24 Hours In Changi Airport
1 June 2016
Singaporeans come to Changi Airport to hang out, so don’t fret if you’ve got a long layover here. Let the fun begin, writes Tatyana Leonov.
Since it opened in 1981, Singapore’s Changi Airport has received more than 500 ‘Best Airport’ awards and welcomed millions of passengers. In 2015 alone, Changi processed 55.4 million passengers and more than 39 million bags. And with 6,800 flights every week (amounting to an average of one flight every 90 seconds), the airport has placed the utmost importance on equipping itself with an impressive fit-out. Naturally, a stop here gives layovers a whole new meaning.
With three operational terminals and the opening of Terminal 4 scheduled for 2017, there’s a lot going on. From shopping and spas to gardens, pools and even slides, whatever your stopover style, there’s something at Changi Airport to suit.
Of the innovative upgrades, Changi Airport Group’s CEO Lee Seow Hiang said, “Faced with intensifying competition, we challenged ourselves to rethink what an airport can be – not just as a gateway for flights, but as a tourism destination on its own”.
It’s not unusual nowadays for discerning travellers to purposely book long layovers in Changi – not only to break up a long-haul journey, but also as a way of treating the stopover as a mini holiday.
In fact, locals even travel to Changi on their days off work for exactly the same reason. The design features are spectacular and you definitely won’t go hungry. So without further ado, here’s my take on how to make the most of 24 hours at arguably the best airport in the world...
Singapore Airlines flight SQ212 from Sydney to Singapore touches down on time at 2.15pm. Although I’ve eaten on the plane, it’s still (sort of) lunchtime and the food choices at Changi are too good to deny. So I head straight to Singapore Food Street (Terminal 3), a foodie paradise with 13 hawker stalls.
I always make sure I fit my swimmers in my carry-on, and this time it paid off – Terminal 1 has a Balinese-inspired swimming pool! The best spot is the jacuzzi, where you can sit back and soak up (excuse the pun) views of the runway. After a long, relaxing dip, I swim a few laps to get my blood pumping, then visit the intricate Kinetic Rain formation in Terminal 1 – 1,216 twirling, dancing raindrops made of aluminium and highly polished copper, controlled by individual motors and designed to depict the delight of travel. I’m feeling inspired!
Feeling energised after my swim, I decide to walk the nature trail – after all, Changi is known for its greenery. The airport has a dedicated team of horticulturists who look after these beautiful spots. The rooftop Cactus Garden, home to more than 100 species of cacti and arid plants, is my first stop. My favourite is probably the edible apple cactus, simply because I had no idea cacti could bear fruit! I enjoy a drink at the bar, then make my way to the Orchid Garden (Terminal 2) and, finally, the open-air Sunflower Garden (Terminal 2) for a dose of vitamin D to perk myself up.
I order a big bowl of mac and cheese at the first Hard Rock Cafe built in an airport (Terminal 3), to devour while watching the live band perform.
9pm: Zone out
It’s veg-out time, and what better way to chill than at the cinema? With 55 seats and a 3.96 x 2.23m screen, Changi’s free Terminal 3 movie theatre feels like the real deal.
Linked by walkways from Terminal 3, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport is my chosen location to catch up on some solid slumber.
Wanting to explore Singapore beyond Changi, I register to go on the Heritage Tour later in the day, part of Changi Airport’s Free Singapore Tour (you can register at terminals 2 and 3). The tour walks guests through the highlights of Singapore’s past and present, with stops at various colonial and cultural districts, including Chinatown, Little India and cool Kampong Glam, a vibrant ethnic precinct with trendy shops and eateries.
9am: Run amok
Still feeling a little sleepy, I consider a quick snooze on a free Snooze Lounge (terminals 1 and 3), but instead opt for an activity that will wake me up. Most people go coffee – instead, I glide down Singapore’s tallest slide (12m!) on TheSlide@T3 (Terminal 3).
Feeling relaxed, I wander over to the Butterfly Garden (the first of its kind to ever be opened within an airport) to check out the 1,000 butterflies – and 40 species! – that call Changi Airport home. With its six-metre waterfall, the two-storey garden is a tropical retreat, and I’ve found it to be the perfect place to chill out.
I head to The Shilla Duty Free cosmetics and perfumes store (all terminals) to purchase a new fragrance – can you believe beauty and skincare brands are up to 40 per cent cheaper here than at some local retail stores and major regional airports?! And because shopping can be stressful, I head over to the beauty loft to book myself in for an SK-II facial spa. They also offer pre-flight makeovers inspired by the latest runway looks. Layovers can be tough...
I go for lunch at Ya Kun Kaya Toast (Terminal 3). I order the Kaya Butter Toast Set. I notice the locals combining their toast with their half-boiled eggs and then dipping it into their coffee. Looks weird, but, wanting to immerse myself in local culture, I try it. And it actually tastes great!
My final activity for the day, before my next flight, is the Singapore bus tour I registered for in the morning. In two-and-a-half hours, we cover a lot of ground, visiting the Colonial District, the Central Business District, Merlion Park, Chinatown and the Malay Heritage Centre. Even though we drive through most of the areas and only stop at a couple, it’s an ideal way to see the best of Singapore and work out what to do next time.