Haw Par Villa Re-revisit

If I didn’t post the title “Haw Par Villa”, you will never guess that this is the public toilet in the Haw Par Villa – and it’s free entry!

It’s so clean and no charges for it’s use except for 10cent if you want to have toilet paper. Usually when the public toilet is clean – it means not many visitors or it’s a “paid” toilet where a cleaner is stationed there.

I’m glad that after 70 years (built in 1937), this “attraction” (at least to me) is still around and the entry is free again (though parking charges is $5 per entry but now can park all the way inside besides Hua Song Museum);

This villa was built in 1937 at a cost of probably $1 million by Mr. Aw Boon Haw for his younger brother Boon Par, for helping him to market his medicated ointment Tiger Balm. This is the model of his grand 7 domed shaped villa;

Below is the old photo of the real mansion, but too bad it was destroyed in the war from 1942 to 1945;

So are there any changes since my first visit to the Haw Par Villa in the 70s till now? Of course there were many changes…

It was such a crowd puller in the 60s and 70s as can be seen in the below postcard;

Note that the entrance gate name was “Tiger Balm Garden” in the 60s and the Chinese name “10 Thousand Golden Oil Garden”.

Now in 2007, the crowd is gone;

Understand that the name was changed to “Haw Par Villa” in 1990 and same goes for the Chinese name too.

The most drastic change was in the early 90s when it was converted into a Theme Park named “Dragon World” in 1990 and managed by International Theme Parks, a joint venture between F&N and Times Publishing. You may not notice that it had actually expanded to 3 times it’s original size to include those 2 water rides “a slow boat through the 10 courts of hell” and “a rollercoaster like flume ride through a mountain and down a river”, etc. Many sculptures were relocated or stored in the “graveyard”.

Below shows the Buddha sculpture relocated to the main entrance in 90s;

This was the same Buddha sculpture I had a photo taken with my brother in the 70s, and it was then inside the garden;

And now in 2007, it’s back to it’s original position but with a thick and long “necklace” added and those joss sticks offering boxes placed in front;

Of course in the past when I was young, every sculptures seem like a giant to me, but not now haha. Do you realise that a lot of these sculptures now have these joss sticks offering boxes placed in front of them. I note that the caretaker goes round to offer joss sticks and cigarettes to the sculptures;

When it was converted into a Theme Park in the 90s, the entrance ticket was the highest priced – S$15 or S$16.50?

Though the slow boat ride was one of the main attraction thru the 10 courts of hell then, but we missed out a lot when viewing the sculptures. Below is the slow boat ride thru the 10 courts of hell via the Dragon Mouth;

It’s difficult to view the sculptures in the 10 courts of hell when in the boat ride as we need to turn our head left and right;

See the difference in the above 2 photos of the same 1st Court of Hell! The top photo was view from the boat ride in 90s and the bottom one is now in 2007.

A lot of sculptures were surrounded by water in the 90s to match the Theme Park;

Now, most of the water were drained off and the ground resurfaced;

The amphitheater constructed in the 90s where plays were shown in the Theme Park;

Now it’s gone… and the whole place is much quieter than in the 90s.

This used to be a place where the parents will tell their kids not to be bad or evil, else they will be punished like those shown in the 10 Courts of Hell!

After the trip, I asked kids if they like the place… “No” is the answer and the reason is the same as mine in the past – “scary”! Hopefully, we get to retain this beautiful place as long as possible, else what’s left to us is this 1980 stamp issue on Haw Par Villa;

If you ask me, I hope it will remain forever….


54 Responses to “Haw Par Villa Re-revisit”

  1. 1 profkingsfield2004 Friday, July 13, 2007 at 10:04 am

    I never liked the place – too errie. brought my son there in 1986 and took the boat ride. That was the fun part. I remember Kumar (The female impersonator) was performing on the stage there at that time.

  2. 2 py Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    I had visited the Haw Par Villa in the 1990s when it was converted to a Theme Park. Looking back, I would prefer it peace and quiet, without the water theme.

