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I spent 23 hours at the best airport in the world and this is what happened

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You would think for a person who has over 25 country stamps in their passport, they would know how to fly efficiently.

Short layovers, pre-booking a seat in the upper-deck Economy on A380, packing an extra pair of pants, sheet masks and earplugs at the ready as soon as a baby boards the plane — I had been nailing air travel for years.

But things changed last month.

I was flying from New Delhi to Denpasar, Bali, which should take no more than 14 hours, but in an attempt to save money, I ended up with a ticket that came with a 23-hour layover at Changi Airport in Singapore.

TWENTY THREE HOURS.

I saved £150, but in the anticipation of this mother of all layovers, lost my sanity. Will to live. Thirst to travel. All of the above.

If you’re thinking this booking was stupid enough, wait for this… I decided to not leave the airport and explore Changi for the entire 23 hours. There needs to be an award for these kind of travel decisions, and if there’s one already, please DM me.

If Alice needed a Wonderland in an airport, I’d recommend Changi.

My only consolation was Changi’s latest accolade of the World’s No.1 Airport according to travel site Skytrax. With a footfall of 59 million passengers a year and 10 out of 10 rating for quality of service, I thought, spending an entire day at this world-class airport wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world?

There’s a wonderful cliché that reads: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Making Changi Airport the protagonist of this journey, I was ready to channel my inner Tom Hanks à la The Terminal.

My first hour started just how all wonderful travel stories start. A posh meal. Upon landing at 6pm, I went directly to the jewel of T3, The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. This 79-seat, all-day dining restaurant has all the comfort food. Like a big hug from mummy. Its offerings are exactly what transit passengers need. Smoked salmon and creme fraiche pizza; Wolfgang’s Herb Roasted Half Chicken served with broccolini and citrus gremolata; and crispy calamari with pepperoncini aioli and spicy marinara sauce. There’s an extensive list of fine wines, whisky and cocktails for thirsty passengers too.

Vegetarian Pizza at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck

After feeding my soul with wine and pizza, I decided to walk off the calories and visit the gardens of Changi. Singapore loves its foliage, and this airport alone has eight gardens in its three terminals.

The Butterfly Garden in T3 has 1,000 butterflies from 40 different species, all fluttering away in their tropical habitat. The Sunflower Garden, tucked away in a quiet outdoor area of T2, has hundreds of healthy buds blooming away for a perfect Instagram moment. Then there’s the Orchid and Enchanted Garden, also in T2, which comes to life with special sound, light and water sensors. If Alice needed a Wonderland in an airport, I’d recommend Changi.

The Butterfly Garden

With hours two, three and four spent chasing waterfalls, I then retreated to the free movie theatre at T3 which is open 24 hours a day. While there’s no popcorn on offer, the 7/11 convenience store next door has beer and crisps for nibbles. The cinema has six movies playing on loop, so if you miss one at midnight, watch it again at midday the next day, provided you’re still loitering.

The Transit Movie Theatre

After sobbing with Viola Davis in Hidden Figures and LOL-ing with the Trolls, I went on a mission to claim one of the 12 free lie-down beds in the Snooze Lounge. A girl’s gotta sleep, right?

As these horizontal beds are free to use, I spent 40 minutes stalking one passenger, and another 20 death-staring a child, and finally at 3am I became a proud owner of a bed. Tucked in under my pashmina and eye mask in place as I was about to snooze off, my neighbour made his presence felt. Not only was he snoring in high decibels, the man was releasing sneaky little toots and puffs from every hole in his body. That’s hour nine and ten of my 23-hour transit for you.

With him finally taking his bodily gas onto a plane, I managed to get five undisturbed hours of shut-eye, only to be woken up by a therapist who was offering a reflexology special. Oh, tickle me fancy! Leaping out of bed, I booked in for a 30-minute foot massage, followed by a luxurious rainforest shower at the Be Relax Spa.

Rejuvenated and recharged, I was now ready for some childlike, zero-judgement fun.

Slide@T3

First up, TheSlide@T3. This 12-meter high slide wiped out every bit of fatigue left in my body. This is the world’s tallest slide in an airport, and it takes about five seconds to whizz down to the bottom. I may or may not have climbed up and slid down over five times.

