Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weird and bizarre

Recently, Discovery Channel featured an Indonesian man who was afflicted by warts that grew out of control and made his limbs appear to be like tree bark and roots. It was really bizarre as he did look half man half tree.

That got me thinking more about strange and bizarre stuff that I had seen over the years on my travels. I started to list some of the weird and perhaps bizarre things i had seen that I might want to blog about. The list went like this...

Mystery Road at Jeju Island, where vehicles roll uphill.
Japanese love hotels.
The ultimate in kitsch!
Phallic festivals in Japan.

Thaipusam at Batu Caves (not weird but bizarre penitents)

Top left - Japanese Love Hotel
Top - Phallus Matusri in Kanagawa Japan

Left - Thiapusam at Batu Caves.

Then it struck me that one of the weirdest and extremely bizarre places can actually be found right here in Singapore! It called the Tiger Balm Gardens a.k.a Haw Par Villa.

Haw Par Villa was built sometime in the 1930s by a philanthropist Aw Boon Haw. On a hillside by the sea (now reclaimed), he built a mansion with a sprawling garden and decorated the garden with dioramas depicting Chinese virtues, tales from folklore and Chinese mythologies.
Thrown open free for public viewing, the Tiger Balm Gardens must have been one of the earliest theme parks here. I still remember being there as a child with my parents in the 1960s. As a child it was already a scary place for me.

What is really weird and bizarre about the place are the statues depicting life, or rather what life would be without religion or virtues. It is a place highlighting human failures and faults. Macabre scenes of hell and punishment dominate the dioramas.

Unfortunately, the Haw Par Villa appears to suffer from an identity crisis. You are not sure what the theme park is all about. It's as though someone with a deranged mind designed the place. You have scenes from Chinese folklore like the Monkey King to the Statue of Liberty, from Japanese Sumo wrestlers to graceful Thai dancers. Scenes of human virtuosity to horrific scenes of gruesome torture. Really weird.

The most infamous of all the dioramas there is the depiction of the Ten Courts of Hell according to Chinese beliefs. Hell seems to be all gore, torture and mutilation. Hey, aren't they dead already? Apparently the dead do still feel pain and the officials in Hell just love to give them more pain. Well, it's hell, right?
Here are some pictures of the weird dioramas.

Sadly today, Haw Par Villa, or sometimes called the Tiger Balm Gardens, is an anachronism.
The statues, themes and gaudy colors just won't cut it with today's generation.
Compared to other theme parks today, with exhibits housed in air-conditioned environment, with multimedia presentations, looking at statues at Haw Par Villa is downright passive and boring.

Previous attempts to update and modernize Haw Par Villa have failed miserably and today it is best served only as a fading memorial to the legacy of the Aw Brothers' philanthropy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Phuket, Thailand - Video blog

I am trying now to document all my travels with video. So instead of a descriptive blog, you'll be seeing more video blogs (vlogs). Enuff said..... enjoy the video.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Burasari Patong Resort, Thailand

I stayed at the Burasari Resort Hotel at Patong in Phuket Island during my last visit to Thailand earlier this month.
This boutique hotel main claim to fame is the Floyd's Brasserie, owned by celebrity chef Keith Floyd. Keith Floyd died in September 2009. I won't be doing a review of the hotel here in my blog as I have already done a review at Tripadvisor. You can read that review here. (Click here).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Simon Cabaret, Phuket Thailand

The Simon Cabaret is a lavish Broadway style stage show. With elaborate costumes and sets and dance pieces set to music. The great attraction about the Simon Cabaret is that all the performers are transvestites or transgendered. In Thailand, they are called Katoeys, neither male or female but socially accepted as a 3rd gender. The show is similar to the Tiffany Show at Bangkok and Pattaya.

Here is a short snippet. The restriction on cameras and video recording devices during the performances made it a bit difficult to get good pictures. Sorry for that.

Friday, October 09, 2009

No more free stays at Laguna Phuket!

Exactly a year ago, I posted an article detailing how you can get a free 3D2N stay at the famous Laguna Resort in Phuket. (for that article, click here)

Earlier this week, I was back in Phuket and was passing through the JungCeylon Mall at Patong Beach. There I noticed the Laguna Holiday Club sales booth was still functioning as usual. I was on the verge of actually thinking about getting their free holiday. Paused at the booth, but then I noticed that their freebies for attending their sales pitch had changed.

The 3D2N stay at the resort is no longer available!
They had blocked out this option from their list of freebies. Watch the accompanying video and you can see a white piece of paper blocking out what was once their premier bait to get you to listen to their pitch.

The other freebies were still available though; Laguna tour certificates, 2 rounds of golf at Laguna Golf Club, dining or shopping vouchers, a 90 min spa treatment at Angsana Spa or 2 tickets to the Phuket Fantasea Show and Theme Park. Quite substantial rewards in itself actually.


But no, I didn't stay for their sales pitch on the Laguna Holiday Club timeshare scheme..... well, maybe one day if they re-introduce the 3D2N free stay.