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Is Haw Par Villa the Weirdest Tourist Attraction in the World?

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!

Death by spikes at Haw Par Villa, Singapore The 10 courts of hell exhibit at Haw Par Villa,, Singapore A brutal scene in the 10 Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa, Singapore The punishments in the 10 Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa, Singapore

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.

Creepy breastfeeding at Haw Par Villa, Singapore

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.

Tribal masks at Haw Par Villa, Singapore Posing with a gorilla at Haw Par Villa, Singapore

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!

Fighting crickets at Haw Par Villa, SingaporeA creepy panda at Haw Par Villa, Singapore

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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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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15 Comments

  1. January 26, 2014 at 12:05 am — Reply

    Wow. Weird and twisted.

  2. February 7, 2014 at 1:40 am — Reply

    Wow … weird does not even start to describe this. I … speechless. I honestly can’t think of a single attraction I have been to that even comes close. I do think that Coral Castel near Miami is strange – but not remotely as bizarre as this!

    • Jon Algie
      March 6, 2014 at 12:13 am — Reply

      Haha yeah, I never thought I’d find something like this in Singapore!

  3. Ben
    March 4, 2014 at 11:12 am — Reply

    Stumbled on your blog – Haw Par Villa is by far the most insane free attraction in Singapore! It was built by brothers from the family that created Tiger Balm ointment I think, from Singapore’s colonial past.

    Much of that Hell-ish mythology was grafted onto Buddhism when it spread into China from India – over the centuries folk beliefs melded with the “purer” philosophic parts of the religion. It sure makes for crazy statues :).

    • Jon Algie
      March 6, 2014 at 12:14 am — Reply

      Sounds interesting, I should read up a bit more about it, or just visit Haw Par Villa again and make up my own stories about what’s going on.

  4. May 12, 2014 at 11:05 pm — Reply

    That is an incredibly surreal place, very weird indeed. Maybe this is why so many Singaporeans are law abiding citizens?

    Those old defined punishments are pretty severe.

    Thanks for telling me about this place and knowing it is free too makes it more interesting.

    I’ll try to remember this the next time I visit Singapore.

    • Jon Algie
      May 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm — Reply

      Yeah it’s pretty creepy, such a cool place to look around though, definitely check it out.

  5. Lav
    August 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    Hi!

    Actually, the 1000 statues in Haw Par Villa are based on Chinese myths, stories etc. And here’s a wacky piece of trivia for you- the park was actually created as a present (from one brother to another).

    • Jon Algie
      August 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm — Reply

      I’m aware most of them are based on myths etc, but surely the gorillas, kiwis, tribal masks and the Statue of Liberty aren’t…

  6. June 1, 2015 at 9:02 am — Reply

    The place was built in the last century where people do not travel a lot. The only place they can see exotic animals and people from different cultures was haw par Vila. This place was my first “Wikipedia” when I was little.

    • Jon Algie
      June 1, 2015 at 12:40 pm — Reply

      It must have been a cool place to visit as a kid, although probably a bit scary as well!

  7. May 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm — Reply

    On the statue of ‘a woman breastfeeding an older woman’…

    It was probably built based on one of the stories in “The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars” (a classic text of Confucian filial piety)… Madam Tang breastfed her mother-in-law Madam Zhangsun because Madam Zhangsun was very old and has lost all her teeth…
    No idea on the kids though…

    And all the statues were probably built based on Chinese mythology and folk religions, rather than Buddhism….

    • Jon Algie
      November 2, 2017 at 9:15 am — Reply

      Good to know, thanks for the explanation!

  8. Elsa
    July 4, 2017 at 11:16 pm — Reply

    Cool finding this. I also remember visiting when I was really small back in the late 60’s – this imagery may explain a lot …. Lol Looking forward to revisiting this September.

    • Jon Algie
      November 2, 2017 at 9:15 am — Reply

      Haha, I would have been freaked out if I visited as a kid!

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