Phuket Day 2: Mandatory Minigolf

This is part of a series of posts on our holiday to Phuket. You might like to read the others too!

Back from our sweaty day in Phuket Town we changed clothes and recharged a bit in our hotel before heading out for dinner. Kata and Karon dining options seemed much of a muchness, but since we hadn’t been to Karon yet we walked in that direction. The bars lining the road were totally dead on a Saturday night – each had one or two guests at most, and some only had a group of bored girls lounging around. We wondered if it was because it was still early, about 7.30 pm, and if things would liven up for them later.

We’d had a late lunch, so we still weren’t very hungry by the time we’d arrived in Karon. Most adults would have had a drink in any of the struggling bars, but in our case we had already spotted the Dino Park minigolf. As regular readers may know, our penchant for minigolf coincides with our penchant for surreal kitschness and bitter, unsporting competition, so this was impossible to resist.

When I was in primary school a dinosaur exhibition featuring animatronic dinosaurs came to the Singapore Science Centre, and bearing in mind that this was several years before the release of Jurassic Park, it was the most amazing thing to hit my young brain until I watched Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and discovered Kevin Costner and hormones. Phuket’s Dino Park is kind of like being with those old-school dinosaurs again, except in a dramatically landscaped setting complete with rivers, high waterfalls, appropriate ambient sounds and a huge, spectacularly erupting volcano.

Erupting minigolf volcano 

The dinosaurs are life-sized, or at least close to it. I’m not enough of a long-neck connoisseur to be sure if their long-necks are Littlefoots specifically, but they definitely have a Cera, Petrie and Spike. (Youtube diversion: It’s crazy how familiar I am with every clip on Youtube from the first movie, it feels like as if I only watched it yesterday.) If you have a kid, I cannot imagine how they will not love this, but it would probably be less fun during the day due to the heat. By night though, it’s pretty amazing.

Life-size minigolf dinosaurs! 

We were so enthralled with the place that I even stopped caring who was winning or losing. Though to be honest, complexity of minigolf hole design is not one of this place’s strengths. For example, here are the obstacles you’ll encounter at the first hole.

Minigolf dino turd obstacles

Still, for all the reasons I mentioned above, I loved it and would highly recommend it, unless you are too cool for minigolf, in which case I would wonder why you even read this decidedly uncool blog to begin with. And for 240 baht each, it was cheaper than our neighbourhood minigolf in Singapore, which has NO DINOSAURS, NO VOLCANO, NO DINO POO OBSTACLES. (Vitalic diversion: No guitars, no drugs, no leather either.)

Salton Sea, Someday

Via Metafilter, this fascinating Flickr set of a road trip to Salton Sea, a 60s resort destination in Southern California where holiday and watersports facilities developed around a giant salt lake but fell into abandonment and disrepair as salinity and toxicity in the lake increased. It’s got derelict buildings, cannibalistic wild dogs, a phantasmagoric man-made edifice called Salvation Mountain built by one guy in the desert with no electricity and no running water, and dinosaurs which are apparently part of some bizarre creationist fantasy agenda that dinosaurs roamed the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

Apart from promising me weirdness and kitsch on a level surpassing even Haw Par Villa, it’s also a fairly short drive from where the Coachella music festival goes on. I MUST GO.


We found this a couple of weeks ago on our second visit to the Bukit Timah Salvation Army store and just couldn’t leave without it. I believe in home decor speak he could be described as a conversation piece, you know, like a Philippe Starck product or an ornate family heirloom.

2006 Just Started And We’re Already Below Par

Some people begin a new year by making resolutions, beginning diets, planning exercise regimes, or at the very least directing their energies to something vaguely useful.

We played minigolf.

Those of you familiar with my penchant for dumb kitsch will have no difficulties understanding why LilliPutt – “Funtastic Singapore in 18 Holes” held so much joyful potential for me.

Indeed, one need not even extend one’s imagination far beyond this blog’s last kitschfest to see why. My friends, I present to you: “uniquely Singapore” minigolf!

Shifu is watching…

Alec’s golf pro is a pretty intense guy, but he’s really devoted to coaching from the ground up.


Fore2 jiao4

My coach was nice and chilled though. Very Zen. I realize I’m breaking 2 terrible taboos here, standing with my head higher than the Buddha and my feet pointing towards him, but I couldn’t make the shot any other way! (Note to non-Mandarin speakers: the caption to the photo contains a pun so ghastly you’ll be glad you don’t get it.)


Fear my pink dimpled wrath!

This poor demon got a little short-changed when fearsome demonic powers were being handed out.


Fear my fucking flat-cap!

This guy has a bit of a demented Marcel Marceau vibe going on, and is final conclusive proof that flat-caps are pure evil in origin.


The other 17 holes featured an endearing mishmash of Singaporeana. Tiny mechanized trishaws, MRT trains and cable cars transporting your golf ball between the stages of a hole. Miniature versions of the Esplanade, Merlion, Suntec fountain, Boat Quay, Botanic Gardens gazebo, and in a slightly obvious attempt at self-glorification, the Big Splash building which houses Lilliputt.

But not everything was devoted to tourist attractions of Singapore! Some holes were devoted to venues which cater to ordinary Singaporeans and common pastimes.

Here oso got Crazy Horse¹leh.

For example, the Turf Club.


Some day we’ll win a SEA games medal…

And, uh, the ski resort. Hmmm.


Oh, I nearly forgot. There was, of course, some competitive element in this whole exercise, as our blissful relationship of mutual respect and passionate devotion is not entirely devoid of bitter rivalry and petulant oneupmanship. If I were to say it didn’t matter at all to me who won or lost, as long as we had fun, I’d be lying.

Na beh.²

Haw Par Villa: Hallucinations, Hell And The Hokey Pokey

Spread the word – Haw Par Villa is the best trip you can have in Singapore without risking a criminal record.

[For non-Singaporean readers: Haw Par Villa is a statue park in the west of Singapore, built in the 1930s by two tycoon brothers who made their fortunes in Chinese medicinal ointment, and it’s full of garish life-size statues commissioned by the brothers to portray stories from Chinese mythology and traditional Chinese values.]

Haw Par Villa’s been terminally uncool ever since that spectacularly failed themeparkesque revamp in the late 80s, but no one seems to have noticed that they’ve since reversed many of the ill-advised changes that led to its downfall. It’s free to get in again these days (apart from the $5 parking charge and the $1 entry fee to Hell), and they’ve removed all those ridiculously kitsch additions like the rides and shows. So now, just the ridiculously kitsch original statues are left.

I took first Alec and recently Russ to it, and I think I wouldn’t be overstating things to say they both left a little changed by the experience. I don’t usually like to post too many photos in an entry, but my words really can’t do justice to the lurid reality of Haw Par Villa on their own, so forgive me if you’re on a slow connection and this entry takes a while to load. As usual, click on the photos for larger versions, and oh, be warned: CONTAINS WEIRD STATUE NUDITY.
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