I usually don’t get excited about layovers, but I was thrilled about spending 15 hours in Changi Airport in Singapore. The reason – it’s the number one airport in the world. My excitement grew as I flew into Singapore at sunset. The view was stunning.
While I would have been completely safe exploring the city that evening by myself, I decided to save the city for another trip and explore the number one airport in the world. Like any major airport, it has duty free shopping and dining options galore. There’s any brand of makeup, fragrance, and liquor you can imagine. From Victoria’s Secret to Adidas, you can shop til you drop. I saw multiple people pushing luggage carts overflowing with bags and luggage.
Changi Airport is an experience. Anthony Bourdain featured it in the series premiere of his show “The Layover.” If you’re in Terminal 3, the Butterfly Garden is a must. There are over a 1000 butterflies in it. Also in Terminal 3 is Singapore’s tallest slide. Spend $10 in the airport and you get a free ride down the four-story tall slide. In Terminal 1, you can get a little pampering for your feet with a fish spa and reflexology, snap some pics in the photo booths at the Social Tree, take a dip in the rooftop swimming pool, be mesmerized by the Kinetic Rain exhibit, or enjoy the beauty of the Cactus Garden or Water Lily Garden. My layover during my journey back to the United States from Cambodia was in Terminal 2.
I had made a reservation for a room in the Ambassador Transit Hotel through Booking.com. I just booked the Single Room with a twin bed, small desk, and television. You can book a room for 6 and 12 hour increments. I booked a room for 12 hours. If you’re going to layover in Changi Airport and want to stay in a hotel room, I highly recommend booking Ambassador Transit Hotel in advance as they do sell out. After checking in and dropping my bags, I went out to explore. I could have gotten a spa treatment at the hotel, but I wanted to wandered around the airport.
It’s the gardens that make this airport so different from others around the world. My first stop was the Orchid Garden.
It’s a beautiful sanctuary in the heart of the terminal with a pond, waterfalls, orchids, and koi.
There are more than 700 orchids and 30 species representing the four elements of nature. White orchids with floating glass bubbles represent Air. Rare brown and green orchids represent Earth. Floral columns represent Fire. Clusters of blue and violet orchid represent Water.
I took a few moments to sit and watch the koi and listen to the water trickling in the small waterfalls surrounding the pond. You can learn about koi and orchids while you enjoy the beauty of the Orchid Garden. I learned koi are descendants of carp originating from Eastern Asia. According to Chinese koi history, Confucius’ son (born 5533 B.C.) was presented a carp fish by King Shoko of Ro. From then on, the fish became subjects in Chinese artwork and carvings. Koi are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp. There are over 20 different varieties of koi distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Koi fish are famous for their beautiful colors. Interesting tidbit – koi can grow up to about 2 meters and can live more than 200 years!
Next I made my way over to the Enchanted Garden. It magically comes to life with sight and sound as you weave your way through the four giant glass bouquets decorated in mosaics of stained glass. The bouquets are filled with freshly cut flowers and soft ferns.
On my way to the Sunflower Garden, I saw the movie theater. Yes, you can go to the movies in this airport and it’s free!
The Sunflower Garden is outside. It gives you a chance to get some fresh air, feel the warmth of Singapore, and watch planes take off and land while you stroll through a garden filled with 500 sunflower plants standing tall. I checked it out at night, then went back the next morning so I could see the sunflowers lifting their heads to the sun. One interesting tidbit: according to fossil records, sunflowers first appeared on earth about 48 million years ago. I learned that reading one of the signs in the garden.
The layout of shopping and dining is different from other airports. The dining areas are secluded to one side of the terminal or upstairs. Ready to eat, I strolled through the dining options on the main terminal floor, but opted for the 24-hour dining hall on the third floor. There you find what you want from one of the food stalls, order from an electronic kiosk, and wait for your number to appear at the food stall you ordered from. There’s everything from Vietnamese pho to Hong Kong dim sum. After wandering through, I decided on vegetable fried rice from Stall 3, Mini Wok. It was served in a small silver wok and was delicious!
Here are some of the other things you can do in the airport. Filled with Xbox and Playstation 3 consoles, you can play games at the Entertainment Deck. Head to the Xperience Zone to kick back in plush seats and catch the latest sports events. Kids will love the playgrounds and coloring stations. Get a free foot massage in one of the many massage chairs scattered throughout the airport.
When it was time to head to the U.S., I was wishing for a little more time to explore the splendor of Singapore. Sure hope to make it back there one day!