Singapore’s most WTF: Haw Par Villa

haw par dance class

[This blog post contains some photos not suitable for children as they include violent torture scenes. However, nipples of merpeople have been censored. You are welcomed]

I visited Haw Par Villa some Sundays ago with D and M. It was my third visit to the “historical theme park”.  I left with the same feeling I had the two other times I went: “What on earth did I just see?”

What is Haw Par Villa? Travel site Your Singapore has a nice description:

Haw Par Villa is like no other place in the world, with over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that dramatise Chinese legends and folklore. Founded on Chinese legends and values, this historical theme park has large, imposing statues from famous legends of old – featuring characters like Fu Lu Shou, Confucius and the Laughing Buddha.

If you have been to Singapore multiple times and have seen almost all of the tourist attractions, you should visit Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa gate

Previously, Haw Par Villa was in the middle of nowhere. Now has its own MRT stop, aptly named Haw Par Villa Station, so it’s very easy to get there.

You will definitely know if you’ve arrived at Haw Par Villa if you see concrete statues around. Yes, get yourself in there. Entrance is free!

After passing the gates, you will be guided by a bearded old man who points with two fingers. Further inside, a dancing Thai/Burmese person teaches a stance of Taichi.

Welcome to Haw Par Villa

Ten Courts of Hell

If you only have 10 minutes at Haw Par Villa, you must check out the Ten Courts of Hell so you know which court your worst enemy will go. (I now know which courts are reserved for me.)

It’s kind of funny how the crimes get repetitive but the torture scenes are always…fresh and creative.

Ten Courts of Hell

Ten Courts of Hell

Myths and legend

Besides the courts of hell, there are a lot of the statues in the villa is about Chinese folklore.

There is the usual Journey to the West (lower right) statues and also Legend of the White Snake (not in photo).

Haw Par Villa

The place has a few signs around explaining the scenes so don’t worry about not understanding them. Heck, even I don’t understand much of it.

For example, I have no idea where these topless mermaids, clammaids and crabmaids come from.

Considering how conservative we are, it’s surprising how these sea creatures have nipples. I mean, male manga characters do not have nipples but these merfolks do? That is just crazy weird. Oh, I’ve censored the nipples in case anyone gets offended by bare-breasted women sculptures with weird grins.

Modern family

Besides folklore, there are also strange statues of good-and-evil. Here are a few photos of sins and what happens to bad people (or something like that).

Haw Par Villa Modern family

(Click to enlarge)

The park/villa is quite big so be sure to have at least 45 minutes to look at everything. It’s also best to bring a few friends who can help you take photos.

Haw Par Villa

PS You are not supposed to do what I did. Hat tip to J for the giraffe pose.

To end the post, I should like to teach you the dance of my people and a bonus video!

Haw Par Villa dance class

Photo credit: Mel

[Video music credit: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0]

Things to know about Haw Par Villa

Nitty gritty: Haw Par Villa
How to get there: Haw Par Villa MRT station
Opening time: 9 am to 7 pm (Ten courts of hell officially closes at 6 pm but caretaker wanted to be off at 5.40 pm)
Who to go with: Friends, family.
Free entrance!!!

Tips to maximize your trip to Genting

Genting First World Hotel

First World Hotel, Genting

Genting Highlands is a hill resort located about an hour away from KL Sentral. It’s popular among gamblers who visit the casino and families who visit the theme park.

[Note to Singaporeans, Genting is not pronounced “jen-ting” like “generation”. It’s more like “guh-n-ting”. Here’s an audio clip here.]

Purchase Genting Go pass at major bus terminals

Go Genting Pass

If you are heading to Genting for a day trip or for even for an overnight stay, do consider getting the Go Genting Golden package.

The package is sold at various important locations: KL Sentral, Pudu Sentral, 1Utama, Terminal Gombak and Hentian Kajang. (The package is RM58 for the first four departure locations and RM63 for the last.)

The package gives you same-day return bus transfer, same-day return cable car and either an Outdoor Theme Park ride pass or buffet lunch.

Considering that the 1-Day Unlimited Ride Pass for Outdoor Theme Park is RM54 for adults, the package is really bang for your buck (or ringgit, in this part of the world).

Plus the cable ride is amazing.

Cable ride to Genting Highlands

Be flexible with Go Genting pass

Even though there are various time slots, the Go Genting packages can be sold out for certain timings. (Most likely the early morning slots from popular departure points such as KL Sentral.)

This happened to us. We were at KL Sentral before 8am and there was a sign saying that the next bus will leave at 12.30pm because earlier tickets were sold out.

Instead of heeding the taxi drivers’ advice to take his car, I called up the Pudu Sentral ticket counter and checked that they have tickets for 8.30am. We bought a taxi coupon from the official point and zipped to Pudu, with plenty of time to spare for our ride.

Go early and get back before last bus

Queues at the theme park can get long on weekends. To be sure that you can test out all the rides before sundown, go as early as possible.

Similarly, you don’t want to be stranded up on the mountain with no bus back to KL. Check the bus timing!

Book a room on Saturday

If you are staying at the hotel for a night, choose Saturday because the park closes at 10pm then.

I didn’t know of this when I booked the room and found out only when we were there. It was a very pleasant surprise. We ended up leaving only after 9.30pm.

Check in early

First World Hotel check in kiosk

IF you do book a room, you don’t have to wait until 3pm to check in for First World Hotel.

The self-check in kiosks allow you to check in rooms that are available. They even have a sign with the number of available rooms.

Bring your own food or instant noodles

Hot water for instant noodles

Food at Genting is expensive. If you want to save money, bring your own food.

