Singapore Adventure

Monday, June 05, 2006

Disneyland On Acid
by jima

I recently had the pleasure of a full day of sightseeing fun with Jazz, one of our more unique and twistedly-humorous friends. Venitha had already departed for Bali, leaving me and Jazz unsupervised - bwah ha ha ha! - and in search of the Singaporean daytime equivalent of my standard Venitha-free activity, bad movie night.

Fortunately, the straight-laced Singaporean government has not banished all-things seedy, tacky, and kitschy from our beloved Island, and Jazz is the perfect companion for things seedy, tacky, and kitschy. One of the many attractions listed in our Singapore tour books stands out as a veritable shrine to questionable taste: .

Haw Par Villa used to be a residence for the Aw brothers (Boon Haw and Boon Par), the inventors of the ever-popular and much-revered cure-all, Tiger Balm. They built an enormous garden on a hill and populated it with statuary depicting, among other things, Chinese legend and tradition. Much of this seems fairly straight-forward (epic journeys where the hero faces many perils on the road to a noble goal), and Jazz and I enjoyed the graphic and somewhat crude displays of legendary tales.

Then we arrived at the Ten Courts of Hell, the depiction of punishments that await those who do not adhere in this lifetime to the straight and narrow. Disrespect your elders and you will have your heart cut out. Urge people into social unrest and you will be tied to a red hot copper pillar and grilled. Gamblers will be frozen into blocks of ice, and prostitutes will be thrown into a pool of blood and drowned. Robbers, murderers, and rapists will have their heads and arms chopped off. Money-lenders with exorbitant interest rates will be thrown onto a hill of knives, while cursers will be thrown merely onto a tree of knives.

Just punishment is, of course, not a completely foreign concept to Westerners, but such graphic representations are quite a shock. It's one thing to threaten that if you misuse books or waste food that your body will be sawn in two, and it's another to show you the tragic fate that awaits.

Suitably chastised, we ventured on into the tribute to filial piety, a much-revered attribute of Asian societies, and rightly so. That said, acting as a wet nurse for your grandmother-in-law and melting an ice flow for your stepmother with your tears and your bare backside seem a bit, um, gratuitous, shall we say.

Toward the end of our hot, bizarre, surreal adventure, we came upon the image I will leave you with. I'll make no comment on this other than I think there's some basic biology lessons that were missed by this statue's designer.