Haw Par Villa is a very ‘uniquely Singaporean’ attraction in our modern city.
Immensely popular in the 80s, it was the RWS for the Generation X.
We were brought up and instilled with the Asian values popularised by the park, and I am glad this upbringing still exist today, in a number of Singaporean families.
This historical site also flooded us with nostalgic memories of our weekend family outings.
Those were the days…
I revisited Haw Par Villa during the Chinese New Year last week. It wasn’t as quiet as I thought.
There were Chinese nationals, Filipinos, Bangalas and surprisingly a group of about 20 Hindu monks. They looked excited.
If you don’t already know, Haw Par Villa is the abode of the late Aw brothers – Boon Haw (Tiger) and Boon Par (Leopard).
They were the sons of a Chinese imperial herbalist who concocted the renowned Tiger Balm medicated oil.
To preserve our heritage, our authorities classified Haw Par Villa as a national monument, alongside landmarks like Jurong Town Hall and Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Now accessible via the Circle Line, Haw Par Villa is increasingly livelier. Everyone should come at least once to experience this otherworldly feeling that envelopes the premise.
By Heavens grace, there are also plans to restore the villa to its former glory.
Remember the Dragon World in the 90’s?
I bet you went with your family a couple of times when you were in primary school.
They were beautiful childhood memories, aren’t they?
There were also school excursions to Haw Par Villa (and to Tang’s Dynasty too, remember?).
We were then petrified little kids who experienced goosebumps and nightmares whenever we recalled the sights (and sounds!) as our rocky boat entered the dragon’s mouth!
Inside the dimly lit cave, there were graphical images of the 10 Courts of Hell which left little to our imagination.
Each soul would be sentenced according to the sins he or she had committed in life.
It was technically the ‘Boat Ride To Hell’.
By the way, were you aware that Dragon World held the record for the largest dragon sculpture in Singapore?
Sadly, it ceased operation in March 2001 and was demolished in 2004. The 10 Courts of Hell remains.
Did you also remember that exciting water ride where we came splashing out of the dragon mouth?
Did you also take multiple rides, like I had? Ah…that has been closed down too.
This eclectic Chinese mythological park could very well be the last of its kind in the world today.
It’s a pity its sister park in Hong Kong had been demolished for commercial development.
In my opinion, Haw Par Villa is Asia’s most enthralling sculptural representation of Chinese mythology, folklore and illustrations of Confucianism.
Even if you may not believe in reincarnation or deities, it is still a fascination to enter the world of the believers.
You will see familiar statues like the Laughing Buddha, 8 immortals, Fu Lu Shou and Sumo wrestlers.
There are also sculptures that caution you against stealing, lying and lusting after women.
An interesting way to pass on the Asian cultural heritage to your kids (if you have one) and if not, to yourself!
Over the years, rumours (ahem) have surrounded the haunting figures in Haw Par Villa.
Ever heard the coffeeshop uncles claiming that Haw Par Villa was the location of the gates to Hell?
Security guards also spoke of how the place comes alive at night.
I wonder if Jack Neo would make ‘A Night at Haw Par Villa’ starring Henry Thia as the guard? Wouldn’t that be cool?
It was also rumoured that the night guards would leave offerings, such as food, incense and cigarettes, in front of certain statues during patrolling to seek protection.
Oh, another thing worth mentioning.
You might see a Tiger Car in the original garage of the villa. It was used to drive the Aw brothers around.
The Tiger Car is a Humber built in 1932.
It has a huge tiger head on the radiator, two fangs protruded from the tiger’s jaws and wire whiskers fashioned onto the tige’s nose.
There are also gold tiger stripes painted on the body.
The number plate 8989 was a lucky number. The number 8 (paat) in Chinese sounds like the word for prosper (faat). The number 9 sounds like forever.
I don’t know if you can still purchase Tiger Balm oil or plasters at their office. I did not come across the office that day.
Let me know if you have the info!
I wish you a Happy Chinese New Year!
To see more pictures of Haw Par Villa, click here:
HAW PAR VILLA (虎豹别墅)
262 Pasir Panjang Road
Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm daily
Admission to Haw Par Villa is Free
Take the Circle Line train and alight at Haw Par Villa Station (CC25) which brings you directly to the foot of the park.