Tucked away in Pasir Panjang, amongst the Universities, the shipyards and offices , lies a plot of land filled with magical creatures. The stuff of folklore and mythology. A place where the Monkey god rubs shoulders with lady liberty and the 7 courts of hell are in constant procession (only during office hours).
I am talking about Haw Par Villa of course. The former house and grounds of a wealthy Burmese businessman who made his fortune through an Ointment that has become famous the world over. With my trusty 28-75 and 70-200 lenses in tow, I set off to the location a few hours before it’s closing time of 7pm.
Now, ask any Singaporean over the age of 30 and they will each have a story to tell of the place. It is about it’s loud gawdy colors and crude campy renditions of Chinese folklore and present day in plaster and concrete that sticks to the mind. And more often then not, despite it’s various incarnations (first a residence, to a full fledged theme park in the 90’s to now a free admission tourist attraction)
You will hear people reminiscing about the “7 courts of hell”.
From a photographic point of view, it is a excellent place to practice low light photo taking and bokeh with interesting figurines (that should’nt move). The shawdows cast of a victim being sawed in half or a judge meting out his decision on a soul for eternity make for hauntingly interesting pictures.
Walking further around the park you’ll find other familiar statues of present day things as well. A diorama of a shipwreck (which strangely looked like a scene from the sinking of the Titanic)
and representations of modern day sins of gluttony, jealously and lust are some others that you’ll find if you look closely enough.
All in all, I find every visit to this “theme park” much more interesting that the usual fare of roller coaster rides and light shows that we have come to expect from similar parks. And though the exhibits are all purely static and non-interactive, you will find that long after you’ve left the park, the images of the 1000 statues and 150 large scale dioramas will linger in your mind like a strange dream from an afternoon slumber.
And that to me ,makes it truly magical.
About The Guest Blogger
Paul Goh can be found on youtube reviewing camera gear in a pilot’s helmet here. To see more of his pictures and to enquire about the photographic and video services he provides, please visit his Facebook Page: facebook.com/relativelyrelaxedstudio