It will come as no surprise to you that I am deeply interested in the stories people tell and they ways in which they choose to tell them. So, off I went to Haw Par Villa, a Chinese mythological “theme park,” with dear friends, Flora and Singapore Noodle.
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For my non-Singapore-based readers: Haw Par Villa, previously known as Tiger Balm Gardens, was built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, brothers who made a fortune in the early 1900s selling Tiger Balm. (Yep, Tiger Balm. The panacea touted by everyone’s grandmother.)
Haw Par Villa features over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that illustrate Chinese legends and folklore. The most well-known is probably the Ten Courts of Hell which depicts gruesome scenes of punishment and reincarnation.
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The Ten Courts of Hell did not disappoint. Sinners are boiled, beaten, drowned, crushed, attacked, and flattened in the most heinous of ways.
Overall, Haw Par Villa is trippy, kitchy, and macabre. The park is also quiet and contemplative and, perhaps, the perfect location for an off-the-beaten-track picnic. I will surely be going back.