a thousand statues ranging from the grotesque to the beautiful, the huge to the small, and a few hundred dioramas that show Chinese legends.
The Ten Courts of Hell exhibit depicts scenes of punishment and reincarnation popular to Buddhist belief. If anyone had any doubts about the horrors of hell, this display will cure your disbelief!
It is a tragedy that it is in decline and has lost its allure to the glitz of Casinos and Western Theme parks. With a (probably fairly large) investment this could probably be revitalised. It could be a fascinating vehicle for recounting the wonderful stories and images of ancient times.
It is still worth a visit if only to wonder at what could be. I wish it was re developed. Chinese mythology is so rich. Why ignore it?
The experience I had there wasn't that perfect for me. True that the different histories of characters like the monkey king is interesting, but certain attractions like the levels of.. Let's just say that it's something that will scare kids off and affect them mentally for a long time.
This place will be more suitable for adults since they will not cringe at the sight of things at certain attractions. Kids should be at fun places like beaches instead to have fun.
The place has a wide variety of figurines and statues on display, but the order seems to be haphazard and random. Seeing gorillas and kangaroos seemed strange for a place depicting Chinese heritage. The Ten Courts of Hell is the only attraction that is being maintained and is worth a look. In fact, the mirror really caught me by surprise.
The free entry made my visit slightly more bearable, thought if I was a tourist, I would be very disappointed with the time spent here. There are also not many attractions nearby, which makes this place difficult to be fitted into an itinerary.
One specific place I have to mention is the 18 levels of hell. I literally freaked out when I went there (as in the one in Haw Par Villa, not the real one duh); it was so well-made and so much like a reality even I who has a clear conscience was trembling throughout the whole walk. The reenacted scenes of the punishments and the "ghosts" suffering from them really sent shivers down my spine and even though I was with my dad throughout the whole thing, that didn't assure me much. Really good, but really scary. I recommend that you go with your friends!
The only people I saw there when I went there the other day were tourists and they didn't look very impressed. I must admit though, I wasn't exactly proud of how badly the statues were maintained. Adding the fact that it was a blistering hot day and the place was almost entirely open-air, hardly anyone was listening to the tour guide!
It's really saddening to see this treasure deteriorate to such a state. While the government had attempted to draw the crowds back to this tourist spot with the free admission and even building a MRT station right next to it, I think more needs to be done to maintain the sculptures and place as a whole.
Would really like to see it go back to how it once was...
Haw Par Villa has definitely seen better days though. The figurines are more or less weathered and some of the colours on them have shed. All that remains of Haw Par Villa is a typically empty Chinese figurine site that is probably a shell of its older days. However, I'm glad they still keep it open, because Haw Par Villa is certainly a treasure in itself.
Entry into Haw Par Villa is free, and it's no wonder, because to charge customers a fee for entering such a badly maintained attraction would be a rip-off. I first came to Haw Par Villa as part of a school trip, and even though it was mind blisteringly hot and I was literally being fed upon by mosquitoes, I enjoyed my experience there a lot.
One of the must-go places in Haw Par Villa would definitely be the Ten Courts of Hell. It's just like any other haunted house - except free, and with moral lessons to learn at the end of the day. This place is definitely not for the weak hearted though, as it features several wax statues of sinners being punished. An example of such punishment would be having their flesh sliced off piece by piece, and there are such avid descriptions of these punishments that reading those alone would suffice for a good scare.
A really under-rated place. It definitely deserves more love; maybe then it'll start getting some proper maintenance.