We Visited Haw Par Villa At Night And Here’s What Happened
Haw Par Villa now opens until 10pm.
If you thought Haw Par Villa was spooky in the day, wait till you visit it at night. And now that the park has recently extended its opening hours until 10pm, you’ll have plenty of chances for eerie adventures… at night. What is it like wandering after dark through the 82-year-old park that’s home to about 1,000 of the most bizarre hand-painted statues and dioramas like the gory Ten Courts of Hell? Everything here is inspired by Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folklore… and quite possibly, scaring the bejesus out of every child who visits? For the uninitiated, you probably didn’t grow up with parents taking you to Singapore’s OG theme park that was popular back in the 80's. Seriously, it was the place to visit for families to chill over the weekend, especially parents who wanted to take a walk through Hell to show their kids what would happen if they misbehaved.
In 1937, Myanmar-born businessman Aw Boon Haw bought the plot of land and built a mansion for his younger brother, Aw Boon Par, to thank him for helping with his business. However, their happiness was short-lived. The brothers fled back to Myanmar when the Japanese invaded Singapore during the war, and Boon Par passed away during that time. When Boon Haw returned after the war, he decided to demolish the villa and turned the park into what we have today, erecting sculptures depicting traditional Chinese folktales and mythology for educational purposes.
Entry to Haw Par Villa is free, and now that it has permanently extended its hours until 10pm, we decided to grit our teeth and venture through the eerie grounds at night.
We stepped into the park at 8pm on a Monday night, and there was nary a soul in sight. The path at the entrance is brightly lit (organisers had reportedly upgraded the lighting features), but it only got dimmer as we ventured further in. At this point, it is important to note that everything appears brighter in these photos than they actually were, because, well, if our photographer didn't shoot with flash, you probably wouldn't be able to see much.
As we trudged along the path, we could feel eyes staring at us from among the foliage. Yes, yes, we know they’re just statues, but it still feels somewhat unsettling, like we’d walked into a horror film set — and one that was abandoned at that — and we couldn’t help but constantly look over our shoulders. You know, just in case.
Rumour has it that the actual portal to hell is located here, and that at night, all hell breaks loose, literally, as the park comes alive after dark. We’re not sure if we want to find out if the rumours are true or not, but we step in anyway, albeit with trepidation.
The entrance to hell looks helluva scary at night — it’s rather dim here, and the accompanying eerie music blasting over the old-school PA system sure helped make us feel even more spooked out. We gingerly make our way in, hoping nothing is lurking in the dark corners. Did we unwittingly stumble into a Halloween haunted house? Sure feels like it.
We vividly remember this cave as the spawn of all nightmares, back from when we visited—in daytime—when we were kids. Having seen it all before doesn’t make it less scary. In fact, this is still the most frightening part of our nighttime Haw Par Villa jaunt, just because you’re so up close to the dioramas portraying people getting burned, tortured and more, in this enclosed cave. Suddenly, memories of our mother warning us that this is what happens to people who misbehave come flooding back. But, hey, we all turned out to be law-abiding citizens and filial children... right?
There’s no actual portal to hell here, not even at night, sorry. But there are some foreboding warnings about what happens to baddies. Like cheating in an exam lands you in a deeper level of hell than you would if you were a robber. Er, okay.
This is the first thing we saw when we exited the Ten Courts of Hell.
It may look brightly lit in these photos, but it was actually much dimmer. If you want to, er, truly appreciate these carvings, it’s best to come in the day.
We shuffled along to the other side of the park. And just like Universal Studios Singapore has music blasting through the park to add to the atmosphere, Haw Par Villa, too, has a constant soundtrack. Over here, a haunting rendition of Malay folk tune ‘Rasa Sayang’ plays. It’s like we’re in some sort of a time warp. Do the park rangers here get creeped out, we wonder.
We saw less than 10 people during our two-hour visit. Let's just say that the lack of visitors added to the experience.
A lot of areas at the park were closed off to visitors. We wonder if it’s because they’re undergoing maintenance... or is it something else?
You can’t possibly walk through the Ten Courts of Hell and still try to break into these out-of-bound areas. Remember what happens to people who do bad things?
It’s not all about frightening hellish scenes. These sculptures are a sight to behold, and kinda look grander at night too.
You'll need more light - or a fantastic flash like our photographer had - if you wanted to fully appreciate the intricate details on these structures.
Tired visitors can find reprieve in this air conditioned exhibition hall where you can learn about the history of Haw Par Villa — there are several antiques on display and a TV playing video clips. It's a great escape from the heat, and possibly the most sufficiently-lit place in the entire park.
It’s nowhere as scary as a Halloween haunted house (we’re looking at you, USS Halloween Horror Nights). Sure, we were initially creeped out, but after we got used to the dim lighting, it’s really not that bad. Fascinating, even. Plus, it's way cooler here after the sun sets.
Haw Par Villa opens from 10am-10pm at 262 Pasir Panjang Rd, S118628. Free entry. More info at https://www.hawparvilla.sg/.