There’s nothing quite like arriving at a strange airport in the middle of the night in a sleep-deprived, feeling grimy and suspecting yourself of dragon breath, with hours to spend ‘amusing yourself’.
Once, on a 4 or 5 hour stopover in Singapore’s Changi airport, I explored every arm of the connected terminals, under the premise that hours spent sitting on planes, being force fed at regular intervals, calls for some serious walking. I can’t abide getting off a long flight, only to sit again in a gate lounge for hours. I can tell you that most of the shops in Singapore’s airport are replicated in each wing, although one particular wing had a less-than-pleasant distinctly moulds odour – perhaps a result of the extremely humid climate? This may have been seen to since. Changi airport certainly has the advantage of the distractions of the butterfly, cacti and orchid garden areas, which are dotted throughout the airport. These provide a welcome immersion in nature in the midst of an otherwise sterile environment. On one trip I got addicted to the leg massage chairs that do squeeze uncomfortably tightly around your calves, leading you to wonder what would happen if the chair malfunctioned and you got stuck in its vice-like circulation-restricting grip. I’m always happy to transit in Singapore to get the opportunity to visit two favorite shops that aren’t in Australia: Madame Butterfly, which sells Asian jade and other jewellery, including cloisonné jewellery, bags and other gift wares, and Spanish brand shop Desigual, which has funky, brightly colored clothes and bags. People tell me the facilities at Changi’s in-airport ‘transit hotel’ are worth it: beds, movie theaters and more, but I’ve never tried this out.
Last time I came through Bangkok airport, I indulged in a shoulder massage from the massage/spa place, which whiled away some time in a relaxed fashion. This time I discovered just how many different flavours of Durian lollies and wafers are available for purchase (although I didn’t indulge in any). All sorts of sliced (fresh?) fruits and coconuts could be purchased, but I have to admit to succumbing to Bangkok’s version of Burger King – as a vegetarian, it the first time I’ve ever come across a burger with a double vegetable pattie! The airport pharmacy sold very handy small toothbrushes with herbal tooth paste in miniature zip lock bags, which I purchased as a gesture to my fellow passengers on the next leg of my journey. However as it happened, I was seated in a row with two empty seats beside me, so no one else was able to enjoy my newly Thai-herbally-freshened breath.
You could say being in transit is travel’s purgatory: the nowhere land between one state and the next. If you’re going to spend time in transit, I do recommend spending it where there are bounteous orchid blooms brightening the extended waiting-room experience.