The outdoor swimming pool in T2 was next on the agenda. The rooftop pool, a bar serving colourful beverages and glorious sunshine — the perfect combination for long-haul transit. Taking a dip in the pool while soaking up Vitamin D made me forget that I still had five more hours of transit time left.

Changi’s Outdoor Swimming Pool

A strong coffee from the newly opened Pret a Manger, another foot massage courtesy of the free OSIM massage chairs dotted along T3, and a second shower later, I was ready to give my credit card a workout.

The shopping directory at Changi is eight pages long; you won’t be able to escape some retail relief at this airport. While Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Hermès gave me all the #OOTD feels, my humble credit card was drawn towards the Zara store in T3.

In tow with three new dresses, two pairs of shoes and unnecessary accessories, I headed to the very sophisticated Raffles Long Bar (run by DFS on the upstairs level of its amazing duplex store) for a de rigueur Singapore Sling. As I sipped on my crimson drink, I spotted the Hello Kitty café below. Bright, cheerful and loud: the space looked exactly where you would imagine Hello Kitty and her friends to gather, sip tea and eat scones.

Well Hello Kitty!

My hour 23 started with the announcement of the boarding for my Bali flight and I knew it was time to break up with Changi. This was it. She and I were done.

However, Changi Airport authorities announced last week that they aren’t done. Come 2019, Terminal 1 will be getting an additional building called Jewel, with 300 restaurants and shops, a 40-metre tall waterfall called the Rain Vortex and Singapore’s largest indoor garden, Forest Valley.

Guess I’ll just have to accidentally book another ridiculously long layover at Changi soon. Shame!

Destinations

Runway Bar Takes Flight in Hong Kong

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Ever wanted to go on holiday without having to travel anywhere? Well now you can, as a new bar concept promises to transport you for the evening. Runway, a kitsch 1950s aeroplane themed establishment has opened on Wyndham Street in Central, Hong Kong. The new venue aims to transport customers all around the world with global drinks and dishes; complete with retro plane-themed interior design and lively music.

Tour around the globe without leaving your seat at Runway

The decor includes metal structures, propellers, leather and wood to recreate that jet-set experience. Plane wings even make up the bar, which is covered in a world map lit with LEDs – literally highlighting the origins of Runway’s dishes. At the weekends, the bar is also host to the resident DJ Mojito.

Runway’s signature cocktail, The Pearl Harbour, was inspired by the popular local dessert, Yeung Chi Gum Lo or Mango and Pomelo Sago pudding. It’s a sweet combination of rum, mango, pomelo and tiramisu flavoured syrup, topped with sago and decorated with a raw cocoa rim. Three Priority Landing G&Ts also feature on the menu; Butterfly Pea Flower (a purple Asian bloom) is used to infuse the gin with a distinct botanical flavour. One such drink was created by Gin Jubilee 2016 Hong Kong Champion Tomi Ho.

Mango and pomelo sago pudding in a glass

The food menu consists of sharing plates, inspired by eight different countries. Examples include, Air Speed Gambas (Spanish garlic prawns), Thai Engine Charred Pork (braised pork neck served with herbs, tomato, papaya and nam jim dressing), and Indian Traffic Pattern Kofta served with flat bread and yoghurt dip. And if you’ve still got room for dessert, there’s Booming Coconut Pudding which comes in a coconut shell with chia seeds and truffle ice cream.

Booming Coconut Pudding with chia seeds and truffle ice cream.

So buckle your seat belt and enjoy the ride at this new Hong Kong bar.

Shop B, Ground Floor, Carfield Commercial Building, 75–77 Wyndham Street, Central District, Hong Kong
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Heralding a return to the glamorous age of travel

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Do you remember your first flight? The anticipation and excitement? Taking in the sights and sounds of the airport, the thrill of seeing ‘your’ plane, the adrenalin kick of take-off? Cast your mind back to the images of air travel in bygone eras when those who could afford to, took to the skies in three-piece suits, dresses and hats, champagne and elegance all the way.

