Haw Par Villa, or as I came to think of it “Moussa’s Castle for Crazies”, is an abandoned theme park located in Singapore. Locals call it “Chinese Disneyland” and foreign residents call it “Creepyland” for this place is the exact dilapidated nightmare you would imagine when thinking up a spooky ride based on Chinese folklore with brightly painted figurines.
Formerly known as the “Gardens of Tiger Balm”, Haw Par Villa is named after the Burmese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par. They were manufacturers of the famous Tiger Balm – or as us Arabs know it: “Abu Feis.” Their graves are also in the middle of the park in giant phallic beige stone structures.
Side note: Tiger balm is some pretty magical stuff- it smells like Vicks Vaporub and is great for mosquito bites, which is handy because Singaporean mosquitoes are silent non-buzzing sneaky mofos that can give you Dengue fever.
Although Moussa’s Castle’s history is somewhat more dreamy and romantic, Haw Par Villa revolves around legends and Confucianism beliefs. The one section that is the most – let’s go with “captivating”- is the part of the park that is dedicated to the Ten Courts of Hell.
Here, you walk through a garden displaying a killer rodent battle where rabid rabbits and rats attack and maim each other. Upon passing through the entrance that is decorated with mini severed heads and two guardians, you see the 10 different courts that a person must go through where they will be judged and punished for their crimes.
Plaques describe various crimes with corresponding punishments – those of which are shown visually with colorful statues within the cave-like structure. You know, just in case you have a weak imagination and wouldn’t know what it’s like to grind up your siblings under large stones because they didn’t obey you during your lifetimes. All crimes and punishments seem to be a way of discouraging visitors from being “bad” people. That wouldn’t justify bringing 5 year olds to such a park in my opinion but, then again, my little sister loves movies about dismemberment and the undead so what do I know about kids these days.
I read that many of the statues had been updated technologically so that they’d move, blink, and growl; however, upon my visit, they were completely stationary- at least, while I was looking at them. Due to the rainy weather, it was empty, making it all the more creepy, but the park generally seems to be a forgotten landmark.
And it is because of this that it’s definitely a place to go see: it’s weird, one-of-a-kind, and photogenic. Plus, entrance is free.
SMRT station: Haw Par Villa (Circle Line- Yellow)