Haw Par Villa celebrates 80th anniversary this weekend with guided tour to Hell

A tour of Haw Par Villa's 10 Courts of Hell is meant to be a chance for visitors to have a serious think about taboo concepts such as death and the afterlife.
A tour of Haw Par Villa's 10 Courts of Hell is meant to be a chance for visitors to have a serious think about taboo concepts such as death and the afterlife.PHOTO: SINGAPORE HISTORY CONSULTANTS

Haw Par Villa is celebrating its 80th year with activities such as a tour of the 10 Courts of Hell that includes a chance to lie in a coffin

Want to snap an eye-catching selfie this weekend? Go lie in a coffin at Haw Par Villa.

The organiser of the tour, titled Journeys To Hell, says however that the experience is not meant to be a gimmick - it is a chance for visitors to have a serious think about taboo concepts such as death and the afterlife.

Mr Jeya Ayadurai, director of Journeys, the company behind the tours, tells The Straits Times: "It'll be like a room of reflection."

He adds: "Whenever you think of Haw Par Villa, most people think of the 10 Courts of Hell there. So when we were thinking of how to revive Haw Par Villa, we thought there was no point in trying to stay away from that - rather, we decided to see how we could update this and make it more educational.

"So this tour will allow visitors a serious look at the process of death in Singapore, and also at how different Asian religions view the afterlife. After the tour, visitors will have a clearer understanding of the concepts displayed in the 10 Courts of Hell."

The hour-long tour, which is free, is held as part of Haw Par Villa's 80th Anniversary Fiesta, a weekend of activities to celebrate the history of the theme park featuring Chinese mythological folklore statues.

Besides the Journeys To Hell tour, another tour titled Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger, will take visitors through the park and tell the rags-to-riches story of Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the brothers who founded the Tiger Balm medicated ointment as well as Haw Par Villa.

  • BOOK IT / HAW PAR VILLA 80TH ANNIVERSARY FIESTA

    WHERE: Haw Par Villa, 262 Pasir Panjang Road

    WHEN: Tomorrow and Sunday

    ADMISSION: Free entry, but some activities are ticketed 

    INFO: Go to www.hawparvilla.sg for details weekend

Tomorrow evening, the Noise Invasion Festival will also be held at the park, featuring a free concert with performances by local music acts such as Sam Rui, Amateur Takes Control and Wicked Aura.

On Sunday, a ticketed escape game titled Journey To The End And Back will be held. Participants will have to put their heads together to "save" a friend before he drinks amnesia tea and is sent for reincarnation.

Throughout the park at various times, there will also be taiji, parkour and yoga lessons, as well as art jamming, tea appreciation and calligraphy sessions.

Mr Ayadurai says: "Haw Par Villa has been neglected in recent years, but we really hope to bring the place back to people's world view."

Home-grown actor and host Gurmit Singh, 52, has "great memories" of the place where he was a performer more than two decades ago. During his four-year stint there, he learnt various skills such as stilt-walking and lion-dancing.

He tells The Straits Times: "It was an enriching environment. But it was the hottest environment to perform in. The costumes were beautifully crafted but they were also very layered and Singapore's weather was not exactly conducive. After every show, we would return backstage totally drenched in sweat."

Mr Ayadurai says: "For a lot of Singaporeans, there is just so much history at Haw Par Villa."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'To Hell and back'. Print Edition | Subscribe