It happens. For some reason, your flight gets delayed, and now you’ve got about an hour (or hours) to kill before you can get on that plane that will take you to your destination. Many people dread waiting at airports, and really, who can blame them? Airports can be crowded, noisy, and boring, as sometimes, there’s nothing to do but watch a TV show that nobody really likes, or have a smoke in the smoking lounge, or munch endlessly on the meager and overpriced offerings that taste like cardboard, or read a magazine or newspaper really slowly to make it last until the plane arrives…I can go on and on, as I have done my fair share of waiting in really grim airports. But that was until I discovered Changi Airport.
Enthusiastic travelers will often exclaim that this is the “best airport ever!” while beaming with glee. This amused me for some time, because how often does one get to say that spending time at an airport is fun? But once I heard that some of the locals of Singapore go to the airport just to hang out and have a great time, I decided to check it out for myself. After all, if Business Traveler has been giving it the Best Airport Award for 26 years in a row, there must be a reason for all the fuss.
It just so happened that the Grand Singapore Sale was on, so I hopped on a plane to make my yearly trip (what can I say, I’m a girl who loves to shop) and this was also an opportunity to check out the famous airport. Upon disembarking from the plane, I noticed that there’s something about Changi Airport that is quite a lovely change from other airports that I’ve been to. Everything went smoothly just like clockwork, and believe it or not, I managed to get the luggage that I checked in at a record time of just 10 minutes from the time I stepped off the plane! That feat alone is amazing, but what really impressed me were the choices of things to do while I was at the airport. So I walked around, being careful to manage my expectations lest I be disappointed. What I didn’t expect was that I would be so impressed after more than an hour of hanging around here. Here are all the fun things that I did at Changi Airport:
1. I got my nature fix at the Butterfly Garden and all the other gardens in the airport.
To think that someone thought about putting in not one, but several gardens in an airport is really quite astounding. My visit to the gardens was very refreshing after spending hours breathing cabin air. My personal favorite was the Butterfly Garden, which is located at Terminal 1. It was gorgeous, just standing there watching probably about a thousand butterflies flitting about, and the sound of a waterfall was truly in keeping with the whole nature theme. Two more indoor gardens, the Enchanted Garden and the Orchid Garden, were also very nice. The former features sensors that trigger bird calls as you wander around, and the latter has rare and seasonal orchids surrounding a Koi pond.
There are also two gardens that are out in the open air. The Cactus Garden has a bar and even has live music on some nights. Just don’t get too drunk and reach out for these spiny plants! The Sunflower Garden is where you can walk among cheery sunflowers.
2. I unleashed my inner child and went on the Giant Slide.
Upon learning that the world’s tallest slide in an airport was here at Changi, I knew I had to see it and try it out. To get on the slide, all one has to do is to spend $10 in the airport and present the receipt. It was fortunate that I kept my receipt when I got a snack at one of the restaurants, so I knew that I had absolutely no reason not to give it a go. The 12-meter slide looked a bit scary, but I put on a brave face and proceeded to line up and make my way down this. I owed it to my 5-year old self, so I went. What happened next was an exhilarating rush as I slid down and around and around, squealing all the way. Some of the adults were looking at me with amusement, as they were probably wondering what the crazy lady was up to. But it was worth it!
3. I went shopping.
I went to Singapore to do some shopping, so it made sense to me to start shopping in the airport. One would be crazy not to, since there are about 350 shops to check out. My beloved brands of Prada, Tiffany & Co, Burberry, MAC and many more were lined up in a row, and it took every ounce of willpower not to blow my whole budget in here. Duty free shopping here really had all the major brands covered, and the wine selection perked me up. They also had many cocktail stations set up all throughout the terminals, so it was a pleasure to sip a free cocktail while I was at the airport.
4. I went swimming.
Did you know that there’s a very nice hotel inside the Changi Airport? I learned that there was a pool there that has a view of the air control tower, but you have to be a guest to swim there.
Fortunately, there was a pool in Terminal 1 that people could swim in for only $13. You also get a free non alcoholic drink from the bar, which is good, because I was on the verge of getting tipsy from all the free cocktails that I sampled earlier!
5. I lounged around in the entertainment deck.
The entertainment deck has everything to occupy one’s time while waiting. There’s an Xbox Kinect Room where one can play the latest video games, and this is always a hit with kids and older children. One can also watch the latest movies or enjoy soothing music here. Best of all, there’s a cafeteria serving local and international snacks to satisfy rumbling tummies. The entertainment deck is a God send to all harried parents as they can have an hour or so of peace and quiet while the kids find things to amuse themselves. There were certainly lots of kids around, and not once did I hear any whines of “Is the plane here yet”. In fact, most of them were loathe to leave after having such a great time here.
6. I had a free massage.
At Changi, one can find free foot massage machines all around the airport and some full-body massage chairs at terminal 3. I particularly enjoyed the massage chair that I was almost tempted to buy one for myself. There are other options to get your massage fix, but if you prefer a person to do the massage, there are such services available but you’ll have to pay for them. I didn’t try that, but I did try the fish pedicure. You dip your feet in a shallow pool full of little fishes, and they’ll nibble delicately at your feet, which is a bit weird, I know, but it was something that I had to do.
I never expected to have so much fun in an airport, and perhaps this is the reason why the locals flock to Changi, to have a good time in a place where there’s so much to see and do. As I left the airport, I resolved to check in a couple of hours early for my trip back home, as I fully intend to do everything all over again!