Blood and Gore in Singapore

For those of you who may not be quite as up on the video game world as I am, at the stroke of midnight on November 13th, the long-awaited Black Ops 2 was released. Erez had been anticipating and talking about this game release for months. So before we left for Singapore in July, we went to our local Gamestop in Brookline, MA and pre-ordered it, not willing to take a chance that a version compatible with his US console would be available in Singapore (see earlier blog post on XBox for more on that topic). At the time, we weren’t exactly sure how or when he would be able to get his pre-ordered copy, but it serendipitously turned out that his sister, Lea, was coming to visit us in Singapore in November and, incredibly, her flight from Boston to Singapore was on November 13th! Unfortunately for Lea (and her boyfriend Ari who accompanied her to pick up the game), since her flight left at 9:30am on November 13th, the only way she could get the game before she left  was to go to the midnight release to pick up the game with all the hardcore gamers (the kind who, according to Erez, take off from work on the day the game comes out so they can spend the day playing it. No offense intended if you are one of these people – my son aspires to be just like you some day and he has already learned that you are supposed to start coughing and sneezing at work a couple of days before the release date for authenticity when you call in sick). Yes, Lea is one devoted sister. She even had the foresight to put the game in her carry-on bag, just in case her checked luggage got lost.

What she didn’t realize, however, is just how incredibly bloody and gory the game she was putting into her brother’s hands is. At one point, Lea walked into the living in view of the tv screen while Erez was at a particularly horrific moment in the game, and I don’t think she has recovered yet. In fact, she spent the  next two nights sleeping at the apartment of a friend of hers instead of staying with us. This friend has 3 little boys under the age of 6, which goes to show you how desperate she must have been to get away from Black Ops 2.

Welcome to Har Paw Villa – entrance looks innocent enough.

On Saturday, we imposed an interruption in Erez’s game playing schedule by insisting that he go sightseeing with us to a little-known Singapore attraction that we had recently found out about called Haw Par Villa. It’s hard to know how to classify this attraction, but Wikipedia describes it as a Chinese mythological theme park. It was built in 1937 by the two brothers Haw and Par, who were the inventors of Tiger Balm ointment, for the purpose of teaching visitors about Chinese mythological history and  traditional values. It is a really really weird and gruesome place. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, we pulled Erez away from his bloody and gory videogame to take him to a bloody and gory theme park. This rather decrepit and deserted theme park doesn’t have any rides or games or food stands or balloon vendors. It is a collection of statues and dioramas (situated throughout this sprawling estate) that depict various ancient Chinese stories, myths and beliefs in their most graphic form. One of the main attractions is a series of dioramas that depict the 10 courts of hell. Each “court” scene includes a sign in Chinese and English that explains what sins will land you at this particular court and what the punishments are associated it.

The virtuous people going over the Gold and Silver Bridges – looking pretty smug.

Let me give you an example. But first, viewer discretion is advised. The rest of this blog post contains some material that may offend or disturb readers (at least those readers whose sensibilities have not already been destroyed by exposure to Black Ops 2). The Courts of Hell exhibit starts out okay – it’s a similar story to the one we’ve all heard before. You go before some sort of king or judge and, in this version, he decides whether you have been virtuous (in which case you get to go over the Golden Bridge to paradise – yay!), or whether at least your good deeds have outweighed your bad behavior (Silver Bridge for you – don’t worry, it also goes to paradise, probably just has more potholes or something), or if you have been a real sinner, in which case you are going to one of the subsequent courts of hell based on your crimes (yikes!).

This is one of the less severe punishments

Horrible, horrible punishments are doled out in these other courts of hell for things ranging from disrespecting your parents or causing discord among your siblings, to tax evasion or not paying your rent, to theft and murder (just hope the good stuff you’ve done has outweighed the bad, which I think is a pretty fair way of looking at it, especially for those of us who know we have probably caused some discord among our siblings at one point or another. I mean, who, other than an only child, hasn’t done that?)







Erez contemplating his misdeeds after emerging from the Ten Courts of Hell exhibit

Taking filial piety to a new extreme









You emerge from this dark and depressing exhibit of the Ten Courts of Hell into the Singapore heat and humidity with a sigh of relief only to find yourself in front of what may be an even more disturbing exhibit – a depiction of a woman breastfeeding her elderly father-in-law, while her two young sons watch. There is no sign explaining this one, so I don’t know what Chinese story this originates from or if this is supposed to be a virtuous deed or a sin. Either way, I want no part of it.

All in all, I think this was one of the most interesting sights I’ve been to in Singapore. Erez, given his Black Ops 2 involvement, was not at all impressed by the blood and gore at Har Paw Villa. But it did seem to have some impression on him as he was much more willing to be cooperative by posing for photos with me and Lea, not wanting to cause any sibling or filial discord, I guess. On this basis alone, I would put Haw Par Villa on my top ten list of things to do in Singapore.

Erez and Lea trying to smile despite the baking sun and intense humidity

One of the friendlier looking exhibits

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