Photo of the Day: Singapore’s unusual theme park

This fellow is from one of Singapore‘s more unusual attractions – the Haw Par Villa theme park, also called Tiger Balm Gardens. Originally built in the 1930s by the creators of Tiger Balm to showcase Chinese folklore and mythology, the park is known for its bizarre and gruesome Ten Courts of Hell with such creepy statues and dioramas as a human-faced crab and bloody dismembered torsos (apparently it all makes sense if you know your Chinese mythology). It’s been relatively deserted in recent years, making it all the more bizarre. You can see more photos of the park in Flickr user SingaPaulie‘s photostream. The MRT metro line was extended this fall and you can now ride the Circle Line train to the park.

Capture any odd attractions on your travels? Add your shots to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

10 passengers we love to hate: Day 9 — passengers who try to convert you

Here we are on the ninth day of the “passengers we love to hate” series. Today’s pick is the enthusiastic proselytizer who desperately wants to convert you to his or her religion. Far more than merely wasting the flight attendant’s time or hogging the baggage claim area, this brand of annoying passenger will question your morality, insist you are going to Hell (pictured here) and proudly proclaim they have all the answers.

Now let me just say that I feel everyone is entitled to their beliefs. Freedom of religion is a basic foundation of any decent society, but that also includes freedom from religion. You don’t know me, you don’t know what I believe, and you don’t have the right to harass me for an entire flight trying to convince me to change to your way of thinking.

I seemed plagued by this sort of passenger. At least once a year I’m stuck next to one of them, usually on a long international flight. Once I had an entire high school group of evangelicals who tag team preached to me all the way from the U.S. to Bulgaria.

My religious friends joke that maybe God is trying to tell me something. The problem with that theory is that these annoying fellow passengers come from all different religions. Maybe God is trying to tell me not to listen to people who claim to know what He wants.

Plus I think God would send some better emissaries. Every member of the Mile High Preaching Club I’ve had to deal with has been astonishingly ignorant about different faiths, and sometimes pretty shaky about their own. One of those high school evangelicals insisted the Bible was literally true and the only foundation for a proper life, then admitted he hadn’t read it all. Please do your homework, and if I want to talk to you about your religion, I’ll ask. If I don’t ask, read the inflight magazine and show me some respect.

Is that so hard? I have friends whose beliefs range from Orthodox Judaism to hardcore atheism, and not a single one of them tries to convert me, not even when we debate religion. They can disagree with me without calling me evil or ignorant or wrong. I don’t take kindly to that sort of treatment, especially when I have jet lag.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. (Matthew 7:1)

Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”

We’ve previously reported here at Gadling on the intriguing, surreal and downright bizarre tourist attractions of the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan. Now today comes further “fuel” for the country’s already odd reputation. Website English Russia is reporting on what local residents have dubbed the “Door to Hell” – a cavernous, flaming pit outside the small town of Darvaza which has been continuously burning for more than 35 years.

While Biblical alarmists might point to the “Door of Hell” as yet another sign of a coming apocalypse, the phenomenon apparently has a scientific explanation. According local residents, geologists were digging in the area for gas deposits and stumbled upon a huge underground cavern. The geologists apparently concluded the cavern was filled with poisonous gas, and decided (as any sane rational scientist might do) that they should light the cavern on fire to burn off the excess. The hole has been burning for more than 35 years since. Though there’s some debate on English Russia about whether this flaming pit is actually located in Uzbekistan, some further investigation confirms it is indeed in Turkmenistan.

Perhaps the “Door to Hell” won’t help put Turkmenistan back on your list of 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die, but if you’re a Satanist, energy company executive or just plain curious, maybe it’s worth the long trek out to Central Asia.

Hidden Gems: Hell

This week, humanity witnessed the (nearly) unprecedented: the dreaded 6/6/6 came and went fairly innocuously. Some people celebrated by desecrating churches. One woman celebrated by giving birth to a baby at 6 in the morning…that weighed 6.66 pounds. Some kids in Jersey celebrated by staying home from school.

I didn’t do any of that silly stuff. What did I do? My plan was devilishly simple: I went to Hell.

In case you had a Hell of a bad geography teacher, Hell is located at roughly 19.30 N, and 80.30 W — in the northwest corner of Grand Cayman. Seriously. If you look at a map of the island, you’ll see a place marked Hell. Considering its location, there’s very little chance that it’ll ever freeze over.








Although famous for its glisteningly-white Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman is not ringed entirely by soft, sandy, toe-loving beach. In fact, much of it is surrounded by ironshore, a rough, sharp, gray, limestone rock that would cut the toes of anyone who stepped on it.






Legend has it that in the 1930s, an Englishman visited the spot, shot at a bird, missed, and muttered, “Oh, Hell.” The name stuck. A wise, forward-thinking Cayman resident, Ivan Farrington, had an epiphany: Yes, he thought, I can’t do anything else with this useless Phytokarst formation — this place must be Hell. And like any good entrepreneur, he set forth to create his vision.

On the morning of 6/6/6, my father and I went to Hell. No, we didn’t go in a handbasket; we rented a car. After winding past massive hotels, and through a small neighborhood, I found an ominous-looking intersection. This must be the place.







I made a hard right, drove past Hell’s only gas station (an Esso), and pulled into the parking lot. However, I was careful not to park in the wrong spot.






What is this place, I thought? Could it really be Hell?







Or just a commercialized version of it?









First, I wandered out back, where the ironshore pokes up ominously, and I realized how inhospitable the terrain is. Only a devil could love it.









He loves it so much, in fact, that he guards it…

















Fearfully, I left the ironshore and made my way to the inner circle of Hell.







I took a  deep breath, and I made a pact with the devil: let me escape this place alive, and I promise to tell the world about you and your establishment.




After shaking hands with the devil himself, I entered the store. I was surrounded by t-shirts, fridge magnets, bumper stickers, and every imaginable kind of hellish gee-gaw, all hocking Hell:

  • “My mom went to Hell, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”
  • “If you can read this t-shirt, then she fell the Hell off the bike!”
  • “Get the Hell out of my way!”

For the literate, you could even purchase a postcard from Hell, affix a Hell postage stamp to it, and mail it from Hell’s own mailbox.






It turns out that although you can purchase cold drinks in Hell, there is no restaurant: no Hell’s Kitchen to serve up hot wings or fiery chili.

I chose a shotglass (“I made it to Hell and back”) and made my way to the front counter. Mr. Farrington was there, and he took my money. I asked if I could take his photo. He paused, looked at me, and asked, “Well…what the Hell are you waiting for?”









I thanked him and turned to leave. But before I did, I leveled my gaze at him and snarled, “You, go to Hell!”

I rushed from the store, jumped in my car, gunned the engine and got the Hell out of there. Fortunately, despite being there on 6/6/6, I did not spontaneously combust.

I know this is one Hell of a story, but it’s completely true. If you don’t believe me, why don’t YOU go to Hell!