Consider bringing instant noodles. You can get hot water when you go up the hotel room floors.

Eat at food court

Kopitiam Foodcourt

At First World Hotel, head to to 2B where there is a Kopitiam food court.

The claypot stall sells fairly reasonably-priced food that is quite tasty.

Do you have other tips for Genting? Share in the comments.

An overnight’s stay at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Entrance of Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Before planning my trip to Tokyo, I made a note to visit Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and spend a night there.

My other plan was to overnight at a cybercafe but chickened out and stayed at a budget hotel instead.

The icing on the cake was when I found out that there was an event for my favorite anime/manga Gintama at Ooedo Onsen and that I would be there during the last two days of the event.

For me, staying overnight at Ooedo Onsen meant saving one night’s stay at a hotel. Since I already want to soak in hot springs, adding on the extra 1,700 yen wasn’t too bad. But if you are travelling in pairs, this might be a more expensive option for accommodation.

Checking in

Entrance fee
Entrance fee

Since I was going to spend the rest of my night at Ooedo Onsen, I decided to pay for the evening entrance (past 6 p.m. 1,680 yen) instead of day entrance fees (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2,180 yen). I also bought my tickets from 7-11 so there was a 180 yen discount.

Before heading to the ticket counter, visitors need to put their shoes in shoe lockers.

Shoe lockers
Shoe lockers

After putting away my shoes, I went to queue with the rest of the people. Since there was still about 10 minutes before 6 p.m., everyone had to wait patiently.

Waiting area
Waiting area

About 5 minutes before 6 p.m., a lady dressed in traditional outfit came out with a pair of clappers and said lots of things in a sing-song tone.

I remember from their Web site that she’s the kanban-musume Oshino. This literally translates to “Signboard girl” which means she’s the attraction of a business.

Too bad I wasn’t too sure what Oshino was saying. I guess it was to welcome all of us to Ooedo Onsen.

Ooedo Onsen's kanban musume (Sign lady)
Ooedo Onsen’s kanban musume (Sign lady)

Soon, the counters opened for the evening session. I handed over my my coupon and was given a wristlet with a barcode taped over and a key.

Before heading into the changing room, everyone gets to choose a yukata. There are different designs and sizes of yukata. I picked on with purple flowers.

Yukata choosing
Yukata choosing

After yukata choosing, it’s time to hit the lockers. Find the locker corresponding to your wristlet. It’s in Japanese so if you don’t read hiragana, you might need help.

The size of the locker was enough for my backpack.

Lockers
Lockers

At the lockers, strip down to your underthings and wear the yukata.

Remember that the left side needs to be on top, or else you are wearing the bathrobe as a corpse would.

Strolling on Edo street’s

Edo streets
Edo streets

In my yukata, I went out to the fake Edo streets. There are plenty of food stalls around so don’t worry about being hungry. There’s also free hot tea and both hot and cold water so you won’t go thirsty.

When I was there, there was a performance at 7 p.m. I think the shows change every season.

Performance
Performance

Soaking in hot springs

I couldn’t take photos at the onsen or its changing room so I can only tell through words.

Before heading to the ladies’ hot spring area, we need to put our things in another changing room. There’s other lockers here to put yukata and underthings in before heading to the hot spring area.

In the changing room, there’s a corner with samples of makeup remover, toner, face lotion. There’s also hair bands and toothbrush provided.

Before heading to the hot spring, take everything off. Everyone strips naked so no need to be shy.

The hot springs are divided into indoor and outdoor pools. There’s a large section where everyone washes their hair and body. Free shampoo, conditioner and body soap is provided too.

After vigorously washing and conditioning my hair, I headed to the pools.

There were a variety of pools and areas:

  • Ooedo Onsen hot spring which was real undersea hot spring, instead of just hot water. The color was a bit rusty. There was also a side with recycled Ooedo Onsen hot spring which didn’t have a rusty color.
  • 40 degrees Celsius pools
  • Massage jacuzzi pool
  • Pool with frothing machine which makes the water much more “fine” and is good for the skin
  • Cold water (brr)
  • Sauna
  • Outdoor pool

The pools outdoors were limited. There was only a large pond and an area with a few fake vintage bathtubs.

Off to bed

After soaking in the pools for the longest while, I head to the changing rooms and bought myself a small glass bottle of milk.

At about 11 p.m., I decided that it is time to find a place to sleep.

Ooedo Onsen has a capsule hotel but it’s catered only to men. The private rooms are too expensive for me.

I think there are also large halls where they layout tatami for people staying over. This I’m not too sure though.

My choice was the ladies’ lounge on the second floor. Here, they have reclining chairs with mini TVs. They even provide blankets.

Chairs for sleeping
Chairs for sleeping

Most of the chairs were taken by the time I got there. I found a chair with a broken TV and settled there. A mother and her young son slept one chair away.

Mini TV
Mini TV

I put on my eyemask and ear plugs and tried to sleep on the 150 degrees chair.

Suddenly as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud rumbling noise. I took off my eyemask and discovered an older lady snoring in the seat next to mine.

Hazard: Snoring old ladies
Hazard: Snoring old ladies

It wasn’t easy blocking her snores out even with my earplugs but I managed to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up and realized that she was gone. I was also surprised to find that it was almost 7 a.m. which meant that I had less than 1 hour before the pools close for cleaning.

I went back for a last soak of onsen. Soaking in the morning and at night was different. I could see the blue sky in the outdoor pool while at night everything was a blur because I wasn’t wearing glasses.

After the soak, I changed back into my real clothes and checked out.

REVIEW
Stayed: Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Pros: Save on entertainment and accommodation; fun
Cons: Snoring seatmates; not having a real bed