Changi Airport

Posted from Singapore.

Changi Airport is said to be the best airport in the world. I had to question why. And until I found myself with a 12-hour layover, I knew nothing of this place. Had I experienced my 12 hours within security I’m sure I would’ve had a much different experience, but unfortunately I had booked separate tickets with different airlines and had to spend a good eight hours outside of security. To my surprise, this still wasn’t that bad. But that could be because I have no qualms with sleeping on the ground.

After disembarking from Bali I enjoyed a leisurely ride on the moving sidewalk to collect my bag.

After disembarking from Bali I enjoyed a leisurely ride on the moving sidewalk to collect my bag.

My flight from Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport departed to Singapore at 6:20 a.m., an ungodly hour that required a 3 a.m. wake-up call. The only good part about this was it began a series of events that completely wrecked my sleep cycle making it easy to reset my days and nights when I arrived at my final destination, Paris.

I was staying in Sanur, a good 20-minute drive from the airport. I pre-booked my taxi with the hostel so I didn’t have to chance hailing one in the wee hours of the night. To my surprise warungs were still open and still serving food – and people were still out and about. Had I taken the hostel’s car it would’ve cost $15. My taxi ride wound up costing $8.

But, alas, security was closed at the airport until 4:30 a.m. McDonalds, however, was open. I had a coffee.

The airport is not so busy early in the morning.

The airport is not so busy early in the morning.

When I arrived at Changi I was in no hurry to exit security. So I ambled. On my entry/departure card I crossed out “DAYS” for my proposed stay and wrote “12 HOURS.” My ambling helped me miss this lines, but also offered another strange perk. The immigration official was amazed that I had spent four weeks in Indonesia and asked where I stayed. I had to tell him on the Gilis and then we got into a conversation about scuba diving. He would’ve chatted me up all day, after all, no one was waiting. It was one of my more strange border crossing experiences.

The immigration process was quick, though. Singapore has figured out how to keep the lines moving by putting more than two agents on the counters, something a few other countries need to figure out. (I’m thinking of you Indonesia.)

So what to do? I was flying Qatar Airways to Paris (with a stop in Doha) but I couldn’t check into the flight and get to all the good stuff through security until 3.5 hours before my flight. It was 10 a.m. and my flight didn’t depart until 9:15 p.m. Seven hours of limbo. I went and got some breakfast at McDonalds (shh – I needed comfort food, and hadn’t eaten since day before) and then found a quiet location up some escalators where I could take a nap on my luggage and not be bothered. I felt totally safe doing this as there were men with guns wandering the airport, and there were hordes of school children passing through. Apparently I chose to sleep in the airport’s history museum, a popular location for school day-trips. I even heard one teacher tell the children to quiet down as someone was sleeping. Bless them. I slept for about three hours.

The same three guys kept roaming the airport.

The same three guys kept roaming the airport.

After another McDonalds (I really don’t know what is wrong with me) I read for a few hours (Warren Buffet’s biography) and then was second in line to check in early for my flight. Honestly, it felt like days had gone by. But now we get to the good stuff.

Here’s why Changi Airport is said to be the best:

two free movie theaters
a free two-hour sightseeing tour of Singapore
sleeping lounges
nature areas
access to a hotel swimming pool
a game zone
– amazing shopping
children’s playground
– free Internet access (and it’s fast)
– numerous free automated foot and leg massage chairs (these rock)
– a 12m slide
– numerous spas, medical and prayer services
– butterfly park
– luggage services

I’m sure I’ve left out tons of stuff.

The movies follow a schedule but provide a good source of entertainment on long lay-overs.

The movies follow a schedule but provide a good source of entertainment on long lay-overs. The theater itself is in another room. This is the, ahem, lobby.

These chairs were free, but one of the sleeping lounges was just to the side of it.

These chairs were free, but one of the sleeping lounges was just to the side of it. See the massage chairs?

Need a Rolex while you're in transit?

Need a Rolex while you’re in transit?

If you don't have your laptop, use one of the free computers.

If you don’t have your laptop, use one of the free computers.

After I checked my bag in and passed through security I went online for a while, then I went and had a free foot and leg massage, then I wandered over to the movie theater, but a movie had just ended and the next one wouldn’t start for 1/2 hour. I wandered past Gucci, Rolex, Billabong, Harrods, Godiva and Prada. I skipped the butterfly park and if I had known there was a slide I would’ve been there. There’s 7-elevens, Starbucks, food courts and sometimes live entertainment. Long lay-overs are made bearable. How I wished I had figured out how to link my flights so I could’ve stayed inside security.

Then I saw the sleeping lounges which would’ve been wonderful earlier in the day, but I didn’t want to have to pay – and I was stuck outside of security in the terminal. I couldn’t chance falling asleep (again) and missing my flight either.

Trains connect the three terminals, so getting between them is easy, even after you’ve entered security. Changi figured it out. Have two tracks. One inside security. One outside. Brilliant.

There are a few downsides in Changi. One is there are next to no power points. There are specific locations to charge your laptop, but until you go through secondary screening into your gate area (oh yes, you go through security twice) they are elusive. I find this highly annoying, especially in this day and age.

Down that long corridor one can find almost nothing, but boarding gates.

Down that long corridor one can find almost nothing, but boarding gates.

Another downside is once you’ve left the shop area you’re left with long corridors (though they do have moving sidewalks) with zero shops. So as I forgot to get water, I had a long journey back down the sidewalks. However, on the way back towards my gate I took a pit stop at another leg and foot massage chair. I still think these are the best part of Changi Airport, especially since my RA was still flaring (or during the flare I incurred damage to my foot.)

I love these chairs. I want one for my room.

I love these chairs. I want one for my room.

Eventually it was time to enter my gate area and board my Qatar Airways flight – first to Doha and then to Paris. This ended my longest lay-over at an airport – ever! Funnily enough, I actually slept on the planes, a talent that has eluded me for over 30 years. So by the time I arrived in Paris I was well rested and managed to stay awake until 11 p.m. That’s how you reset your clock during international travel.

Now to explore Paris – the city of love.

10 Responses to Changi Airport

  1. Anonymous June 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm Reply

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