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

Butterfly-garden-HR

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!

Shitika Anand
written by: Shitika Anand
Shitika Anand is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and social media manager. Her words have been published in Time Out, WWD, CNN, Grazia, Forbes and The Huffington Post.