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!!!

Singapore for museum lovers

museums.com.sg

I adore museums. There’s something about having pieces of art/culture/history arranged neatly in a central location with captions that makes me go weak in the knees. That, plus air conditioning during hot days.

I had the chance to visit 7 national museums (including one that is not listed as a museum) in Singapore last August.

I want to share my very biased list of which museums to go to (or miss).

Best museum in Singapore:
— Asian Civilization Museum

Best for general knowledge of Singapore:
— Singapore National Museum

Best for kitsch:
— Peranakan Museum

Do not go:
— Singapore Philatelic Museum

For WW2 history buffs:
— Singapore National Museum
— Reflections at Bukit Chandu
— Memories at Ford Factory

For art lovers:
— Asian Civilization Museum
— Singapore Art Museum

One museum to visit if you only have 1 hour
— Peranakan Museum

PS I have not included the Art Science Museum in the list because I’ve not been there. The entrance price S$28 (US$22.6) is just too expensive. Even the Lourve doesn’t charge as much €15 (US$19.8).

Asian Civilisation Museum

Asian Civilisation Museum

The best museum in Singapore in many of my friends’ opinion. Why? Because the collection is the best among the museums around here.

The collection features items from many parts of Asia. I particularly like the part on China and the ghosts guardians.

The museum is near the Esplanade and the Merlion. So if you’re around the area, drop by ACM.

It’s best to allocate about 1.5 hours.

Nitty gritty:
Website: http://www.acm.org.sg
Opening hours: Monday 1pm- 7pm; Tuesday-Sunday 9am-7pm (to 9pm on Fridays)
Entrance fee: S$8 (Discounted admission on Fridays, 7pm – 9pm)

National Museum of Singapore

If you want a good look at this museum, you’ll need at least 2 hours for the permanent exhibition on Singapore’s history. There are two routes on the audioguide: story telling and history telling. I like the story telling since it’s very different from how other museums show their collection.

If you have an hour, the collection upstairs about Singapore’s food, fashion, film and photography is a good place to kill time.

The travelling exhibitions are usually top-notch. I loved the Pompeii exhibition and the Museum of Orsay collection.

Nitty gritty:
Website: http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/
Address: 93 Stamford Road S(178897)
Opening hours:
Singapore History Gallery 10am to 6pm, Daily
Singapore Living Galleries 10am to 8pm, Daily **Free admission from 6pm to 8pm **Last admission at 7.30pm
Entrance fee: S$10

Singapore Art Museum (SAM)

Singapore Art Museum

When I first visited the Singapore Art Museum, it was full of rather boring and depressing art pieces. I regretted paying my entrance fee and swore never to come back.

But I did come back because of the free entrance on Friday night. The art work were better and there were more things being exhibited.

The main building (picture in the photo above) was a boy’s school. It’s rather fun imagining how it would be studying at the school.

The cooler exhibition is at the new “wing” at 8Q, which is just a corner away. Things are more exciting at 8Q.

Singapore Art Museum at 8Q

The exhibition at 8Q is more interactive as you should be part of the art pieces. Exhibit A, B, C, D:

Interacting at Singapore Art Museum

Nitty gritty:
Website: http://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10am – 7pm Friday 10am – 9pm (Enjoy complimentary entry on Friday evenings from 6pm – 9pm)
Entrance fee: S$10 (Free entry on Fridays from 7pm – 9pm)

Peranakan Museum

Singapore Peranakan Museum

If you like bursts of colors, the Singapore Peranakan Museum is where you should go. Everything about it is beautiful.

Let me try to explain what Peranakan is. (Or you can click on the link there to head to Wikipedia.) Once upon a time, men sailed from China to what is now known as South-Southeast Asia (yes, I made up that term). The men who settled down here and married local women. The children would grow up in a mix of two cultures–Chinese and local–and thus the Peranakan culture was born.

To be honest, this museum is not my favorite museum in terms of content. It does show you how the daily lives of Peranakan is like with reenacted locations of the house filled with furniture. But somehow, it felt like it was trying to commercialize the concept of “Peranakan”.

Unlike the Pinang Peranakan Museum in Penang, everything in this museum has a little note explaining the scene. That’s a bonus point for the museum, I guess.

Nitty gritty:
Website: http://www.peranakanmuseum.sg/
Opening hours: Monday 1pm to 7pm; Tuesday to Sunday: 9am – 7pm (to 9 pm on Fridays) (50% discount on admission charges on Fridays, 7pm – 9pm)
Entrance fee: S$6 (Free entry on Fridays from 7pm – 9pm)
Asian Civilisations Museum & Peranakan Museum Joint-ticket** S$10

Check out part two where I introduce the lesser visited museums: Singapore Philatelic Museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu and Memories at Ford Factory.

Visited: Mint Toy Museum, Singapore

I had the chance to visit the Mint Museum of Toys courtesy of a Groupon which made the entrance fee slightly less than half price.

The museum is located right opposite the Raffles Hotel, there’s a sign pointing to it right where the street begins. It’s not that difficult to find since the sign is pretty big.

The place has five floors–entrance on first floor with four exhibition levels. The levels are themed and you start from the top floor: Outerspace, Characters, Childhood favorites and Collectibles.

The floor space is really cramped and half the time I have to wait for someone and their date to finish staring/photgraphing/commenting on the exhibitions before I could politely look at the stuff.
Continue reading “Visited: Mint Toy Museum, Singapore”

5 free touristy things to do in Singapore

Flag Day

Unlike its neighbor countries, Singapore–my current adopted country–can be a lot more expensive if you factor in the currency exchange.

If you’re on a stopover here heading to Thailand/Indonesia and do not want to break your budget holiday streak, here’s a list of 5 touristy things you can do for free on this sunny island.

When I say touristy, I don’t mean it in a negative way such as “This is not what a local would do so it’s not an authentic experience.” I actually wish more people would get around and do some of the stuff because travelling doesn’t only mean getting away.

Continue reading “5 free touristy things to do in Singapore”