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© Prianka Ghosh
© Prianka Ghosh

The History Of Haw Par Villa In 1 Minute

Picture of Prianka Ghosh
Updated: 21 September 2016
Haw Par Villa is a theme park in Singapore that was built by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the makers of Tiger Balm. Their goal was to create a fun atmosphere where children could learn about Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist mythology. The park can be reached from the Haw Par Villa MRT station on the Circle Line.

The park, originally named Tiger Balm Gardens, was built in 1937 after the Aw Boon brothers moved from Burma to Singapore. Older brother Aw Boon Haw designed the gardens as a journey through Chinese mythology that surrounded the sprawling, circular-shaped mansion that once also stood on the grounds. Once the theme park was completed, they allowed access to the public to encourage others to learn about Chinese mythology; however, the park was abandoned at the start of World War II, and eventually Japanese forces took control of the park because its location on a hill made it an excellent vantage point to watch ships at sea.

© FarmStudioField/Flickr | © Kiran Foster/Flickr | © Prianka Ghosh

© FarmStudioField/Flickr | © Kiran Foster/Flickr | © Prianka Ghosh

In the 1980s, the park saw the first steps of revitalization. In 1986, a corporation tried to modernize the park with animatronics, which besides being even more terrifying, ended up being too expensive to complete. A few years later, the Singapore Tourism Board bought the land and restored the statues and dioramas. They changed the name of the theme park to Haw Par Villa Dragon World to recognize the original builders. The newly restored statues, as well as performances in the theatre, held the attention of Singaporeans at first but eventually visitors were deterred by the high entrance fees and enticed by competing attractions around the island.

By the early 2000s, the Singapore Tourism Board decided to forgo admission fees in hopes that the unique park would continue to see visitors as opposed to being torn down. When the Circle Line opened in 2011, Haw Par Villa saw a resurgence in popularity due to its increased accessibility, and now the park is always busy on the weekends.

📅  Open daily from 9am until 6pm, and admission is free.