One Singaporean attraction that is severely underrated by locals and tourists is Haw Par Villa. I am often met by laughter when asked what place I would recommend to people visiting Singapore. Uniqueness should be on top of the list of qualities a top attraction should have in order to be considered a must-see.
When people mention other must-do-see things in Singapore it is often the cliché, Orchard Road ( shops and malls that are found everywhere else in the world), Sentosa (passable beaches with overpriced attractions), Chinatown (nothing really unique except I do like the Buddha Relic Tooth temple), Little India (unique only if you’ve never been to India) and I could go on.
Haw Par Villa is a truly unique place. It is Disneyland stripped of its electronics, commercialism, size and entrance fee thrown in a blender with Chinese/Buddhist/Toaist mythology, sprinkled in with a bit of LSD, Opium and wax-less madame Tussauds and a generous serving of Kitsch and voila !: Haw Par Villa.
I am not saying it is a gorgeous place with state of the art facilities but it feels honest and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Too many places in Singapore try too hard and instead they feel empty and soulless. Have a stroll around the latest mall at the Marina Bay Sands and see what I mean.
I was intending to write bizarre made up backgrounds on the pictures I took there, but instead discovered the true reason I enjoy Haw Par Villa so much and that is it’s authenticity. Compared to the latest Singaporean attraction which is Universal Studios this place feels so much more unique and worth visiting. Globalization brings many good things but the homogenization of culture is something pretty scary, especially to me coming from a very small island which is influenced daily by outside cultural forces.
Insert joke here about how Playboys and other gentlemen publications are illegal in Singapore and the only way to show bare breasts is to portray mythical creatures like mermaids who happen to be topless, so maybe the business opportunity of a topless mermaid magazine exists.
Off course in the end this is all my opinion and somebody will blow my mind by showing me there are countless of Haw Par Villa-style places in China but in the mean time let me dream and let me be.