Wednesday 19 June 2001 – Har Paw Villa, Singapore
In the interest of doing the Lonely Planet guide to Singapore from cover to cover, I visited Har Paw Villa (aka Tigerbalm Gardens). The gardens are a gaudy sculpture park in cement and peeling paint depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, religion as well as ‘cautionary tales’ of more contemporary style.
It was not the most riveting attraction in the world, a fact apparently understood by the management who had recently removed the $5.00 admission fee. You get what you pay for and when you pay nothing, I suppose you can’t expect much.
Met up with Jenny Ting for dinner. She’d also arranged for Hau Pang from the SSO office to come, and he brought a friend, Englishman Tim Auger, to come as well. Tim works in Singapore publishing, to use his description ‘the sort of books that are available at Changi Airport (Singapore from the Air, Asian Landscapes)’. We caught the MRT to Kallang and walked a couple of blocks to what they said was a café famous for its Beef Hor Fun (a noodle dish).
We sat and Jenny & Hau Pang ordered in Chinese (Mandarin), as little or no English was spoken. Food and drinks arrived, and indeed it was good. I particularly enjoyed a pepper chicken dish and the sauce that accompanied a generous plate of mussels. After dinner and a good discussion of food in general (Singaporeans take their food very seriously) we moved – literally – next door to another café that specialised in dessert. More Mandarin orders and more food appeared. Long deep fried sticks of pastry, a bowl of warm soy-milk custard and glasses of cold sweet soy milk. I confess that dessert was less to my liking than the main courses, but it was an experience nevertheless.