Haw Par Villa is my favorite spot in Singapore
It’s no secret that Haw Par Villa aka Tiger Balm Garden is my number one attraction in Singapore.
Whenever we have visitors I always suggest to show them around in that huge, almost forgotten theme park.
As a result, I visited Haw Par Villa probably around 15 times over the past 6 years. And I’m still fascinated by it.
What to expect at Tiger Balm Garden?
The words ‘attraction’ and ‘theme park’ may set the wrong expectation. What Tiger Balm Garden is -nowadays-is a huge park, with over a 1000 statues, sculptures and dioramas, scattered all over the place.
The colors are vibrant and gaudy. The scenes depict myths, morals, sins, legends, hell. All coming from Chinese culture and folklore.
There are some sculptures and scenes that look totally off topic. As a matter of fact they ARE. Like a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. Or the deer in the picture below, on the right. I think it was talking to a snake or something. No idea about what. Or why.
But that’s what Haw Par Villa is for me: weird, quirky, unique, outsider art, rich with history, intriguing.
It is Alice in Wonderland meets Dali. It’s art AND kitsch.
Vast, quiet and free!
In the first years that I visited Tiger Balm Garden, I usually was the only visitor. For me, that added to the mystery of the place. Since a few years there is a subway station next to Haw Par Villa. It sees a bit more visitors now. But the park still feels quite deserted, which I love. And it’s still totally free!!! Which is amazing!
During one of my last visits, I had the fortune to run into Mr. Teo Veoh Seng, the man who has been and still is on a never ending quest to paint, repaint, repair the sculptures in the park.
Mr. Teo Veoh Seng is over 80 years old and worked at Haw Par Villa since he was 13 years old. How amazing is that?! It means that he knew the brothers who built Tiger Balm Gardens. Wow!
I happened to be with a local friend that day, who speaks the same dialect as Mr. Teo Veoh Seng. That made it possible for her to translate for me and we were able to have a small conversation.
One of the things he told us, was that the park has been taken over by another organization and that he chose this moment to retire. We saw him at work during his last month on the job.
Visit Haw Par Villa now, before it’s too late!
I’m a bit scared of what’s gonna happen now. Will they be able and be willing to keep it’s charm? Or will they ‘glossify’ Haw Par Villa? Commercialize it? Ask an entrance fee?
I can only hope for the best. But just to be sure, I advice you to visit Tiger Balm Garden NOW, before it’s unique look and charm are forever gone.
Find out more about this intriguing place and have a look at some amazing pictures
I wrote many articles about this park, with information about the founders of the park, its history, a map and lots of fascinating, gorgeous pictures:
- my first article about Haw Par Villa from 2009
- in this article from 2011 I write why Tiger Balm Garden is one of Singapore’s best attractions
- in 2014 the government did a campaign to revive Haw Par Villa. I participated in a historic guided walk around the premises. Very interesting, even though I already knew a lot about Tiger Balm Garden.
- I often refer to Haw Par Villa as Singapore’s best kept secret. In this article I explain why I see it that way.
- in this post I tell you the story about a picture of me that was taken at Haw Par Villa. (No, it’s not the picture below.)
- the story of no. 5 is related to this post about a fashion shoot in Tiger Balm Garden. We had so much fun!
- Tiger Balm Garden as one of 14 sights that impressed me most
- and Haw Par Villa as one of my 5 top outsider art places
Have you visited Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Garden? Did you like it? What is the weirdest place you ever visited? And the best outsider art you saw?