'Hell' no longer a ghost town

'Hell' no longer a ghost town
Visitors looking at the sculptures of Chinese mythology at the Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa revitalised

SINGAPORE - His father first took him to Haw Par Villa in 1939, two years after Singapore's original theme park was built.

And yesterday, Mr Tiah Teo Song, 88, was back there again. Though he can no longer remember details of his first visit, the park is still a draw.

The park helps him think about "the afterlife, heaven and hell", Mr Tiah told The New Paper in Mandarin.

He was there on Wednesday with his maid, and said it is more convenient to visit the park since an MRT station was built.

Over the past two weekends, more than 12,000 people visited the park as part of the Singapore Tourism Board's (STB) "Reliving Haw Par Villa" event.

This is part of STB's series of events to celebrate 50 years of tourism development and promotion in Singapore, and also an opportunity to bring new life to the park.

It involves free guided tours of the park, storytelling sessions, a vintage food bazaar and other nostalgic activities.

Mr Jacob Wang, 34, a scientist who was at the park with his wife and two children, said he would definitely be back.

"Nowadays, people don't have the opportunity for this kind of exposure. This is a good platform for them to learn about Chinese folklore," he said.

There were several youngsters at the park too.

Students Hakim and Firdaus, both 14, found the designs "very nice".

Having first visited the park last year, they went back to see how the various Chinese deities look.

"I think they should put more gods in," Firdaus said.

STORIED PAST

Haw Par Villa, which has statues featuring characters from Chinese folklore such as Journey To The West, was named after Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the brothers who created medical ointment Tiger Balm.

The park is also famous for its 10 Courts of Hell with its horrific depiction of the torture of wayward souls.

A popular spot in the past, it had a facelift in 1990, turning into an $80-million theme park with rides and live entertainment.

Popular local artistes like Gurmit Singh and Kumar performed at these shows.

But the $16.50 admission fee kept the crowds away and its operator gave up running the park in 2001.

Admission is now free and STB estimates it attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.

It is open daily from 9am to 7pm.

timgoh@sph.com.sg


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