Haw Par Villa – the quirkier side of Singapore

What is it?

Haw Par Villa, formerly Tiger Balm Garden, is a large Asian outdoor cultural and sculpture park in Singapore. It was built in 1937 by the millionaire philanthropist Aw Boon Haw, who brought the world Tiger Balm. It contains an ecletic mix of about 1,000 sculptures and dioramas, split into different zones.

Where is it?

Haw Par Villa is located next to Haw Par Villa MRT on the Circle Line, on Pasir Panjang Road.It is one minute walk from the MRT station and the entrance can be seen on the right as you exit the station.

Car parking is available and there are plenty of buses that service Haw Par Villa.

How much is it?

Entry is free for everyone.

There are chargeable guided tours twice daily at 10am and 4pm. ($10 adults/$5 children). I did not take the guided tour but tourists who did were recommending it unsolicited.

History of Haw Par Villa

in 1926 the Haw brothers moved their Tiger Balm business from Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar, to Singapore and achieved great success. Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par believed in the importance of  contributing to society as well as having a successful business. In 1934 Aw Boon Haw built a grand mansion and garden for his brother and Aw Par Villa was realised. It was the best that money could buy at that time (it cost over $1m) and he also wanted to share the moral values behind many Chinese legends by decorating the grounds with colourful sculptures and figurines. Haw Par Villa opened in 1937 to the public allowing education to younger generations to preserve Chinese heritage.

Areas to explore

The route map available lists separate ares to explore. In reality some are seprate areas but a lot flows from one to the other and its tricky to see some of the demarcations. Nevertheless the areas listed are as follows:

  1. The entrance archway (truly impressive)
  2. Madam White Snake
  3. Zodiac wheel, sumo wrestlers and the Statue of Liberty (yes, really)
  4. Eight immortals
  5. Aw Boon Haw and Par memorials
  6. Signature Pond (full of turtles / terrapins)
  7. Guan Yin and Romanceof the Three Kingdoms
  8. Site of the former villa, vitues and vices, Australian and African corner
  9. Journey to the West
  10. Parents memorial
  11. Fu Lu Shou
  12. Pagoda Pond (full of turtles / terrapins)
  13. Hell’s Museum and the Ten Courts of Hell (worthy of a separate blog post)

All the water features appear to have an abundance of wildlife and visitors can feed the turtles / terrapins for $1 (honesty boxes next to packets of food are placed at strategic locations).

Photos

My attempt and putting the photos into the relevant sections is below. (I did not photograph the memorials.) Enjoy. I hope this encourages you to visit the quirky side of Singapore too.

  1. The entrance archway
  2. Madam White Snake
  3. Zodiac wheel, sumo wrestlers and the Statue of Liberty
  4. Eight immortals
  5. Aw Boon Haw and Par memorials
  6. Signature Pond (full of turtles / terrapins)
  7. Guan Yin and Romance of the Three Kingdoms
  8. Site of the former villa, vitues and vices, Australian and African corner
  9. Journey to the West
  10. Parents memorial
  11. Fu Lu Shou
  12. Pagoda Pond (full of turtles / terrapins)
  13. Hell’s Museum and the Ten Courts of Hell (there will be a separate blog post on this gruesome feature)

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