Sunday, March 9, 2014

Singapore: Haw Par Villa

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I came here with my family on a few occasions around 1970, when it was called Tiger Balm Gardens. So, forty-odd years later I wanted to see how it matches up with my memories; the answer is pretty close, except for the crowds. I wouldn't say it was crowded back then, but it wasn't nearly deserted like it was on this Sunday morning in February. I remembered some of the statuary fairly accurately.

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Some of the imagery is quite tame:

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... some of it is a bit odd:

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... ad some is really quite strange:

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The Garden was built beginning in the 1930s by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, scions of the founder of the Tiger Balm company, which made (still makes) camphorated rubs that claim to be good for what ails you, from sore muscles to flatulence. I'm not sure how it inhibits gas, but it works pretty well on sore muscles, chapped lips and stuffy noses. Though the site is now owned by the Singapore government, there are a few remnants of the original advertizing:

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The quality of the statues is variable. Some convey a very nice sense of motion:

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But faces are not necessarily the strongest feature:

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The Garden is divided into sections by theme. Here are a couple images from the "Pond of Legacy":

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The most renown section of the Garden is the Ten Gates of Hell, which supposedly illustrates (in gruesome detail) the punishments for various sins according to Chinese mythology.

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Admission is free, and the theme park is located directly adjacent to its own subway station on the Circle line.

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