EXPLORING HAW PAR VILLA (TIGER BALM GARDENS)
If you’re backpacking through Singapore, you’ll know that your options are limited as the prices of everything are so expensive. That means you’ve probably googled ‘free things to do in Singapore’ and made your way down the list to spend your time. Luckily, there are plenty of things which will hardly cost you anything in this magnificent city. You can explore the Marina and oggle at the Bay Sands and their amazing mall which comes with a free show. Visit Sentosa island, use the free trams, chill on the beach and watch another free show. Go to Gardens by the Bay which lights up at night (another show)! But one of the quirkiest places which peaked my interest was the Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Gardens.
Created as a theme park in 1937 for Boon Par by his older brother Boon Haw, it is a journey through Chinese Mythology. You probably won’t recognise their names but you will recognise Tiger Balm, that essential backpackers go to remedy. Cold? Tiger balm. Headache? Tiger balm. Mosquito bites? Tiger balm. You get the idea. It is a cure all ills life saver still used by thousands today.
The mansion and park is rumoured to have cost over $2 million! Here’s a journey into the world of Haw Par Villa…
The villa was originally created in 1937, but closed during World War II and went into decay. In the 1980s the park was revived by Boon Pars son and reopened to the public. In 1985 the Singapore government recognised the park as a part of it’s history and gave it a new lick of paint. Nowadays, the park is still frequently visited by locals and tourists alike.
Luckily, the metro station for the Haw Par Villa is pretty easy to find as the station nearby is named after it. The metro stop is located on the yellow ‘circle line’ and you get dropped off directly outside the villa.
Prices & Opening Times
Price: Absolutely free!
Times: 9am – 6pm with the last entry at 5.45pm.
What to see
When you think of a theme park, visions pop into your head of happy songs, rides and characters, candy floss and popcorn and nothing that would make you think of the realities of this world. Well, not Haw Par Villa. Although it is called a ‘theme park’ it concentrates on Chinese Mythology and there are lessons and moral teachings to be learned here. Beyond the amazing colours and sculptures which are dotted all around, each one (save a few) comes with a story of consequence. You will read tales of adulteresses, robbers, misers, and uncharitable vagabonds who all got their comeuppance. They were eternally damned, transformed into crabs or lost everything. Singaporean residents cry at how this park gave them nightmares as children. This was my perfect quirky attraction to spend an afternoon!
The 10 courts of HELL
If you’re on a short time limit, make sure you visit the main attraction of the 10 courts of hell. This is deemed the most scary part of the villas and there is a warning that it contains some distressing scenes. As you walk through the tunnel which is guarded by Ox and Horse headed men, you will be in for a surprise. Each court deals with different types of criminals from as extreme to murderers to those who cheated on a test or lied. The scenes are quite comical, but it will show those being sentenced to a lava pit, have to walk forever, or be stretched on the rack. At the end of the tunnel, you will be judged and it will look to see if you’re innocent or guilty! Is your conscious clear?
It was probably the coolest part of the theme park so definitely check it out!
There are other great treats for you in store here such as the famous “Tiger Car”. This was made to get from the top of the hill down to the bottom and they originally even put red light bulbs to in the tigers eyes! Make sure you check this one out.
So that, in a nut shell, is Haw Par Villa. If you’re looking for something different to do in Singapore or just looking for more free attractions to save your dollar, look no further than here. I had such a great time exploring around and the 10 courts of hell was my cup of tea. You definitely won’t regret it!
So, what do you think? Would you be innocent or guilty as charged? Comment below!
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