  3. 3 bigdaddy Monday, July 16, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Hi Mr Lau KK,
    Have you done a post on the old punggol seafood restaurants? These were the ones located at the end of old punggol, facing the sea. When I was young, we used to take hours to get there. Cars were slower then, and the roads were long and winding (no expressways!). The jourvey was scenic and had the “country-side” feel to it. When we got there, it was a real treat – good food and great ambience! I hope you can write something about this nostalgic place when you have some time… Thanks!

  4. 4 laokokok Monday, July 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

    I will Bigdaddy. Think I came across one old photo on that place but can’t tell much from the photo.

    Anyway, sure…and coming up soon. Thanks Bigdaddy for the reminder.

  5. 5 HamBearGer Monday, July 16, 2007 at 11:19 am

    My first and only visit to HPV was in the 60s. My dad brought the whole family along. We took Keppel Bus No.2, the only bus service available in those days along Pasir Panjang Rd. We waited for the bus for a long time and it was crowded, with passengers hanging onto the door. I never like HPV. That is why I never bothered to go back for a re-visit. The only thing that made a great impression on me was the sea off Pasir Panjang, which can be seen on the higher part of HPV. The sea was deep blue in color and so peaceful, with only a few ships doting the horizon.

  6. 6 profkingsfield2004 Monday, July 16, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Yah remember the resturant off Ponggol. There was a wooden bridge that connected the mainland to a kelong. We used to celebrate our late grandparents birthday there in the mid-60s. It was a straight road after the junction where there was a seminary and a Catholic church. I like the drive especially speeding down Ponggol Road and next moment your backside gets lifted up because the road was up and down. At night very dark.

  7. 7 laokokok Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 8:18 am

    After so many comments, I guess that if you pay Haw Par Villa a re-visit every 10yrs, the look may differ.

  8. 8 Victor Koo Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 10:34 am

    My office is just behind HPV. I pass by there twice almost everyday. There is construction work outside HPV now – MRT Circle Line but don’t know what stage.

    Just the other day, I could hear a group of noisy tourists from my office toilet up at 6th storey. But HPV is quiet and deserted most of the time.

    A few months back, I dropped in for a visit during lunch time. Took some photos. The mighty King Kong, with which I also posed with when I was a kid, is still there. It has probably clambered to its current resting place from somewhere else some time ago, without anyone noticing.

    Did you see the antique car with a tiger head?

  9. 9 laokokok Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Hi Victor,
    So your office is around there, must be having a lot of duck rice very often. Yes, that Tiger Car is still there. It’s just besides the model of the old villa and the entrance to the Ten Courts of Hell.

  10. 10 MemoryGirl Monday, October 8, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Hi, I think you did a GREAT article. Really enjoyed this post! Went with a friend to visit Hua Song Museum yesterday. Took a little walk around Haw Par Villa but didn’t stay long.

    When I saw the place when I got off the bus, the familiar yet not so feeling came through me. It was my 3rd visit to this place. The first time was probably 16 years ago while the 2nd time was around 12 years back. Then, it was still a bustling place. But now…it is just not like a place in busy Singapore. Nobody will fight with you to take photo with any staute, and you will not need to wait for the crowd to clear in the background for a shot.

    While looking at all those statues, I was wondering to myself can teachers actually bring the students there for field trip and teach them the Chinese legends and values. To tell them stories and to see the 3D figures. Then again, the kids today may not appreciate or perhaps be even interested.

    I will pop by for a visit again if possible. A very nice and peaceful place to take a walk (or maybe think things through), even on a weekend. And probably get some good exercise (considering those slopes), and to take photos. Anyway I had, and guess, will always remember the place as a place of fantasy.

    Leaving the gates, I felt an empty feeling. The bright and vibrant park is no longer seen, however the statues are still standing firm in the park, greeting the many generations of visitors who care for a visit.

  11. 11 laokokok Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 7:46 am

    Thanks for popping by MemoryGirl. The school nowadays also seldom organise excursion for the primary school students, not like us in the 60s/70s.

  12. 12 adilah Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    i am extremely glad that i found this site. im doing a project for cambridge and i hope it will get an approval from the tourism board. i want to revamp the haw par villa, it is so disheartening to see it turned into such a sad place, lost of its old days of glory. im rendering support from as much people as possible, and even if my project for cambridge doesnt work out, i hope STB would still support it. but many have told me that it would unlikely be approved as they’re sure that such efforts had been made earlier, and of course the govt has put minimal changes to it. haw par villa is part of our heritage, its our duty to revamp it. please please do email me on anything i should take into consideration for this project or any views you may have on this.

