Are you looking for something different in a tourist attraction? How about something a little bit weird (and a bit scary if you’re a kid!) Haw Par Villa might be the place for you, it’s definitely one of the strangest places in Singapore!
The Ten Courts of Hell
For some reason I thought Buddhism was a peaceful religion. That all changed when I entered the Ten Courts of Hell exhibit at Haw Par Villa, Singapore. Models of decapitations, people getting thrown on spikes, chucked into pools of boiling blood and almost every other gruesome torture you can imagine greet those who enter. The fact that punishments for things like cheating on exams and wasting food seemed just as harsh as the ones for rape and murder confused me, and I walked out of the exhibit completely rethinking my view of Buddhism. In reality that view was based on almost nothing, as the only time I’ve come in contact with the religion is at temples, and I’m not really one to ask too many questions about the spiritual side of them; I just like how they look. The Ten Courts of Hell is definitely one of the scariest places in Singapore, make sure you visit but warn your children first!
I knew I was probably witnessing the weirdest tourist attraction in Asia, and possibly the world, but things were about to get weirder.
The first thing I saw upon leaving the Ten Courts of Hell was a model of a woman breastfeeding an older woman, who I’m assuming is her mother, while a little kid does sit-ups and another stands around peeling an orange. I’m not sure if this has any meaning in Buddhism (surely it doesn’t!) but from that moment on I knew I was in for an interesting visit.
It takes about an hour to walk around Haw Par Villa, which isn’t really a villa, it’s more like a big garden which at some point in the distant past hosted a “weirdest model/sculpture contest” and no one could be bothered packing it up. I think most of it has some meaning in the Buddhist religion, but I’m sure a lot of it doesn’t. The crab with a boy’s head stuck on top can’t be a religious symbol can it?? If anyone reading this knows what it all means then please leave a comment! There are gorillas, kiwis, giant tribal masks and all kinds of animal/people mash-ups. There are fighting prawns, mermaids, sumo wrestlers and countless creepy looking animals with weird eyes. There is even a huge community of turtles who all seem to gravitate towards you when you walk near their pool.
About Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa was started by two Burmese brothers in 1937 to celebrate Buddhism, and I’m guessing just to entertain people. I’ve talked to a few Singaporean people who recall going to Haw Par Villa as children and being freaked out, and I’m not surprised! The 10 Courts of Hell exhibit is enough to scare any child and steer them away from jobs like loan sharking and into a more religiously wholesome career. I’m surprised such an unhinged place exists in the straight and narrow of Singapore – I guess it’s a relic from Singapore’s darker/less uptight past.
Further reading: Did you know that Singapore was named the best country to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet? Check out the article!
Haw Par Villa is the weirdest tourist attraction that I’ve ever been to and I hope everyone travelling in Singapore gets the chance to see it for themselves. It’s free to enter, easy to get to and is one place in Singapore you are sure to remember.
What do you think is the weirdest tourist attraction in the world? Leave a comment!
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