First of all, let me just say this is the only place in the world you can safely say the 4-letter-word in front of your young children. Yes, it is H-E-L-L.
So, why do I wanna go to hell? Hell, why not?
It’s been a really long while since I have been back at Haw Par Villa, specifically, 24 years. Can you blame me? What was once a super tourism spot of Singapore and the region, with a million visitors a year, had become something of a joke and an eyesore in the beautiful town of Pasir Panjang. It is no wonder young, intelligent and liberal thinking individuals like us no longer find Haw Par Villa an attraction.
However, we did mention this place to Grace in passing and she really wanted to see what the hell it was so we promised her we will bring her one day.
Today happened to be that fateful day.
The entrance was quite foreboding but we came across these two Tiger Balm mascots that were kinda cute. But we weren’t here for kawaii-wannabes so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, gross, bloody and kitschy?
Let me just say that I’m not going to go into the history of the place, you can get that from Wikipedia or Atlas Obscura. I am just going post all the pictures I took and give them captions of what I think is going on. If you are looking for a serious review, let me say that this isn’t it.
An evil goat greets you. Instead of a soft wooly coat, its skin is as prickly and hard as its heart.
If you think rats are the worst creatures on the planet, you should know that they get up to even more heinous acts when nobody’s looking. Stabbing, murder, riots… I don’t know how the rabbits fit in here though.
Standing before the overlords of hell and there’s the famous celebrity Tripitaka. Can I have an autograph?
Walking straight through the gates of hell. Oooooh.
There are apparently 10 courts of hell that you can be sent to, to serve your sentence for all the crimes you have committed in your life. Talk about spoiler alert!
After exiting the courts, we were greeted with this.
Nope, nothing kinky is going on. Supposedly this wonderful woman is breastfeeding an old lady cos she is hungry and poor. How sweet. But her son at the background doesn’t look right in the head, literally.
After walking the courts, it is probably a relief to be out in the open where things are less weird compared to hell.
Wait, I spoke too soon. What the hell is this creature?
Apparently these are hippopotami and did you know hippos have immaculate dental hygiene, I mean just look at those pearly whites? It should be proud.
This primate needs braces though. He should have gotten some tips from the hippo neighbour.
What the hell is she doing here? Is she lost? Is there some folklore or legend I should know about? Someone please tell me what is going on!!!
Meanwhile, it gets every more confusing as classical and french music plays in the air and mesmerised us into just accepting our fate and stop questioning the inevitable.
(Couldn’t they have Chinese instrumental music or those soundtracks that are usually played in old Chinese zombie movies? It was rather counterproductive to the atmosphere of a fantasy Buddhist theme park.)
This mountain conceals fantastic creatures which can only come to you in your dreams/nightmares. I wonder what the architects of the park added in their pu-er while dreaming up these fantastically strange structures.
I have to be very honest, I have absolutely NO idea what is going on here but I’ll watch that movie.
Pfft, those bimbotic mermaids get all the fame, shellfish maidens should also be in more mainstream media.
You are what you eat. Fish lady is trying to butcher up this fish, perhaps to finish her transformation from part-woman, part-fish to all ichthyes. Eat more fish yo!
I think I know this. It is the Asian version of Michelangelo’s famous “Birth of Venus”. Not quite what I envisioned.
No clamshell or starfish boobs support here, she is baring it all for everyone to see. I think this might be the Conch or Snail Girl story where she secretly appears in the day to clean and cook for her saviour. No wonder he loved her, I would want a naked lady cleaning my house too. Probably.
Of course there are normal beings depicting some old Chinese legends and fairy tales. They are not total monsters.
Wait, I had no idea Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit was Chinese folklore?
In case you are wondering, the wonderful land down under is also represented here. Welcome to Australia.
The tortoise decided to cheat in the Rabbit vs Tortoise race and enlisted the help of an ostrich instead. Note the awesome and absolutely inaccurate depiction of the teeth on the bird.
If those don’t look like koalas, it is because they don’t look like koalas but I assure you they are koalas.
I think the heat has got to us and them. These ladies know a good time! I just wish this was real water as it is really hot now.
Mermaids are perfectly normal compared to this masterpiece in insaneness.
As far as I know, most of the crazy half-people, half-seafood statues comes from the chinese mythology book Shanhaijing 山海经. I did some research to see what was that all about.
Beware of the chicken-headed girl who would drag you into the depths of her chicken coop. Bok-bok.
Grace’s expression says it all.
In retrospect, the ten courts was a fantastic place to actually get away from the searing sun. Because it was so hot we could not wait to get the hell out of there.
You may be wondering if Haw Par Villa holds a place in our hearts as Singaporeans. In my case, no. My mind was not changed after coming here. My husband, daughter and I didn’t not gain anything except for being extremely sun-tanned after visiting for a couple of hours.
As a tourist attraction, the “hell” concept is weird, kitschy, and out of common sense. I can’t relate to it, much less let it affect my life.
As a park, it is deprived of nature or landscaping or anything that makes it comfortable and soothing. There’s so much paint and concrete in the place that it is literally walking into a frying pan as the pavement is baked by the fierce Singapore sun. There are few plants and trees to cool the place and nothing is natural.
Haw Par Villa, you will not be missed.