  13. 13 laokokok Monday, March 31, 2008 at 8:00 am

    HI Adilah,
    Thanks for surfing by and wish you all the best for your project.

  14. 14 Mikey Ym Friday, May 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Sweetest childhood memories I have of Tiger Balm Gardens. I can feel the tears roll up in my eyes now. Many pictures of me with parents there. Now they removed Dragon head, so sorrowful. I hope the place gets more visitors presently. So long, Pasir Panjang…

  15. 15 laokokok Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 7:13 am

    This place really brings back many fond memories for many of us local as well as foreigners. Hope it will not be torn down.

  16. 16 ohfarah Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    great entry out there. love the pictures. i thought haw par villa is no longer available for visit. a relief that its not. cheers!

  17. 17 laokokok Friday, May 30, 2008 at 8:50 am

    You are most welcome ohfarah.

  18. 18 Q-Do Friday, June 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    I have to say it is a good article that you have posted there! Same as ‘ohfarah’ I thought it was no longer available as it is true that it has lost its past years glory. I visited the site back to 12-14 years ago when I was young with my family as tourist! Dad went there during one of his business trip and brought us there. Now that I have come back to this country to continue my studies in one of the poly and it has been nearly 3 years, and just recently I have moved to west coast and I pass HPV almost everyday.

    So, to make it short after reading your article I am somehow motivated to re-visit the site again and it will be as soon as tomorrow! I was like wandering around on what to do to spend my weekend with my boyfriend (who is surprisingly never heard of HPV as he grows up here in Singapore! except for the childhood)I have been bored with shopping, catch movie, and other normal activities that teenager do. Thus, thanks for the article! It helps to bring back so many memories and now I want to see and feel it myself again after so long (I see many differences thru your pictures). Again thanks, keep move on! Write more! I love your article.

  19. 19 Lim C C Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Hi, I am doing some research on HPV. Would you be able to explain all the scenes on that round structure which used to be surrounded by water but is now drained and stands on grass. Which Chinese folklore or story do they refer to? It is a very strange combination of statues dressed in old and contemporary costumes. Would appreciate if you can help. Thank you.

  20. 20 laokokok Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Hi Lim,
    There are too many different sculptures there and it block features a different story.

  21. 21 Lim C C Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I know there are many different sculptures but do you know what stories they feature?

  22. 22 laokokok Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Hi Lim,
    You may wish to borrow that book on Tiger Balm/Haw Par Villa from the National Library. Maybe you can find some infos from there. Can’t remember the exact title of that book.

  23. 23 Lim C C Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the tip. Will try to do that.

  24. 24 Mr ! Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    hi, i am doing a project on HPV, can i have a short interview with you pls?

  25. 25 laokokok Monday, November 10, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Hi Mr !,
    You may email me your questions as I’m rather busy these few weeks. Sorry.

  26. 26 Filamern Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 12:59 am


    great article.
    I have been passing by Haw Par Villa, and found it interesting, was finding it weird why it was not crowded at all. From outside it looked good (I nearly thought they were tearing it down, ’cause it looked un-catered and a few days after I had this thought they closed the area, for renvoation apparently) and it looked like it had heritage value… after reading the article and a few googling (Thanks, google!)
    I found that this place is actually quite the good place.

    (Boo at the stupid commercialism. >:)
    After scrolling through the pictures it seems as if it has lost its um, original feeling. Or so I got from the pics overtime. Looks… ‘dead’.

    Thanks for the article. It was a good read. (:

  27. 27 fishy Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    hey! nice write up u did for Haw Par Villa. i seriously did not know that such place exist in Singapore till my gf told me about it. very impressive! i think im going to love that place! going to visit the place soon!! =)

  28. 28 laokokok Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Hi Fishy, better visit it soon before they decide to…

  29. 29 cj Monday, October 19, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Hello! thank you for such a good article. i am currently choosing topics to work on for my final year project. I am interested to study on ways that i could revitalize this iconic themepark of the past. I wonder if any of you could share pictures taken from the olden days, so i can do a detailed study on the stage of evolvement that hpv undergone. I wonder where can i get detailed plans and sections drawings on HPV too, any suggestion?? I’d referred to the Tiger balm garden book. There is only a ‘sketch’ plans on it. =]

    anyway, feel free to drop me a message if you are interested in contributing to my study aka designing the new outlook of hpv as my final project.

