Have you heard about Haw Par Villa?
It’s the stuff of nightmares. Quite literally. Many a Singaporean parent scared their children into being good by bringing them to this theme park whilst growing up and I can see why.
If you haven’t heard about Haw Par, chances are that you would know about tiger balm. Well the same people who bought you tiger balm were responsible for this garishly coloured, elaborately sculpted theme park, built to scare the bejesus out of you. Opened in 1937 to the Singaporean public, Haw Par Villa was the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw who wanted to build the park for his brother Aw Boon Par (hence the name Haw Par). The brothers were known as the “Tiger Balm Kings of Rangoon” when they moved their business to Singapore in 1926, and, believing one should contribute to society, this park, costing over $1M to build was just one way in which they did so. The park was packed with visitors each weekend and every holiday.
Free to enter, it’s located at it’s own MRT stop making it incredibly easy to get to and making me wonder why I hadn’t made it here sooner. There are many sculptures depicting Chinese legends of ethics and morality, but the centrepiece would have to be the Ten Courts of Hell.
I was scared before I even got to the Ten Courts of Hell thanks to this delightful masterpiece!
So this is how it goes…settle in.
Upon your death you will reach the Ten Courts of Hell where you will be ushered inside by Horse Face and Ox Head (their actual names). At the first court, your past deeds will be reviewed. If you were virtuous – straight to heaven. Guilty? Well, here’s where the fun begins. You star into the Mirror of Retribution where all your past misdeeds will be revealed. Atonement is then carried out at the following nine courts.
Final judgement is passed upon reaching the tenth court of hell where a cup of magic tea in the Pavillion of Forgetfulness will help you forget about your past life. Then you get on the Wheel of Reincarnation where it will be decided how you return in the next life – either as nobility, a common man, a quadruped, fowl, fish or insect.
There was more to see, but the colours were starting to hurt my eyes and I was scared that I was hanging dangerously close to being punished at the third gate of hell for being ungrateful). So I jumped back on the train and headed for the much quieter, more restrained Chinese & Japanese Gardens. The gardens, although further out, also have their own stop on the MRT.
Unfortunately a lot of the buildings were closed for renovations, but what I could see was beautiful. I can see why many Singaporeans pack a picnic and head here for a catch up on the weekends.
Although I’ve been to Resorts World at Sentosa several times, I had never managed to make it to the Maritime Experiential Museum. Now there is also the SEA aquarium on the same site and the museum has become integrated, which means you need to buy a ticket to the SEA aquarium even if you don’t want to SEE the aquarium. Which I didn’t. Anyway, the museum tells the story of trade through Asia back in the day including the types of goods that were traded and where they came from which was quite interesting. There is also a typhoon theatre, for an extra SGD$2, where you go on a journey into a typhoon. Cute.
For those that haven’t been to Resorts World, there’s all sorts of stuff to see and do here, including Universal Studios and the Candylicious chocolate store. I didn’t need to go in, but I did. And that’s when I found them. The bakeable Kit Kats. Yes, you bake them in the oven. I had heard about these and assumed I wouldn’t get the chance to try them until I went back to Japan (Japan is THE land of Kit Kats – there’s even a Kit Kat megastore, check it out), but here they were. Packets of little sweet potato Kit Kats that you can put in the oven. I can’t wait to get these babies home. Remind me to tell you what they were like.
So a very successful day all round, knocking over three of my long awaited must do’s and finding the bakeable Kit Kats. Ah, time for a relaxing drink.