East Coast Park misadventures

The attempt for the family to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise makes me think I should go back to hanging out in malls

One weekend, we find ourselves with no plans.

"What do you want to do?" I ask my husband.

"I don't know. What do you want to do?"

We did not ask our seven-year-old son, who would undoubtedly suggest a trip to the toy megastore.

Then my husband suggests: "Shall we go to VivoCity?"

The mall is our favourite haunt. We love it for the sheer number of shops and eateries and the ample parking space. And it has air-conditioning. (Don't judge me. I like staying cool.)

The quad bike is incredibly heavy and hard to set in motion and nothing at all like the ease of riding a bicycle... It feels like I've done more pedalling than I would have if I had taken part in the cycling leg of a triathlon.

But I am in an adventurous mood and feel we should try something new as a family. After all, life should not be all about the one- dimensionality of retail therapy.

Then I have a brainwave. "Let's go to East Coast Park."

We can rejuvenate mind, spirit and body by communing with The Great Outdoors. And as responsible parents, we can widen our son's horizons by exposing him to different experiences.

I get that, to many people, a visit to East Coast Park is not a novelty. But did I mention we like hanging out in places with air-conditioning?

And then, I have an even greater brainwave.

"We can also rent one of those cycle thingamajigs and get some exercise too."

Those thingamajigs, we find out later, are called quad bikes - pedal-powered contraptions that carry four or six people.

Only, we discover later that it has pedals for only two people - which, in this case, means my husband and me - leaving us to power the whole thing. Anyway, more on this later.

So we drive to East Coast Park and find 6,428 cars trying to get into the carpark, evidently a popular spot on account of its proximity to the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. We do find a space eventually, but I think I was in labour with my son for a shorter period than that.

We rent a quad bike and then pose for a wefie destined for Facebook as (largely fake) evidence of a happy family outing.

I see a sign at the bike rental kiosk stating that you can get to Gardens by the Bay in 20 minutes, which I am keen to pedal to.

So we try to move. The quad bike doesn't budge. It turns out that the contraption is incredibly heavy and hard to set in motion and nothing at all like the ease of riding a bicycle.

But no giving up. We exert more effort. We pedal and we pedal and we pedal. We look up. We've moved about 35cm.

"How can we get to the Gardens at this rate?" I ask my husband.

"You're crazy. You won't even make it to Bedok Jetty in 20 minutes."

Abandon Plan A: Gardens by the Bay. Activate Plan B: Go only as far as our legs will take us.

The boy cheers us on by saying things such as "Whee. Faster, faster." This does not work.

He is perched on the front seat, enjoying the breeze and front row-view, and squeals: "This is my best day ever."

If I had back-seat serfs to transport me while I sat up front, legs cocked, that would be my best day ever too.

We do reach Bedok Jetty, where we catch our breath and watch people fish, and then it's time to turn back.

More huffing and puffing. Finally, we pull back in at the rental shop. It feels like I've done more pedalling than I would have if I had taken part in the cycling leg of a triathlon.

But wait, every cloud has a silver lining. We are only steps away from the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Hooray. Every good workout deserves a good meal.

So we limp there, only to find that the people from the 6,428 cars who were fighting with us for a parking space earlier are also there.

We walk one, two, three rounds around the food centre. Every table is occupied or has someone staking it out.

So we stake out someone's table too. Only that person happens to be eating crab which, on hindsight, may not have been a great decision. (Note to self: Next time, stalk someone eating oyster omelette.)

Finally, we get a seat. I am so hungry by this point, I want to gnaw at the table. I'm not sure my son didn't actually try that. We order satay and crab beehoon.

Forty minutes later, there is no food on our table and already there are people staking out my table, making me feel stressed out.

I chase the makcik at the satay stall, who informs me: "You have to wait, okay? Popular food, you must wait."

The crab beehoon auntie also says something to the same effect.

Okay, fair enough, except my stomach is impervious to logic and is throwing a tantrum, contracting, pulsing, heaving and stamping its metaphorical feet.

When the food finally comes, we inhale it. We are full. But we are also hot, sweaty, sticky, smelly and oily from being bathed in cooking fumes wafting around the food centre. And did I mention the humidity embracing us like warm hugs? And the lack of air-conditioning?

I turn to my husband. "So, VivoCity next weekend?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'East Coast Park misadventures'. Print Edition | Subscribe