Published on Saturday, 29 April 2017 10:03
Instead of voyages to faraway lands and fighting monsters, we journey to Kranji to feed the monsters… who are riding in our Honda Odyssey
SINGAPORE - Remember the school holidays? Those were fun times… as a child. Free from the shackles of homework, chalk-flicking teachers and the indignity of being alienated by cooler kids, holidays offered kids a respite from the educational penitentiary. As a parent, school breaks are as disruptive as live coverage of F1 and the World Cup final telecast simultaneously. During this period, it’s goodbye to kopi-breaks with the kakis and hello to a daily barrage of, “where are we going today?”
As if sensing my fear of the impending September hols, the Ed asks if I’d like to take home a ‘recently-launched limousine for a couple of days’, just to take my mind off things. How sweet, I thought. So, with notions of being swathed in a luxurious German/British flagship, I agreed.
The catch: I’m to ferry three kids to explore the wilds of Lim Chu Kang in the quest for kid-friendly places – after all, we grew up playing in the great outdoors, so this trip would be a good way to tear kids away from their handheld devices during the school holidays.
The limo in question? Honda’s new Odyssey...
As any parent with two arms and multiple kids will appreciate, survival, rather than fun, is always the order of the day. I load the Odyssey’s cubby-holes up with enough sugary treats and toys to cajole and bribe my way through the day and go about securing the child seats, which proves surprisingly easy in the commodious MPV.
Our test 7-seater EXV-S does away with the middle-row bench that you get in the 8-seater: instead there are two ottoman chairs and an aisle that spans last row to centre console. Cue excited kids running up and down the car’s length when we had to wait-out a rain-shower. It also meant gaining access to the third-row was easy, since the middle-row can be pushed together for a cosier experience, or pulled apart to form a thoroughfare.After a 45 minute drive from our starting point (and just about the ‘999th bottle of beer on the wall’), I’m faced with a ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment when concrete and civilisation are replaced by verdant greenery and a lingering smell of animal farms. Just as I’m about the kids are about to reach tipping point, we arrive at our first stop.
Jurong Frog Farm (51, Lim Chu Kang Lane 6 Singapore 718864) helps the princess-wannabe find her Prince Charming and lets everybody else get acquainted with Kermit and gang. You can see, smell, touch and even feed them…right before they go into your belly. Yup, rearing frogs for meat is, unfortunately, more lucrative than a petting zoo.
Of course, the kids are spared this harsh reality as they gamely stroke and attempt to hold two juicy, sorry, I mean, cuddly specimens with their little hands. They name them Jeremy and Jeremiah. If only they knew...
It’s about tea-time and we decide to hold our very own picnic in the Odyssey’s boot. The sugary onslaught continues with Yakult and more gummies, but this time, the kids are happy to explore the sudden vastness of the flat-floor rear as we pack the third-row seats away. With this new Odyssey, Honda has defiantly embraced its family-friendly persona, especially with the dual sliding doors that make their debut with this generation. When it comes to people-moving, it’s always the inside that counts and any ‘box’ that’s big enough to play ‘ring around the rosie’ in is fine by me and the kids.
We pack up and head to the area’s most picturesque location: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves (301 Neo Tiew Crescent Singapore 718925). The lesser known of the two nature reserves (the other is Bt. Timah), it’s the eye of the storm to Singapore’s mad rat-race with its diverse flora and fauna, which are enclosed in a vivid mangrove setting. But alas, we don’t stay long as we are led by the kids’ hunger pangs to our lunch stop.The short drives between stops provide a welcome breather from the little monsters little dears, and let me appreciate how much the Odyssey has ‘grown’. It’s quieter, more refined and the revised 2.4-litre is smooth and torquey, making chugging-along effortless. Driving solo, the ride can be a little firm, but with a photographer, three kids and all their barang-barang in tow, the car is as cushy as a beer belly.
Spread over a sprawling 10 lush acres of land, the farm is the result of a couple’s vision of a back-to-basics retirement home and healthy, sustainable farm living. With wide open spaces littered between rows of different plant and fruit species, the kids don’t need a second invitation to explore, enquire and even harass a few stray millipedes and crossing ants.
The best thing is they sell the food they grow. Besides chemical-free and organic fresh produce, the bistro boasts specials like their signature Bolly Banana Curry and Jack Fruit Lemak. As far as the kids are concerned, lunch is but a brief intermission before embarking on their quest to run amok on the grounds. After chowing down the perennial favourite, fish and chips, they do just that
Our last photo shoot of the day beckons. And with the kids getting increasingly spent from their excursion, getting them to cooperate is becoming quite the challenge. It doesn’t help that we’ve picked a spot with feet-eating ants (at least that’s what it feels like) and one of the kids inevitably succumbs and starts crying.
There’s only so much Tic-Tacs can do and even that perennial favourite fails to cheer her up. I want to tear up too; the day is almost over and my sanity is due to return. And I’m pretty sure an alcoholic beverage is more far more effective than Tic-Tacs...
Exhausted as they are, they spring to life again when I open the sun-roof for our final shot. It’s almost as though the Odyssey is rationing its child-friendly features to last the day – you couldn’t ask for a better ally. I ask the kids if they had fun and would like to do this again: the resounding ‘YES!’ is all you need to appreciate how much this ‘ulu’ part of Singapore has to offer for families this coming holiday. Just remember to bring enough gummies.
Or if you prefer something a little more delectable, the Odyssey will do nicely too.
Engine 2356cc, inline4
Transmission 7spd CVT
Top Speed 195km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.9l/100km
Availability Kah Motor
This feature first appeared in Top Gear Singapore #30 (September 2014)