Monday, 28 January 2008

Haw Par Villa

This may not be part of the Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk we do each February or the July Heritage Trails. However, as a child, one of my memories of Pasir Panjang (PP) was of Haw Par Villa. There really was not much of a reason for me to traipse over to PP unless we had some relatives from the USA or Anambas Islands who came to visit. This was on my mom's list of 'TO-SEE' places for our guests. Much to my chagrin, I often had to go along with her to Haw Par Villa, especially when the rellies from Anambas came over.

What was it about Haw Par Villa that I hated? Let's see, it had to be the Seven Chambers of Hell. No trip was ever complete without moral lessons from my mom about why I shouldn't misbehave. The first time I was old enough to remember the Seven Chambers, I had nightmares 2 nights in a row. As I got to primary school, I told my mom I would wait for her elsewhere when she went to that ghoulish sector.I am sure every kid felt the same.

Everything else about Haw Par Villa seems so retro and kitschy in today's context. I have never re-visited it since it became the short-lived amusement-theme park in the late 1990s. As one website put it, it is 'serene and creepy' at the same time. I agree. It's as if ghosts from the pasts are going to pop out any minute and sneak up on an unsuspecting visitor. Today, when one drives past it, it seems so out of place, amidst the condominiums and expressway that has grown around it.

We do tend to forget that the park had an illustrious past. I remember as a kid that it was the one of two similar parks in Asia, built by the Aw Brothers of Tiger Balm fame. The other one was in Hong Kong, which, if memory serves me well, was demolished sometime in the 1980s. I remember too, hearing from my dad, a taxi driver and Oi Yee that the Aw family also had a swimming pool in the area, that was opened to members of the public.

I found some photos from the 60s of my parents and cousins at Haw Par Villa on a picnic. When I get a break, I'll scan some of it here. I have been wondering since I became a part of the PPHG, if the gardens were built in 1937, would it not have seen much of the battles of WWII in the area? Any comments on that anyone?


pinto said...

Hmmm... I'm sure the Japanese would have passed it on the way into the city. The Malay Regiment seemed to have retreated along the ridge line, which is why there seems to be no mention of fighting at Haw Par Villa.

Sonicstarburst said...

Curious about what happened to Haw Par Villa during the war. Was it destroyed? Is what we see now a 'renovated' version.