Published: May 13th 2018
Woolly says – We’d sat over breakfast looking at the map, lots of museums still to see but we felt that we had been in so many something a little different was needed. We could cover some more temples, but we were templed out, Zoe suggested shopping and was swiftly outvoted which was when we came across something that doesn’t really feature in the guidebooks. Having plotted the metro route we were off, as the train raced through the dark I sat with my Mammoth Book of Facts reading about Haw Par Villa (formerly known as the Tiger Balm Garden) which is an 8.5 hectare Asian cultural park, the last of its kind in the world. Built in 1937, it was the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw, the millionaire philanthropist and marketing extraordinaire who gifted the world Tiger Balm. Tiger balm is a gift from heaven in our eyes and on this trip has been used to excess, coated on to stop the pesky mozzies from biting, put onto the bites to stop them itching rubbed into the forehead for headaches and when Zoe was ill rubbed onto her tummy to provide relief from the painful gripes she had, it literally cures everything. Alighting from the train I trotted up the stairs and into daylight, peering around I didn’t even need my map the park was right next to the station, glancing upwards we seemed to have acquired some dark grey clouds and hoping that they would blow away we set off to discover the delights.
As soon as we passed under the Chinese gateway the strange and eclectic nature of the park became evident, passing dragons, we stood looking at the eight immortals that seemed to be made up of half man and half creatures they didn’t look friendly.
Woolly says – Large areas were made up of scenes taken from Chinese mythology, plaques told us the stories of monkeys and pigs who had special powers at which Jo got very excited and started babbling on abut a TV show called Monkey that she had seen as a child. As we arrived at a small exhibition area that told us about death around the world and how it is conducted and celebrated we suddenly found ourselves at the entrance to hell, I wasn’t keen personally, but curiosity got the better of me.
As we entered what they called the ten courts of hell it told us that people cross one of three bridges dependant on how you have lived life, the lucky few pass straight to heaven, those had have led blameless lives, whereas the majority get sent to one of the courts dependant on their crimes during life. We arrived at court one and realised we were done for as miss doings included throwing litter (I dropped it by accident!), being unkind to animals (did they mean the ant I had accidently stood on!) and murder (it seemed odd to put murder with littering offences) for these crimes I was to be thrown into a bubbling mass of lava and then have my paws and tail severed from my body….. for murder maybe but it seemed a bit brutal for littering! By court four we realised that even speaking out of turn was considered a crime that would involve your innards being removed, the stuff of nightmares.
It wasn’t a place to take children, you could emotionally scare them for life!
Woolly says – By court ten we would have suffered enough apparently, and an old lady would give us a drink to make us forget ….. it would have to be a very big drink to forget everything that we would have gone through…. And then you would be reborn as either a human or animal depending on your crimes, hopefully with paws, tails and innards back intact. I was glad to get out and felt that as far as messages go it was a very powerful one in being a good mammoth. As we wandered through the other areas we found that it got stranger and stranger with mermaids playing in a pool, koala’s playing in a tree, gorillas having a tea party and giant lobsters, everywhere you looked there was something strange. Two large pagodas sat in a large pool that had terrapins swimming happily around, they seemed unaware of their bizarre surroundings, as we felt the first drops of rain start to descend we took in the last of the strange scenes before following the red sloping road back to the metro station. Well we’d said we wanted something different and we certainly found it!
It had been fascinating but surreal and not for the faint hearted, our next stop would be a little lighter in context.
Woolly says – The underground sped past my eyes as we went through the depths of the city, I felt myself dosing like so many others as the carriages gently rocked, startled by the name of our station I jumped up and followed the women upwards. We seemed to have lost the rain but had instead found a wonderful view of the Esplanade. Known for it’s theatres and nightlife we were way to early for any shows, but it did give us an opportunity to spy our next attraction. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish that is widely used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore, measuring 8.6 metres tall he watches over the bay whilst spouting water from his mouth. As we got nearer and nearer we realised that he had an amazing view of the domed theatres as well as the big strange building (the one with the boat on top) that had been following us on the skyline throughout our visit. Up close he was an impressive sight and as Jo tried to take my picture I realised that he was spraying all of us that got to close, I grinned at his cheek before moving out of the way and finding a bench to sit and admire the views. I’d enjoyed Singapore, so much to see and do and a skyline that was amazing whichever angle you saw it from, it’s not cheap but it is clean and bright and well worth a visit.