The democratisation of air travel, the rise of low-cost airlines and the relative accessibility of air travel mean flying has become much more quotidian. Whether you are constantly on a plane for business or take one flight a year to your annual holiday in the sun, air travel seems to have lost its lustre. Amid the leisure wear and clear plastic bags bursting with regulation-size carry-on toiletries we yearn for a more refined experience. Add increased terrorism-related anxiety and it’s little wonder we all want to feel a bit more looked after, our journeys made to feel as special as possible.

In the beauty industry, this desire is being answered by prestige brands placing the emphasis on treatments and services at their counters. It is often no longer the case that you can buy cheaper in duty free: Now beauty brands want to attract travel consumers with exclusive products and ‘experiences’ such as a hand massage or a make-up refresh.

One shining example is the Shilla Beauty Loft at Singapore Changi Airport. Here Chanel, the Dior Beauty House, Luxury Skincare Bar by La Prairie and SK-II Pitera Lounge offer truly world-class enclaves of pampering and tranquillity. Who wouldn’t want to book in for a private consultation with Chanel, enjoy an Eye-lifting Massage from La Prairie, an SK-II Power Nap Therapy session (you are encouraged to sleep while a beauty consultant thoroughly cleanses your skin and applies an SK-II Facial Treatment Mask…yes please.) or be the beneficiary of a flash complexion makeover from ‘Fly Perfect with Dior’.

The good news is that we are seeing more and more brands and airports taking their cue from this groundswell of passenger preference so that even if your journey doesn’t take you to Singapore or your ticket doesn’t stretch to the First Class Lounge, making airport time indulgent rather than arduous is becoming a valid aspiration for all.

Take this new initiative at London Heathrow Airport: Billed as ‘a mocha and a manicure’, a new nail service has launched in Terminal 2A Departures. Open to all passengers, the Wellness Spa in the Plaza Premium Lounge offers a walk-up and walk-in service so that you can have an express manicure before boarding. Not only is that a real feel-good way to start your trip, it also saves you time trying to schedule a manicure into your interminable to-do list before you leave. The Wellness Spa has a range of treatments that can be pre-booked or walk-in. As well as the nail services there are a range of massages specifically designed to tackle common travel ailments and fatigue.

Check-in, tune-out: Manicures and massages are the order of the day at the Heathrow Terminal 2 Departures Wellness Spa

Anyone, regardless of ticket class, can access the Plaza Premium Lounge. A range of packages are available including a two-hour visit for £35 and a ten-hour stay for £68. The facilities include all-inclusive food and drink (hence ‘a mocha and a manicure’), including alcoholic drinks, free WI-FI and plush seating.

When balanced against the likelihood of sinking the same amount on a glass of Prosecco/celebratory cocktail in the bar (well, we are on holiday/heading home/about to work hard) plus the requisite impulse buys…why not treat yourself and reclaim your own slice of the golden jet age? The revolution starts here.

Airport StyleDiningLifestyle

Which are the world’s best airport bars and restaurants? Find out soon

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Intrigued to discover which is the best airport bar? Fascinated to find out which airport fine dining restaurant comes up trumps? Look no further than the 2017 Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Awards.

Nominations for this year’s highly anticipated FAB Awards, taking place in Toronto 21-23 June, are now open.

Celebrating the best in travel-related dining around the world, the awards this year feature a slimmed-down line-up of 16 categories, including several new and exciting awards that put the emphasis firmly on people, product, creativity and innovation.

The 2017 awards… *drum roll*… are:

  • New Food & Beverage Concept of the Year
  • Customer Service Initiative of the Year
  • The Bartender & The Thief’ Great Airport Cocktail Award in association with Copper Dog
  • ‘La spirito de vojaĝado’ Award (‘The spirit of travel’)
  • Food & Beverage Disruptor of the Year
  • Airport Coffee, Non-alcoholic Beverage Shop of the Year
  • Airport ‘Food to Go’ Offer of the Year
  • Airport Bar of the Year
  • Airport Wine Bar of the Year
  • Airport Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year
  • Airport Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year
  • Airport Food Hall of the Year
  • New Food & Beverage Concept of the Year
  • F&B Marketing & Promotional Campaign of the Year
  • Individual F&B Offer of the Year in a Railway Station
  • Airport Food & Beverage Offer Best Reflecting Sense of Place
  • Airport Food & Beverage Offer of the Year

Further information on the event and how to nominate is available at: http://airportfab.events/.