Spread the word – Haw Par Villa is the best trip you can have in Singapore without risking a criminal record.
[For non-Singaporean readers: Haw Par Villa is a statue park in the west of Singapore, built in the 1930s by two tycoon brothers who made their fortunes in Chinese medicinal ointment, and it’s full of garish life-size statues commissioned by the brothers to portray stories from Chinese mythology and traditional Chinese values.]
Haw Par Villa’s been terminally uncool ever since that spectacularly failed themeparkesque revamp in the late 80s, but no one seems to have noticed that they’ve since reversed many of the ill-advised changes that led to its downfall. It’s free to get in again these days (apart from the $5 parking charge and the $1 entry fee to Hell), and they’ve removed all those ridiculously kitsch additions like the rides and shows. So now, just the ridiculously kitsch original statues are left.
I took first Alec and recently Russ to it, and I think I wouldn’t be overstating things to say they both left a little changed by the experience. I don’t usually like to post too many photos in an entry, but my words really can’t do justice to the lurid reality of Haw Par Villa on their own, so forgive me if you’re on a slow connection and this entry takes a while to load. As usual, click on the photos for larger versions, and oh, be warned: CONTAINS WEIRD STATUE NUDITY.
In an apparent battle of oneupmanship with Dante, there are 10 courts in Chinese hell, where various cruel and decidedly unusual punishments await various kinds of sins. This was always the highlight of my childhood visits, until the revamp made Hell into a boat ride – how do you linger and gawk at a man being disembowelled by a misshapen demon when you’re stuck on a freaking boat? The idiocy.
So anyway, Hell has gore galore, trees of knives[1. Very Jake & Dinos Chapman! See Great Deeds Against The Dead on this site (click on the bottom right thumbnail graphic).] and very pleasantly, the only air-conditioning in the park. The women on the left are “prostitutes getting drowned in filthy blood”.
Apart from the long-necked demon and the guy’s dinky pinkies, I also really like the official doing the hokey pokey in the background.
Apparently, bad girls in Chinese mythology don’t look much different from bad girls in the 21st century. I have a suspicion the brothers rather liked these particular girls, the tableau is quite lovingly elaborate. I guess sometimes Madam White Snake just ain’t enough.
I realize Singapore used to be a more swinging place than it is now, but really, I was under the impression this was a family park. It isn’t so much the nudity of the mermaids that unsettles me a little, it’s their…agility.
Actually, I was willing enough to grant the brothers those earlier fantasies. After all, which guy doesn’t want to fuck a mermaid? This little “accident” on the left does seem a little gratuitous though, and it somewhat detracts from the park’s later tableaus on filial piety.
Man, look at those cool cats. I’d happily go out clubbing tomorrow in that girl’s outfit, but I’d be hard-pressed to match the guys’ groovy moves.
I always thought Dadaism was primarily a European movement, but clearly it must have had some influence in Asia. If any of the following pictures actually make sense in Chinese culture, please feel free to educate me.
What would Freud make of this? What do you make of this? I don’t know. I only know what No Signboard Seafood would make of this.
So this is Russ, standing between the kiwis, taking a picture of the tortoises, which are wearing hats and riding on ostriches. Obviously.
Who knew that chickens led such climactic lives? Or required underwired lingerie, for that matter?
ACTUAL ATTEMPTS AT “PHOTOGRAPHY” PHOTOGRAPHY
Come back here you KNNBCCB!
Close-up of one of the figurines in a tableau. I can’t remember what story it was illustrating exactly, but no doubt he was lacking in traditional Chinese values and therefore deserved his grisly end.
I was quite fond of this tentative gorilla. He looks all shy and self-conscious, uncomfortable with his gorilla-ness. I bet he listens to indie music at night when the park is closed.
This gate is tucked away in a corner of the park, a little distance away from a gigantic but otherwise unremarkable statue of Kuan Yin. We loved the gate and spent quite a while taking photographs of it, attracting occasional “Uh, guys? The sights are over here” looks from other visitors.
The Singapore press loses no opportunities to trumpet Singapore’s latest international rankings in all manner of things, but I bet you didn’t know that Haw Par Villa is regarded by some as one of the 7 Kitsch Wonders Of The World! That puts it on the same level as Graceland, man! Why this sort of achievement neber highlight as “Uniquely Singapore” one?[2. For non-Singaporean readers, that’s Singlish for “Why has a laudable achievement such as this not been highlighted as part of the ongoing tourism campaign which is somewhat ungrammatically named “Uniquely Singapore”?]