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Changi Airport, Singapore: Arriving, Leaving, and Waiting for Flights

With a camera in one hand and a book (or a coffee) in the other, I always find enticing byways—such as Luang Prabang.

Viewing the planes at Singapore Airport (c) A. Harrison

Viewing the planes at Singapore Airport (c) A. Harrison

Most airports I find stressful. Between checking in and waiting in the eternal queue to get through security, I feel tired and crumbled before even boarding the plane.

Yet once through these obstacles, Singapore is not a bad place to pass the hours before a flight; perhaps this is why Changi Airport is consistently voted one of the best airports in the world.

Butterflies, Anyone?

There is an impressive amount of nature on display at Changi Airport. Such as a butterfly garden in Terminal One, where over 1,000 butterflies flit amongst the dense foliage and tropical fruits on offer. Step inside to an oasis of tropical peace in the midst of an airport.

Also in Terminal One is a rooftop cactus garden (complete with a bar boasting an impressive array of cocktails), a sculptural tree garden, and a pool with a jacuzzi (just make sure you have some dry clothes for the flight!)

In Terminal Two is the Hello Kitty Orchid Garden. The orchids in Singapore are not to be missed, and this is a great place to see some if you are only in transit, or failed to make it to the Botanical Gardens in the city. There is also a sunflower garden, and in terminal four there is the Boulevard of Trees, with over 150 fig trees.

Butterflies at Changi Airport (c) A. Harrison

Butterflies at Changi Airport (c) A. Harrison

Make Sure You Have Right Terminal!

Changi Airport has four terminals, allowing the transit of some 85 million passengers per year - more than the entire population of Australia travelling through the place three times a year. Make sure to check from which terminal your flight leaves.

All the terminals are interconnected, with terminals 1, 2 and 3 by Skytrain (which arrives every few minutes and takes less than five minutes between terminals) and terminals 2 and 4 by shuttle bus, which take some 10 minutes. Both services run 24hours a day.

There are also travellators between the terminals if you’re keen to walk. Bear in mind, however, that the terminals themselves are enormous, and even in the wee hours of the morning are filled with a sea of people. Steel yourself for a long walk from check in to security, and then to the gate itself. If walking is an issue, it’s best to organise a wheelchair through your airline (via their website is usually easiest) a few weeks in advance, as those at the airport are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and so may not be available.

The orchids of Singapore (c) A. Harrison

The orchids of Singapore (c) A. Harrison

Eat Your Way Around the Globe

Once through security, it’s time to enjoy those hours till your plane leaves.

Every type of food is in offer, from stalls resembling hawker malls to fast-food outlets, cafes, lounges, restaurants and bars. All that walking leads to quite an appetite, (and also helps burn off some of those calories you're about to consume).

Apart from the usual airport fare, I'd suggest The Heritage Zone. This is a strip of shops resembling those classic shop fronts which can still be found in Singapore. Singapore itself is a foodies’ delight, and Changi Airport proves no exception. May I recommend the Hainanese Chicken and Rice - a local specialty of delicately flavoured chicken with the rice cooked in the same sauce to poach the chicken - or the classical chilli mud crab.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice (c) A. Harrison

Hainanese Chicken Rice (c) A. Harrison

Did I Mention the Shopping?

I love window shopping at airports, and Singapore is a delight. Every type of shop I can’t afford is here, complete with bright and colourful displays. Also, with the sheer numbers of people passing through the terminals, the shops aren’t empty, so occasionally I garner the courage to wander in and look at those things far beyond my price range.

Besides the high-end market, there are also endless bookshops, newsagents, craft shops and others which are not only affordable, but often hide great last-minute gifts, if only for yourself.

Why Not Grab a Massage?

Dotted about the terminals are free massage chairs. Sheer bliss. That’s all I can say.

There are also regular massage therapists, but if you have time, why not try a fish foot massage in Terminal One. Here tanks full of tiny garrarufa fish nibble away at the dead skin on your feet, leaving them remarkably smooth. It might sound foreboding, but as the fish have no teeth, they simply tickle as they swarm over your feet.

Don't Forget to Take in a Touch of Art

Each terminal has its own art work on display. Unfortunately, many travellers simply miss them.

Kinetic Rain, is the worlds largest kinetic structure with over 1000 copper and aluminium raindrops which dance through the air in Terminal One. In Terminal Two is A Million Times Changi, which is an analogue clock as well as a kinetic sculpture. The Han Sai Por, a 13m daisy, is in Terminal Three, while Terminal Four has Les Oiseaux, a sculpture of birds hanging from the ceiling. Nearby is another kinetic sculpture, Petal Clouds, and a bronze statue of a mother and child hailing a rickshaw.

Something a little more exotic on offer (c) A. Harrison

Something a little more exotic on offer (c) A. Harrison

Some Other Suggestions

All of the terminals have viewing galleries of the runways, guaranteed to keep many a child (or adult) entertained. There are also children’s playgrounds at every terminal. Both Terminal Two and Three have free movie theatres. Also in Terminal Three is The Slide; at 12m it is the tallest slide in any airport around the world.

Should you have over five hours until your next connection, Singapore Airport offers tours of the city, easily arranged at the enquiry desk.

Leaving the Airport

It is incredibly easy to organise a car to take you to the city via a self-service kiosk once through customs. Cabs are plentiful, reliable, safe and clean. There is a bus service into town, while there is a subway station beneath the airport and is easy to use.

When staying only a day or two, I often use the Changi Airport Hotel. I love collecting my bags, passing immigration and walking into reception. Despite being in an airport, the rooms are well soundproofed, and the soft lighting helps with whatever time zone my body is in. The buffet breakfast is highly recommended, and there are cabs at the door or the train station just below the hotel to get into Singapore.

Enjoy your time!

Joss sticks in a temple - sightseeing in Singapore (c) A. Harrison

Joss sticks in a temple - sightseeing in Singapore (c) A. Harrison

© 2019 Anne Harrison

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