  30. 30 tangobabe Monday, November 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I am new in Sg and had read about HPV. Visited it last week and am thrilled. I find it a unique place and love it. Hope to be able to go back more often.
    They should continue trying to revitalise it and hopefully NOT close it down!!!!
    Tx for your article; very interesting.

    Kind regards,
    Tangobabe alias Anja (from the netherlands)

  31. 31 laokokok Monday, November 30, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Hi Tangobabe,
    Glad you like the HPV and my blog. Yes really hope that they won’t tear down the HPV.

  32. 32 Jieling Friday, January 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    hi adilah, I’m currently doing a project for Cometemporary Special Interest Tourism on how to revitalise Haw Par Villa as well. Do you think its possible that you can share some of your research with me? Will seriously be grateful to you if you did!

  33. 34 zhihong Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    i wonder if the renovation is done because i wanted to visit the place during this holiday

  34. 35 Alicia Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I’m going to visit this place this Sat, after 15 years. I vaguely remembered it being a very eerie place, but very fascinating as well. It’s a pity they drained the water away from the dragon’s mouth. That’s the one thing I recalled the most.

  35. 36 SY Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

    this is indeed a good share on HPV… am thinking where to go this long weekend with my kids as forgetting that HPV was once my favorite place to visit when I was young, esp when i looked thru the photographs which my parents took… hahahah…

  36. 37 shittyplace Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I don’t know why they even built the place, some people are just fucking weirdos

  37. 38 blyssfulwurld Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I’m doing a project on Haw Par Villa – like revitalising it.
    And I happenned to come across your post. Thank you for your post. It was very helpful in helping me understand HPV’s past glory.
    So I just wanna ask: Is there any improvements/ changes you would like to see in HPV? And do you think we should put the water rides back?
    Thanks and hope to get your opinion!

  38. 39 melissa Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Wow, you have a very good blog to visit everytime i am nostalgic or curious as to old Singapore places! THANK YOU for your hard work and the photos!

    I hope you do an article one day on the old open air theatres we once had such as the national theatre.

  39. 40 Crevan Boyzz Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    omg so scary

  40. 41 carrotmint Monday, October 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I have been there once as a child too. The memories are pretty vague now. thinking of re-visiting again. 🙂
    Thanks for your post.

  41. 42 Jaime Tan Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Went HPV yesterday, had a sad feeling after visiting it.. I had a lot of fond childhood memories of this place and now it is so run down. I saw less than 10 visitors when I was there. Hope something can be done… This is a place that we have all forgotten!

  42. 43 david yates -taylor Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    My family and I have enjoyed the Haw Par Villas in two centurys. I first visited while in H.M.S. Terror, 1955, my son visited in 1983 on his way to aus. My wife and I visited again in 2007, on our way to Aus., after all that time we still enjoy our time there. Its one of the most bizzare places we have every been to. Oldbuck

  43. 44 Wan Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Hi, Haw Par Villa is famous thx to the mrt station that open next to it…. I think visitorship has gone up more than 3x since the mrt open… i wish that the dragon is still there and the ride… i will definitely go back there especially since it’s so convient to go there now…

  44. 45 Tulisa Monday, March 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Hi im currently doing a project on Haw Par villa. Im glad i stumbled upon this website! do you have any ideas about how to revamp/revitalise HPV as a tourism attraction?

  45. 46 2cerlinda2 Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Hi, i see that your post is in 2008 (four year ago from now). Care to update us on the project for cambridge? I believe many people like me will be eager to know if har paw villa can get a revamp. Thanks!

  46. 48 schrodingersclevercat Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Do you know the name of the caretaker? 🙂 and by the way was the amphitheatre popular then?

  47. 49 francescajuliathomas Monday, February 15, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I’m here now! Such a creepy place!

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