Done wrong, a party outdoors can be a comedy of errors. Done right? An absolute delight.
NATURE can be a fickle friend, and as part of a recent quartet orchestrating a surprise birthday party, this city dweller experienced just how true that could be.
We wanted an outdoor location to frolic in, for the custom cake featured a T-Rex with a jaunty party hat, and party decorations included large styrofoam standees based on characters from Maurice Sendak’s seminal Where The Wild Things Are.
“Let the wild rumpus begin!” we thought.
In our efforts to identify a suitable site, we recce-ed two parks. The first, which came recommended, was a classic case of indah khabar dari rupa (not as great as expected).
It was unbearably mosquito-ridden, and great big holes in the pavement were covered with what seemed like flimsy rattan. Anything heavier than a cat would probably fall right into the drainage below.
It boasted a view of a toxic-looking two-tone lake with green-fringed waters, and the mini bridge had a broken support base.
In short, it was a location that seemed determined to end your life, rather than celebrate it.
Fortunately, the second location was a happy accident of the non-fatal sort.
In a fit of despair, a fellow planner Googled up a nearby park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail for our consideration. Upon arrival, we knew it was The One.
Sure, a suspended bridge had a ‘Do Not Cross’ sign on only one side - were hikers approaching from the other end not worth warning? - but it was perfect otherwise.
There were almost no blood-suckers to speak of, and a much cleaner lake coursed through the park. Bonus: it was only a single shade of brown!
Another larger brown presence were the many monkeys. Positively packs of them running about, scampering up the trees, and lolling on the stairs.
“They don’t seem like the Batu Caves sort, right?” said a colleague.
With that, calls were made to the National Landscape Department for clearance.
As we found out, no permission is necessary for simple picnic-parties. Among other things, only photography sessions and erections of tents require an official okay.
Pleased with the progress made, we fell to other preparations.
But on the day itself, sudden and surprise construction work at the park cordoned off the very gazebo that we wanted to use, and left a heap of debris in its wake.
And the monkeys? They must be friends with those in Batu Caves.
Leave bags or food unattended at your own risk, and our furry friends seem to have it hardwired in their DNA (a 99% match with our own) to make a dash for it.
With cloudy skies looming overhead, one guest also asked: “Did you guys do anything so it doesn’t rain?”
Naturally, there was some joking about with reverse rain dances for a while before conversation turned to local measures taken against the party poopers.
One said placing chili and salt at the four corners of the party grounds would have kept the day raindrop-free, but these home remedies are no match for local experts on the matter.
“It’s a 50% payment upfront if you want to hire a bomoh hujan (rain doctor). If it doesn’t rain, they get the full fee. If it does, they still keep the money!” said another.
In Malaysia, it is said that any good event organiser has an excellent bomoh on speed dial to ensure the sun keeps shining during their do.
Apparently, different bomoh have different methods: one way is to not answer nature’s call until the event is over. No word if allowance is made for guests to get home before the post-event downpour worsens traffic, though!
Friends overseas often praise our eternal summer, and many wonder why we don’t spend more time in our beautiful parks.
Simply said, most of us like our comfort.
It’s all fun and games until you have to battle dehydration and perspiration from the heat, stare down a monkey invasion, fight off big red kerengga (weaver ants), and constantly watch the skies for signs of an imminent washout!
Happily, only a slight drizzle occurred towards the end of the event, just one hour before the park closed at 8pm.
Like many other park-goers, who were content to rollerblade, cycle, and play the afternoon away, we left a happy bunch.
The whole experience was a reminder of the picturesque parks we have here, and how much we can and should do with them.
Done wrong, a party outdoors can be a comedy of errors. But when done right? An absolute delight.
The writer would heartily recommend Taman Lembah Kiara, TTDI for rumpuses and recreation. What is your favourite location for an outdoor event, and the best local superstition to prevent rainfall?
>The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.