A Quirky Walk Around the Outdoor Gallery of Haw Par Villa

Singapore

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The Facts

  • Start or End: I started and finished at the Haw Par Villa MRT Train Station (Google Map Directions).
  • Length: 1.8km (1.1mi) in about 1.5hr
  • Grade: Very Easy. Close to public transport with wheelchair accessible options.
  • Date Walked: 9th of September 2019
  • More Information: Please click here to visit the official Haw Par Villa website.
  • Price: Entry is FREE! There is an option for guided tours at a cost of $10/$5 (adult/child) for the daily 9:30 am to 10:30 am tour and $20/$10 (adult/child) for the Friday Twilight Tour at 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
  • Opening Hours: 9.00 am – 10.00 pm every day of the year.
  • Facilities: Toilets are available as well as some tables and chairs. At the time of writing, there are limited food options within the park (only vending machines and some packaged snacks in the Visitor Centre).

The Story

Entry is free to Singapore's largest outdoor art gallery, depicting Asian history, philosophy and religion in a quirky and informative way.

I'm not sure where to begin with Haw Par Villa. Is it Weird? Awesome? Gruesome? Informative? Bizarre? Fun? Tacky? Violent? Colourful?

Haw Par Villa, Singapore's largest outdoor gallery showcasing Asian culture, history, philosophy and religion (via very quirky sculptures), is probably all these. The Asian cultural park now known as Haw Par Villa was originally called Tiger Balm Garden when it opened in 1937. Have you heard of Tiger Balm? The ointment used for pain relief. Well the owner of Tiger Balm, Aw Boon Haw, created the park as a gift to the world. And quite the gift it is. A unique gift.

I'm going to start my explanation of the unexplainable Haw Par Villa with the last photograph I took. It was right after the Ten Courts of Hell and it really caught my eye. I think my jaw dropped. It was that moment when I realised ... "It's time to go home now".

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Yes, that's an elderly woman suckling at the ample bosom of a woman as children cry and dance in the background. I'm sure there is a logical explanation for this, but I didn't stick around to find out.

Ok, I started off with the most bizarre and shocking example of the displays at Haw Par Villa, but it is a good example of what this place is about. Scattered throughout the park are sculptural displays of this artistic design which tell a story relating to Asian culture, history, philosophy or religion. Display boards explain the story of each display.

I will admit it, I didn't do that much reading of the display boards, generally just a quick glance. I am here to see the quirky artwork, not get an all-day history lesson.

Some of my favourite displays are these ...

Quirky (and even violent) enough for you?

One of the displays which spoke to me the most was the "Journey to the West" display, which depicts the 16th-century Chinese novel, Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en. Why? Because as a kid I watched and loved the show "Monkey" on afternoon ABC television (click here to read about it on Wikipedia), which was the television adaptation of the book. "Pigsy", "Dragon Prince" (who is transformed into Tripitaka's white horse) and of course "Monkey" are all there.

Adding to the eccentricity of Haw Par Villa is the special display "Ten Courts of Hell". It even comes with an advisory notice at the door.

And here's why ...

The very dark tunnel that is the "Ten Courts of Hell" loosely depicts the afterlife in Chinese mythology. Basically, each court hands out gruesome punishments for various sins. For example, if you "cause trouble for parents or family" you get sawn in half, as shown above. A bit harsh I think.

Haw Par Villa is one of the most eccentric places I have ever visited. I doubt Haw Par Villa is to everyone's taste, especially with the exposed breasts and violence shown, but I really enjoyed it. And with the FREE price tag, how can you go wrong.

The pictures I have shown above are the most "interesting" displays, but it's not all like this. There are large displays you can walk through, memorials, decorative archways, ponds, pavilions and some colourful and fun sculptures to enjoy. Please browse through the gallery below to see more.

Haw Par Villa is "Selfie" heaven and I hope you enjoy exploring the park as much as I did.

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Information

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The Video

FAQ

Q: What is Haw Par Villa?
A: Haw Par Villa is an Asian cultural park in Singapore with free entry. It is a large outdoor art gallery which depicts Asian history, philosophy and religion in a quirky and informative way. It can be strange, head-scratching and a little freaky, but it's well worth a visit. ⠀

Q: When is Haw Par Villa Open?
A: The opening hours of Haw Par Villa are 9.00 am to 10.00 pm every day of the year.

Q: Is Haw Par Villa worth visiting?
A: Yes! Haw Par Villa is worth a visit. It's free, it's easy to access, it's colourful, it's eccentric, it's a selfie heaven and it's educational. Haw Par Villa is probably the quirkiest attraction in Singapore.

Click Here To Read More ...

Q: Is Haw Par Villa Free?
A: Entry to Haw Par Villa is FREE! There is an option for guided tours at a cost of $10/$5 (adult/child) for the daily 9:30 am to 10:30 am tour and $20/$10 (adult/child) for the Friday Twilight Tour at 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Q: Who built Haw Par Villa?
A: Haw Par Villa was developed by Aw Boon Haw, a millionaire philanthropist who created Tiger Balm (the park was originally called the Tiger Balm Garden).

Q: When was Haw Par Villa built?
A: Haw Par Villa was built in 1937.

Q: Where is Haw Par Villa?
A: Haw Par Villa is located at 262 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 118 628, directly next to the Haw Par Villa MRT station CC25

Q: Is Haw Par Villa appropriate for children?
A: Yes and no. The large outdoor gallery is mostly family-friendly, except there is violence and nudity depicted in some of the sculptures (e.g. fighting, a lady having her throat slashed and mermaids with exposed breasts). Many of the exhibits have tunnels and paths which children (and adults) will love exploring. The Ten Courts of Hell is very dark and depicts graphic violence, so it probably isn't the best for smaller children (there is a warning sign at the front of the area).

Q: What is there to see and do at Haw Par Villa?
A: There are two main areas, the large outside gallery and the undercover and very dark Ten Courts of Hell. The outdoor gallery is full of large colourful sculptures which depict Asian history, philosophy and religion. Many of the exhibits are like playgrounds and can be explored via tunnels and paths. Since the popularity of smartphones and social media, the large outdoor gallery at Haw Par Villa has become a selfie heaven. The Ten Courts of Hell loosely depicts the afterlife in Chinese mythology and is held with a dark, man-made, cave-like structure with small areas depicting the different Courts of Hell. Each exhibit deals with a different sin and the violent punishments and tortures undertaken within the court. For example, if you "cause trouble for parents or family" you get sawn in half (a bit harsh I think!).

Q: What are the transport options for Haw Par Villa?
A: The best way to access Haw Par Villa is via the nearby Haw Par Villa MRT station CC25 (Circle Line).

Q: What facilities are available at Haw Par Villa?
A: Toilets are available as well as some tables and chairs. At the time of writing, there are limited food options within the park (only vending machines and some packaged snacks in the Visitor Centre).

Q: How much time to spend at Haw Par Villa?
A: It will keep you and your family and friends entertained for an hour or two.

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