BEING caught up in delays at the airport or enduring hellishly long stopovers is never fun. But there is one airport in the world that has been designed to take the pain out of travelling. Changi Airport, Singapore, has a list of offerings that puts Disneyland to shame.
It is actually so much, dare I say it, fun, here, that locals come just to hang out. That’s right, local Singaporeans love coming to Changi to shop, eat and sit in air conditioned comfort.
“There are people who come to the airport just to hang out with friends over a cup of coffee or spend some family time at the airport, with a wide variety of dining and shopping options to choose from in the public areas,” said Eugene Wong, corporate communications at Changi.
In fact, travellers love it so much that Singapore Airlines allows its passengers to check in up to 48 hours ahead of time just so they can spend time at the airport.
For most people, this may seem a little mind boggling. Isn’t the aim to spend as least time as possible in transit? Don’t we try and check-in late and find the quickest exit out of there on the way back?
But this is Changi, and it’s been voted the best airport in the world for 26 years running by UK Business Traveller magazine and five times by Skytrax. It’s made up of three terminals, with a fourth and fifth on the way and they are proud of being number one.
With more than 53 million passengers passing through the airport in Protected content more than 6,900 flights each week (that’s around one every 90 seconds), they have become the airport gurus.
So I wanted to know, could I spend 24 hours in this airport and actually enjoy it? Here goes …
OK, so I’m a bit of a foodie, and quite adventurous when it comes to trying new things and Singaporeans love their food. There is no shortage of places to eat but I’m here to try the breakfast Hugh Jackman swears by. If its good enough for the Wolverine, it’s definitely good enough for me.
Soft boiled eggs with Kaya toast — white bread spread with a mixture of eggs, sugar and coconut milk dipped into eggs. Remember when mum used to make you soldiers? Washed down with a deliciously naughty coffee — they roast their coffee beans in butter and sweeten it with condensed milk — I was ready to shake off my jet lag and start exploring.
11am fish spa
I have always wanted to try this and I’m pretty sure I won’t be allowed back after my high-pitched shrieks but this is pretty cool.
A popular foot treatment in Asia, you dip your feet into pools filled with hungry skin eating fish — that’s right, they suck onto you like leeches. Sounds gross, and it is but after a while your feet start to tingle and you begin to enjoy it and after a long flight my feet need some pampering.
I stop at one of the many free internet stations dotted around the terminal for a quick email check and then head to one of the transit hotels (I’ll get to this later) for a shower and change of clothes.
1pm beer garden
It’s 3pm in Sydney, definitely beer time. And the best bit, it’s outside. OK, so Singaporean humidity is a little intense and my camera lens fogged up the moment I stepped foot outside. But how good is to be able to get some fresh air?
Called the Cactus Garden, it feels like a Mexican resort. Take a perch at the bar, order a cold glass of the local tipple and let your mind take you to a tropical beach far away.
There is no shortage of places to eat at Changi with a mix of Western and Asian cuisine.
I love Japanese food. I think I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so when I heard Terminal Three had a seriously good Japanese restaurant, I jumped on the Skytrain (the monorail that links all three terminals), beelined it through duty free and joined the lunch line.
Do I see abalone guts on the menu? I’ll stick to my salmon and avocado roll thanks, but yes it is good and fresh and everyone else seems to think so too, it’s packed.
2pm snooze lounge and foot massage
All that eating has made me a little sluggish, it could be time for a little kip. There are dedicated snooze lounges throughout the airport with chairs shaped like ergonomic beds. They’re popular too and I find it hard to snag my own.
Feeling refreshed I track down the free massage chairs. It’s your choice of a foot massage or full body massage chair and they’re oh so good. Although I wonder how many other people have put their feet in these too (note to self, take socks).
3pm butterfly garden
Terminal three has an awesome butterfly garden. The outdoor enclosure is home to thousands of beautiful butterflies where the aim is to get one to land on your hand (I did it!).
There’s a pool! Just when you may have drifted back into “I’m in an airport” land, I head upstairs in terminal one to the outdoor pool and jacuzzi. Themed like a Bali villa, it costs $13 Singaporean dollars and comes with a pool bar and deck chairs.
4pm giant slide
There is a giant slide and it’s really fun. It even records your time. I think lunch weighed me down, that must be it.
4.30pm social tree
While I’m still acting like a kid, I visit the Social Tree — a giant, glowing Avatar-like tree that takes your photo and stores it for one hundred years.
Strike a pose, edit it with your choice of backgrounds and colours and it’s saved in the trees memory bank for you to revisit on your next Changi stopover.
5pm spa visit
This is what holidays are all about. Pampering and relaxation. So I visit the Wellness Spa in terminal two.
I start with a foot massage — I’ve never actually had one before (apart from the mechanical one a few hours earlier) and in between yelps of pain and assurances that I will still be able to walk for the next couple of days, there’s something painfully therapeutic about the whole experience.
Should I be worried about my upcoming back massage?
I said I was adventurous with food, but this may be a little too game. I head to a Singaporean restaurant that serves local food and ask for a selection of the most popular dishes (mistake number one).
A dish arrives that looks like a tuna steak, but with a grey colour and covered in a chilli. I take a few eye watering bites and gingerly ask what it is. ‘Sting ray’ they tell me. Gulp. ‘Everyone eats it’, they say. I’m not convinced.
A quick stop at the Hard Rock Café with unique Changi airport T-shirts and I pick up a few items duty free. Duck into Uniqlo — I love this Japanese chain store, pick up some TWG tea for mum and restrain myself from Victoria’s Secret and the high end strip (of which there are many).
There’s even a supermarket and I’m told locals come here to shop. I’m still getting my head around this whole ‘people come to the airport to hang out’ idea.
The transit hotels at the airport are so popular that travellers have to book a room at least three weeks in advance. But it’s worth it. Lights out for me.
That’s it, I’ve made it. 24 hours in an airport. 24 HOURS. And I’m still sane, feeling fresh and almost needing some more time (there was a really cute top in Prada and that handbag in Miu Miu), but it’s time for me to go.
This article is from Protected content by Rowena Ryan Travel Reporter