I’ve got a weird one for you today, guys. This place isn’t on the usual tourist track in Singapore, but if your thing is checking out strange and quirky sights when you travel, then look no further than Haw Par Villa.
Haw Par Villa touts itself as a theme park, but it’s like no theme park I’ve ever seen. There are no rides or carnival games or cotton candy stands. Instead, Haw Par Villa features over 1,000 statues depicting Chinese history and folklore, which sounds like it could potentially be the most boring thing to do in Singapore, but the fact that the vast majority of these statues range from that-was-weird to what-the-#@%!-am-I-looking-at earns Haw Par Villa the award of strangest thing to do in Singapore. Seriously guys, the creepiness factor is high with this one.
Originally built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw for his younger brother Aw Boon Par (both creators of Tiger Balm), this place proves that no matter how rich you are, you can still be a crappy gift-giver. Just kidding – this place is awesome. I mean, that little tiger in the overalls may have had a cameo in my nightmares that evening, but whatever.
Historically, Haw Par Villa was used by schools and parents as a way of teaching their children Chinese values, but today it’s more of a tourist attraction than a teaching tool, albeit not a very busy one. The park was practically deserted when we visited on a Saturday, which definitely added to the horror flick vibe this place already had going for it, but also made it a lot easier to walk through taking silly pictures with pretty much every statue we passed. Haw Par Villa is like the Asian version of Madame Tussauds. If you make it through the whole park without taking at least 50 embarrassing pictures of yourself and everyone with you, you’re doing something wrong. These are some of my favorite pictures ever. I know it’s never as funny to an outsider, but every time I look at these pictures of myself, Cory, and my cousin Clark, who was visiting us, I Can’t. Stop. Laughing.
When we first entered Haw Par Villa, I’d say the statues and scenes we saw were about a Level 5 on the weirdness scale. (For reference, that’s like the equivalent of the It’s A Small World After All ride at Disney World.) The further we walked into the park, though, the stranger it got. The statues became progressively weirder and weirder, prompting more than a few head-scratching moments. You’ll see what I mean…
Like, what can I even say about that? I don’t even have words for what we’re seeing here. And they used to take school children here as a teaching tool? I feel seriously cheated by my field trips to Civil War battlegrounds now.
These are only a small selection of the photographic gems I came home with. You’ll have to visit for yourself for the full, sure-to-be-memorable experience. It takes well over an hour to make it through the whole park, especially if you’re stopping for photo ops, but before you leave, make sure you visit the Ten Courts of Hell exhibition. It’s separate from the rest of the park and easy to miss, but you shouldn’t miss it because it takes the weirdness level all the way up to a 9, which I don’t have to tell you makes it awesome.
These are the things of nightmares, my friends.
The Ten Courts of Hell is built inside a dark cave (because, of course it is), so getting pictures in here is nearly impossible, but freaking out small children – easy. The Ten Courts of Hell exhibition features a scene from each court of hell, depicted by small statues exercising increasingly violent and gruesome tortures on their victims as you pass through the courts. It actually does get pretty gory in here, and I do worry about the sort of person you’d have to be to create this kind of stuff in a theme park for children, but hey, I’m not here to judge. All I’m saying is, if I were an impressionable kid visiting with my class, I’d probably spend the rest of my life fearing death after this.
Once you’ve passed through the Ten Courts of Hell, you’re almost at the end of the park, but not quite. There’s still one thing left to see…
Stranger than pigs wearing underwear and crabs with human heads, Breastfeeding Grandma is not just weird, she’s raise-your-hand-if-you-now-need-therapy weird. I almost find the statues of the children who seemed thrilled to witness this strange scene even more disturbing than the scene itself.
Since moving to Singapore, I’ve encountered more than a few things about Asian culture that seem strange, but most of these things are only strange because of the western culture I was brought up in. However, I’m fairly certain Haw Par Villa is strange for everyone, regardless of culture. There really is no explanation for some of the things you’ll see here.
Entrance into Haw Par Villa is free and it’s conveniently located right outside of the Haw Par Villa MRT station, so really, you have no good reason not to visit. Unless you’re normal. Then maybe this isn’t the place for you. :)
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