Hugh Paxton’s Blog like every proud Dad doesn’t want to go anywhere near a children’s birthday party. They’re awful. The children don’t want parents screwing things up. The parents who want to join in (there are always a few) try to join in and screw things up. The wise flee.
These are the really cunning parents, wounded, mauled by bitter experience. They decide to buy loads of sweets and crisps for party bags, commission a real cake from a neighbor who can bake, and let other people do everything else. It really is the best way. Unless the children are too young to know they are actually having the time of their lives. Then parents you are stuck with the event full time.
If you are stuck for ideas for the almost-teenage mob or your office co-workers try Splashdown in Pattaya, yes THAT Pattaya, in Thailand. From Bangkok it’s a two hour drive if the traffic’s being normal, less if you get your timing right, a lot longer if you cock things up.
When you get there the guests are confronted with a hideously daunting but enticing series of obstacles that end up with them flying 10 meters or more skywards, plunging down slides that would make a penguin faint, big uncooperative plastic balls or blocks that hate stability, and everybody gets wet, bruised, triumphant, scared, and only the stupidest have-a-go parent would dream of participating.
The nice thing about it is that nobody else seems to go to Splashdown so it’s pretty much your own.
No queues. And it’s the sort of place where you can clear off and wander about unnoticed watching storks and ibis wheeling overhead if you don’t want to climb a cliff and run off a waterfall.
Twenty or so discrete Thais were keeping an eye on the participants or dozing by neglected rides or cooking chicken and mixing smoothies or cocktails at the bar. The ice creams are Thai fruit. Only a father graduating from eight Margaritas under the thatch roof of the bar would be wild enough to order the durian edition.
The southern fried chicken’s actually very good! Go for wings.
What I liked about this party was the way it remained interesting. The Blob (Lob?) involved my daughter scrambling along a blow up thing made of bullet proof rubber then lying supine, arms folded at the far end. A Thai guy swarmed up a rubber ladder reached the top of a ridiculously tall tower, checked to see that my daughter wasn’t in the wrong place and then gave her a one, two, three, and jumped. If you’ve seen The Beach it’s a bit like that scene. The jumping scene. Only this one doesn’t have a stuntman. The Thai timed it and positioned it perfectly. Landing. Take off! Blimey! Annabel shot off up and away and for a moment hung suspended by nothing at all, higher than the palm trees, then fell slowly, then faster, then whacked into the water. If there’d been someone else at my elbow I would have said something funny like “Ow f***uck! That must have hurt like a f******ng b******d on big w*****ing wheels!”
But there wasn’t anybody there so Oscar Wilde still gets all the credit for the wittiest one or two liners and I shall remain an obscure Hugh Paxton.
The next girl got a bit dreamy at the height of flight – she looked like a Swan Lake ballerina, pure magic, and then crumpled plummeted and hit water with a belly flop. I thought, “Ah! Oh! Umm. Ah, Crikey…medic! Medic! ”
No-one there again. But the Thais took her off and once rescued and out of the sun her inner thigh bruising was amazing! How do you manage to completely marble one inner thigh while leaving the rest of the body unblemished? Including the other inner thigh? What weird angle of impact? I was intrigued but at the same time terrified. If Anne Sophie needed an ambulance it was going to screw everything up! I marched off in search of a Panadol. Works for headaches. Bruises? Why not?
She recovered quickly and I was glad to see that. No Dutch mother to explain things to. My wife banned everybody from jumping off the blob (lob) because they weren’t our children. My daughter Annabel was suddenly my responsibility and I thought what the hell? She and a few other law-breakers risked life, limb and inner thighs and that wasn’t a problem. I think only my daughter really enjoyed it. Myself? I don’t think I’d try it. But Splashdown isn’t just about coming back with sunburn and sprains and goofy “I did it!” grins. I thought it brought out the best in all the party-goers. They each had a ride they liked or could control and all (with the exception of my daughter who has a reckless/calculating streak that I evaluate as formidable) had a ride that visibly scared them. They all helped each other. A success was all of theirs, a flop was shared. No crowing or mean spirits
It was a cracking way to spend a day and I barely noticed that it was a party!
Logistics: Entry fees are 600 baht if you are a Thai, a foreign resident with a visa, Thai driving license. If you are a tourist it will be a bit more. But prices seem to be going down. I hope the place doesn’t go bankrupt but at the same time I hope everybody doesn’t discover Splashdown at the same time.