Wednesday August 15, 2018

Chinese legends at Haw Par Villa

NOT many travelers to Singapore find their way to this enigmatic theme park. My trips to this Southeast Asian nation always included the usual destinations in my itinerary: Orchard Road, Sentosa, Chinatown, Marina Bay, and Singapore Zoo, to name a few.

I never heard of Haw Par Villa until a Singaporean friend, who is a fellow travel blogger, told me about it. It’s always good to ask a local because you’ll get suggestions that do not pop up in the initial pages of search engines.

As soon as we got off bus 51, a rugged wall that is painted in red, appearing like waves of flames, welcomed us at the entrance. There’s no admission fee to this theme park, so you get to enjoy it for free. An arch depicting images of tigers are found at the entrance.

The tigers symbolized the old name of the place, which was Tiger Balm Garden because the family that owned the park was also the owner of Tiger Balm ointment.

The father created the medicinal product and passed on his business to his two sons, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, from which the park’s current name originated.

The park is known for featuring Chinese mythical creatures and folklore, as well as vices and virtues. Although some of the figures and the scenes look weird and a bit scary, the colorful paint makes them attractive and eye-catching, ideal for social media sharing.

If you want to familiarize yourself with Chinese history, literature, and mythology, then Haw Par Villa is the place for you.

The first thing that caught my eye beyond the archway was Madam White Snake from the Chinese legend of the white snake. A few steps away from it are the Zodiac Wheel, the Sumo Wrestlers and, surprisingly, the Statue of Liberty.

Along the main path can be found the diorama of a Chinese mythology, the battle between the Eight Immortals - Cao Guojiu, Han Xiangzi, He Xian'gu, Lan Caihe, Li Tieguai, LüDongbin, Zhang Guolao, and Zhongli Quan. Each has powers that can grant life or defeat evil.

Right in the middle of the park are the memorials for the brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par. There are are also memorials for their parents at the inner portion of the park.

Further uphill is the Signature Pond, which has a pagoda and miniature bridges and structures. There are live turtles and fishes found in the pond. Around it are statues of mermaids that seem to be enjoying themselves.

At the site of the former Villa, which has a mini-amphitheater at the clearing, one can find the diorama of the virtues and vices. There was also an Australian and African Corner, as well as the Journey to the West, which is a Chinese novel.

Visitors can also spot figures of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. If you roam around the park, you will also find a bigger Pagoda Pond, with an image of Buddha. We even found some visitors praying at the Pagoda Pond.

But the biggest attraction, which we didn’t dare to explore was the Hell’s Museum Complex and Ten Courts of Hell. If you want to tour the park with a guide, there’s a minimal fee to it. But they also offer a special tour on Friday nights, especially inside the Ten Courts of Hell.

Haw Par Villa is an interesting park that is like no other. I’m glad to have learned about this from a local. It’s something you can also explore the next time you visit Singapore.


All photos are by this author unless otherwise stated. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at

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