Now the following page may contain scenes that might make you feel uncomfortable.
Like the post that might have brought you to this page, we start by telling you that sometimes it can be hell on earth without getting to it. We are sure you know what that means. We all have those days at work, with family or simply when we are trying to get something done.
Anyway. This page is not a rant but an introduction for you to a unique place in the little red dot, indeed the world, where you can literally visit the underworld and come back. Sort of getting a preview before buying…
Eons Many years ago, there was a pair of brothers. They hail from a country today called Myanmar and they made their way to this little sliver of an island of the main. What were they here for? To make their fortunes of course! And they did. Did you know that the strong smelling medical ointment used by some folks to relieve themselves of headaches was internationalized from our little island? Since we are not endorsed nor paid by the company, no mention here but we guess you should know who that is. If not, look up the words “tiger” and “balm” on the web.
Now this was NOT suppose to be a villa in the sense that folks lived here, but one of three parks that the Aw brothers built in the mid to late 1930s at various locations around Asia. Because can you imagine taking a walk in your villa garden like this one? Hmmm…
In the past it might had been a little less accessible, but today it is easy to get to. In fact, there is an MRT station of the Circle line (CC25) right at its doorstep! Actually, coming out of the station (there is only one way out) will lead you to the entrance of this “theme” park. Good to note:
- Its only open from 9am to 7pm, so don’t come too early or late.
- Accessible all year round, so no worries about a locked gate.
- Free entry for all! Yippee. Who does not like free stuff?
Here’s a map we lifted from the web in case you needed some route guidance:
A short walk uphill leads to the main arch entrance. And what would be the first thing that might strike you? No prizes for guessing that it would be the Ten Courts of Hell. An interesting experience awaits you – before you get to the actual Hell museum, you will be at the exhibition entrance. Don’t just skip it and head to the courts, for on one side you can see how death is commemorated around the world, and the other you can lie in a real coffin…
Yep. Bet you have not tried that huh?
Step inside the museum and you will soon be transported to the realm of the underworld, version Chinois. You might be familiar with the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of hell, and here you might find a lot of similarities. Except that the process of judgment endures through 10 stages. It’s akin to dying several times if one’s judged to be sinful. Here are some of the courts, and we best leave you to take in the rest when you are there.
Worried now? Not too late to repent.
Of course there is so much more than the courts of hell at Haw Par villa, though one could spent an eternity there (no pun intended). Perhaps toss a coin into the wishing pool (for not being cast to hell) on your way out and make a right to the pavilion area that has the deities Fu (福), Lu (祿) and Shou (壽) looking onto it. Each of them represent a specific attribute: wealth, status and longevity respectively. You might know that the belief and worship of these deities is serious business.
Did you know that this entire complex was built at a cost of $2 million dollars (that’s straits dollars) back in the day? At least that’s what the Tourism board of our country says. That’s a lot of money in those days when the daily wage was between 35-60 cents for a lowly laborer! But that said, the family that constructed this was philanthropic too, and opened the place to the public. That’s how the tradition began of families bringing children here to wander and wonder at the figures and sculptures back in the 1950s and 1960s.
And it was for good reason too. Because it was here that children learnt a little more about the folklores and stories of their forebears. Such as the journey to the west, a story set in the Tang dynasty about a monk traveling to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures, escorted by repenting disciples such as the Monkey God. Did you know that this story was only published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty? How about the eight immortals? Have you heard about them too? Some say they were actually featured in the X-men comics too!
Not to worry. There is no exam at the end of this free tour of the villa.
Haw Par Villa is a fantastic place to bring yourself and family with kids for a day out. You might not need a full day, but certainly give it at least 2 hours to have a deeper appreciation of the folklores and stories.
If there is one tip, it would be that the entire place has little shade save the trees and a few pavilions. On beautiful sunny days remember to put on a hat and drink up, while on rainy days an umbrella is definitely recommended.
Enjoy this. Because it is truly unique and one of a kind.
Updated November 2017