Paradise Inside an Airport
Our first guest post from our good friend, Jimmy. Read on, folks!
Any traveller with enough flights under their belt has experienced the dreaded layover, or the wait for a connecting flight. No one likes to be at an airport longer than they need to be. It’s changed the way we pack and go through our travel check-list. Luggage: check. Passport: check. Tickets: check. Something do read/do in the airport: …check?
If you’re lucky, the wait will only be 2 hours long. Just enough time to navigate through the maze of the airport (all airports are designed as a maze), clear security and check-in at the new gate. Side note, if you’re flying through the States you’ll want at least 4 hours to snake your way through the line for customs (why one needs to go through customs for a stop-over will just be one of those unsolved mysteries).
If you’re unlucky and have to wait over 6 hours for your connecting flight then there’s very little option but to find a comfortable seat and wait it out. It’s not long enough to get accommodations and be comfortable, or to go out of the airport and explore the city (you can’t even claim it as a visited city). You’re just stuck there. At the airport. Six hours at the airport is like no other experience you’ll ever face, and I would only wish it upon people I truly despise. I make it a general rule to take direct flights. I’d rather suffer a long plane ride and be moving than suffer a long wait and be going nowhere. At the very least I set up my own layovers so I can minimize how long I stay stranded at any given airport; unless that airport is Changi airport.
Even to say that you’re on a layover in Changi airport is a misnomer. The airport is 30 min away by train to the centre of the city which opens up a variety of food options and activities all within subway station access. Even the process of going through customs and security checks is so smooth and quick that it almost begs you to go out. A layover at Changi airport is basically a free city visit. Exploring Singapore is a topic that deserves it’s own section though. Let’s get into what makes Changi airport worth mentioning about, and you definitely won’t regret it if you decide to stay inside.
What sets apart Changi from most airports isn’t their layout or efficiency. It’s the plethora of things available for you as you wait for your flight. The number of activities available is so numerous that they made a booklet called, “Airport Guide: A quick guide for Departing, Arriving and Transit passengers”. That’s right, you need a booklet to sort though all the options during your “dreaded” wait in the airport. I strongly recommend picking one up the moment you get inside the airport by heading to any info kiosk.
How often have you done a stop over and wondered what the city looks like beyond the confines of the airport? If this is your first time landing in Singapore, and you have 5 hours to spare until your next flight, the airport offers a free shuttle bus tour that will take you around Singapore. It gives you a street level glimpse of your stop over city rather than just seeing it from the window of your plane.
If you’ve been to Singapore already and just want to sit back and wait for your flight in comfort head over to the theatre and catch a movie; for free. It really doesn’t matter what their playing, it’s dark and quiet (of people chatter), and a great way to pass the time until you’re air bound again. Or make your way to the public lounge (possible entrance fee) where showers, nap-rooms, and complimentary snacks and drinks are available.
Perhaps you had a tiring flight and the child in the seat behind you decided to give you an impromptu massage by kicking the back of your seat (how their short legs reach all the way to the back of a seat is yet another frequent flyer mystery that will go unsolved). You can make your way over to the spa and get yourself a proper massage, melting away all the tension and aches and getting you right for your next flight. How about getting your feet exfoliated by tiny fishes eating away at your dead feet skin? I’ve never tried but I hear it’s nice (ticklish people be warned; it does tickle). There is a fee for these services but there are worse ways to part with your money.
It’s hard to decide which amenity to go with, and for the first time you’ll find yourself wishing you had more time at the airport. Perhaps a serene walk through a garden is more your preference. You’re in luck as Changi airport has 5 options to choose from. That’s not including their Koi Pond and Butterfly Garden. That’s right. It’s not a typo. A butterfly garden inside an airport.
For me the decision was as made the moment I heard about Changi airport from Anthony Bourdain. This takes some foresight planning but it’s well worth the preparation. Pack your swimsuit and sandals in your carry-on, make your way to terminal 1 (if you’re not there already), and navigate yourself all the way to section D. It’s a trek depending where you’re starting from but trust me, the end results will justify the means of getting there.
Once there you’ll find the escalator going up to roof top pool provided by the airport hotel. You don’t have to be a patron of the hotel to have access the pool. It’s available to all wandering the halls of the airport. There’s a small fee and that gets you a towel and a locker key. Get changed into your swimsuit, grab a beer at the bar, and soak in the water and sun. They also have a jacuzzi to help you really soak in. Patio lounge chairs are also available if you want to work on that last minute tan. Personally, I had no hesitations to order a beer at 11am and neither should you. It’s the middle of the afternoon somewhere and when you’re at the airport you’re that much closer to being there.
I have to admit, I wasn’t at the airport as a layover flyer or waiting for a connecting flight. I was there as a departing flyer and I went to the airport early just to go to the pool. No one in their right mind would ever want to go to the airport early just so they can spend more time in it. When you have all the things that Changi airport offers, you’ll find yourself making the time to be there longer.
Luggage: check. Passport: check. Tickets: check. Swimsuit in the carry-on: check!