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Photo credit: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

A night of perseverance and entertainment in The Secret Life of Haw Par Villa

Prepare for a night of lots of fun and walking in this interactive tour.

Charlotte Chang
Charlotte Chang

You’ll never meet anyone who loves thriller movies more than her.


Published: 31 December 2021, 11:47 AM

Haw Par Villa is far from your average theme park. It’s no Universal Studios, much less a Disneyland, but rather tells tales from Chinese folklore through its attractions.

Because of its traditional cultural background, it’s not exactly the most popular place for youth. But The Secret of Haw Par Villa might just change that. 

An interactive tour of the theme park by Strawberries Inc. and Patch and Punnet, guests will be able to engage and even play games with the actors as they learn more about Chinese folklore and the history behind Haw Par Villa.

Taking place over a span of about 100 minutes with no intermissions in between, guests will walk through the entirety of the park to learn more about it.

As someone who attended the tour with almost no expectations, I definitely got more than what I bargained for.

The programme began with an actor playing a very enthusiastic Aw Boon Haw – the entrepreneur who started Haw Par Villa – greeting the guests at the gates with a fantastic song and dance performance about the background of the park.

 

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The actor playing Aw Boon Haw kicked off the night with a musical introduction to the park. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

 

Throughout the tour, the group stopped at various locations around Haw Par Villa as the actors re-enacted the stories of each location, such as a ghost from Hell introducing her experience in the Ten Courts of Hell, our first stop.

The Ten Courts of Hell

As the Ten Courts of Hell was recently renovated, most of us were not sure what to expect. So when our ghostly tour guide emerged from the shadows to surprise us, that certainly scared the life out of us.

 

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Each court of Hell has its own punishment for the different sins people may commit. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

 

As our tour guide led us through Hell, she guided us through the different punishments each court offered and even hinted at her character’s own cruel fate to end up where she is.

For such a morbid place, our tour guide did an amazing job keeping things entertaining with her bubbly energy and musical talent, marking a good start to the tour.

The Eight Immortals

The second stop of the tour was the eye-catching blue cave of the Eight Immortals and it is hard to miss. With its low ceiling and trippy lighting, we walked through the cave to meet our second guide, one of the eight immortals themselves.

As we sat in the rain (the attraction wasn’t sheltered) listening to the story of the Eight Immortals come to life, here we witnessed our first guest interaction, where a member from the audience was invited to become immortal as well.

 

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Guests are also invited up on stage to participate in the acts at some points. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

 

After getting to know the guest a little, the actor performed a fun little ‘ritual’ for the guest to become immortal, before bidding goodbye to us as we headed for our next location.

The Monkey King

Chinese mythology is incomplete without the legendary Monkey King, also known as Sun Wu Kong. At the tour, Sun Wu Kong “came to life” – via an actor – and was the third guide of the tour. 

As we made our way up the memorial of the Aw family, the actor made his grand entrance as the boisterous Monkey King as the memorial’s lights illuminated on him, almost portraying him as godly. We took a seat on the steps of the memorial, and our guide began retelling Wu Kong’s origins of how he went from an ordinary monkey to the powerful being he prides himself in.

 

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The audience listened attentively as the actor put himself into the shoes of Wu Kong. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

 

As the guide shared the heroic adventures of Wu Kong, the rain was getting heavier, and unfortunately, his storytelling had to be cut short as we rushed to shelter.

After about ten minutes, the rain let up slightly and a crew member returned with updates. As they were uncertain if the rain would become heavier again, they gave us two options: We were allowed to leave if we felt that the weather was getting a bit much, or we could proceed with the tour. 

Although the night was interrupted by the rain, thanks to the crew’s professionalism, the experience wasn’t made any less enjoyable and, if anything, only showed their perseverance for wanting the show to go on.

Those who decided to leave were led back to the park’s entrance, whereas the rest of us were guided back to the tour guide’s storytelling session, where he continued with Wu Kong’s tales and showed off his prowess by “transforming” into animals, even sharing a bittersweet reflection of his learning experiences during the Journey to the West.

The tale of the two brothers

Moving away from the mythological aspect of the park, the next part of the tour was about its history. Guided by the actors portraying Boon Haw and his younger brother Boon Par, games that required participants to work together in teams to compete against each other were introduced in this segment. 

The games elaborated on Chinese history and traditional beliefs through fun and technology. We were required to put our heads together and work as a team to answer the brothers’ quiz questions, and at times even use our phones to collect answers by scanning QR codes hidden at the attraction.

 

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One of the games was about vices, where each group acts as a Council of Morality to choose only three out of seven vices to stay in a city. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CHARLOTTE CHANG

 

As the fun and games came to an end, the actors wrapped up the night reminiscing the brothers’ lives in a comedic rap battle.

They let out the frustrations the brothers probably had for each other when they were still alive through rhythm and verses, and concluded the tour with a heartfelt moment of vulnerability as they mended their brotherhood.

Verdict

Haw Par Villa is one of the lesser-known theme parks in Singapore, largely because of the novelty of its concept. Reading about Chinese mythology or the history of the park on Wikipedia is one thing, but being able to witness it in real life is a rare opportunity.

This tour offered exactly that. As though the park had been brought to life, the interactions with the cast made me feel transported to the place itself.

Except for the Ten Courts of Hell. I’ve never been there, but I’m pretty sure it’s not air-conditioned.

But throughout the night, the actors’ professionalism was admirably amazing, consistently keeping morale high despite the unpredictable rain. Not once did they let their spirits dampen because of the weather, and for that reason, I’d strongly recommend it.

The Secret of Haw Par Villa interactive tour will run from Jan 7 to Feb 26, 2022. Tickets can be purchased here.


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