Changi Airport: A tourist attraction

Changi Airport: A tourist attraction

Singaporeans normally view Changi Airport as a place to board a plane for exotic tourist destinations. But, with travel curbs in place, the airport has itself become a tourist attraction.

Kudos to the folks running the airport for the immense efforts to draw people to the airport for reasons other than travelling. Well, if you stay at the other end of the island, it may feel like you’re heading to another town, another place.

Opened slightly more than a year ago, Jewel is a delightful mall to spend time a day in. It’s got everything — from food to shops, and hairstyling saloons to hotel. For this season, the gardens around the centrepiece Rain Vortex has been decked in Christmas glory, making for great sight seeing and photo opportunities.

Families who want something a little different can consider spending a night glamping at Cloud9 Piazza at Level 5.

While Terminal 3 may not be as crowded as before, it has also been given a Christmas makeover with dinosaurs, in line with the theme of Jurassic Mile. The fact that there’s less of a crowd is great because you can take your time to delight in the exhibits and take photos without having loads of photo bombers.

For the F1 wannabes, a go kart circuit — with separate tracks for children and adults — has been set up at the taxi rank outside Terminal 4.

A little round the corner is Jurassic Mile, which has also been decorated with lights to make it a sight to behold at night. Whether you’re a cyclist, walker or jogger, this stretch is worth exploring. But do note that you need to book a slot if you’re planning to be there on Fridays to Sundays.

So, if you’re looking for a place to go to during the holiday, consider Changi Airport — and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to bring your passport.

Jurassic Mile rocks!

Jurassic Mile rocks!

With travel almost non-existent, many in Singapore are suffering from a massive withdrawal. While the government is trying to encourage local tourism, it just doesn’t feel like the real thing of hopping on to a plane, landing in another country and taking in the sights and food!

As we struggle with the travel withdrawal symptoms, there was a glimmer of hope when social media broke news of a new attraction in Singapore. Dinosaurs (not the living kind) were spotted near Changi Airport.

As an avid cyclist who enjoys riding along the airport route, this was right up my alley and I started planning for trip to the said part of the airport. However, my plan had to be shelved when the authorities boarded up the location and placed a “Coming soon” sign.

Imagine my delight when a friend messaged me that the new attraction was opening on October 11.

The next day, I packed my bike and headed to the nearest car park in East Coast Park. Even though it was a Monday, that part of the park was surprisingly busier than usual with walkers, joggers and cyclists, including a couple of young ladies who were struggling big time on a tandem bike.

I joined them and headed towards the freshly-minted Jurassic Mile at Changi Airport Connector. The route was fairly straightforward, just cycle towards the Eastern end of East Coast Park and follow the signs.

Jurassic Mile is a one-kilometre stretch with dinosaur exhibits making for lovely Instagrammable opportunities.

The path is wide enough for three bikes to ride astride so both bikers and walkers/joggers need to exercise lots of grace and patience, especially along spots where people stop for photos.

A surprise is that beyond Jurassic Mile, the park connector extends all the way past Changi Airport Terminal 4 to Terminal 2.

The end point is the Terminal 2 arrival hall next to the car park.

Here are my thoughts on Jurassic Mile:

  1. It’s free. I can’t think of many places we can go for free but this is one and one that’s worth a repeat visit. Next time, I may consider putting my bike in one of the lockers and walk to Jewel for a meal.
  2. It’s open 24 hours a day. You can technically go anytime but bookings are needed for visits on Fridays to Sundays. This is understandable as the path is quite narrow and overcrowding may lead to mayhem.
  3. It is easily accessible. Take your pick. Cycle, walk or jog. It’s so convenient to get there. Park at T2 if you want to get some exercise or nearer at T4 if you want to reach the destination faster. A bicycle rental kiosk is located between Terminals 2 and 4.
  4. It offers loads of photo opportunities. The dinosaurs make great backdrops and photo companions.
  5. It’s a good way to spend family time. When I was there, both adults and children were awed by the displays. Besides posing for photos, the attraction is also great for walking and cycling at your own pace.
  6. It has cycling facilities. From renting to parking, everything is taken care of for cyclists, including a self-service bicycle repair station where you can pump your tires or tighten screws. And if you like, you can even take a shower before heading home.
  7. It has a cafe. This is so thoughtful. The Hub and Spoke Cafe is just reward for that exercise from the dinosaur adventure.
  8. It provides an access to airport terminals. I can now cycle to the airport. Before this opened, it’s always a case of so near and yet so far. I have cycled on the outskirts of the airport but could not get to the terminals before.

If there are areas of improvement, my wish is for some form of interactivity with the exhibits instead of them being purely static. Another is for the path to be wider so that it’ll be safer for all.

Overall, this is a place that is worth visiting at least once. I can foresee myself heading there again and again.

Verdict

Quality of exhibits: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Facilities: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Experience: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Value for time: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Overall: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

The Blossom lounge experience

The Blossom lounge experience

Changi Airport has won various awards and many of its amenities are highly raved by both local and international audiences on how pleasant the airport experience is. Hence, I was never really curious on how airport lounges were, especially in Changi Airport. During my most recent trip, I departed from Changi Airport Terminal 4 and decided to drop by Blossom Lounge in the transit area just for the experience.ย 

Compared to other lounges overseas, Blossom lounge was considerably emptier. With ample private, booth and table seating, passengers had the luxury of choosing an area they were comfortable with. The common seating area had power points available, making it easy for passengers to recharge their devices on-the-go.ย  ย 

Now letโ€™s talk about the food spread. Similar to other lounges, Blossom lounge offered warm dishes, including Singapore Laksa and Vegetarian Noodles. I would definitely have gone for the laksa if I werenโ€™t too full as a hot soupy dish can help warm the stomach well before a flight. I went ahead with a small snack of cheese and crackers though – not much options for cheese, but this was pretty good.ย  ย 

The drinks section was in a far corner of the lounge, and I actually missed it while in search of drinks. I had only seen apple and orange juice dispensers near the cereal bar and wondered why options were so limited in the lounge. Upon further exploration, I was contented to see the fridge filled with drinks from local brand โ€œYeoโ€™sโ€ – always happy to see local lounges promoting local products. For those that like to drink before a flight for a better sleep, there are alcohol options here as well.

Blossom lounge also has shower facilities which upon entering the lounge, you should seek a staff memberโ€™s assistance in getting a slot for the shower. Wifi is also available in the lounge, but if you forget to ask for the password, you can just hook on to the free Changi Wifi as the connection speed is similar.

Blossom lounge is honestly pretty good – itโ€™s quiet, spacious and most importantly, provides the comfort you need before a flight. Do remember to constantly check the TV screens for your flight information as Changi Airport is a silent airport!

Mesmerising Jewel!

Singapore has a new attraction. And it’s one that excites Singaporeans across the nation. So much as that an estimated half a million people squeezed into Jewel Changi Airport for a preview earlier this month.

When my turn came two Saturdays ago, I decided to avoid the Jewel car park and park at Terminal 3 instead.

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Jewel is connected to Terminals 2 and 3 by link bridges that come with travellators so visitors can save some energy for when the action starts.

The sound of waterfall greeted us as we stepped into the building. It was like the sound of the Pied Piper and all of us were drawn towards it.

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Much has been written about the 40-metre tall HSBC Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and the centre piece of Jewel. Facebook and other social media posts were filled with photos and videos from others who have seen it.

But, whatever has been read or seen online is nothing compared to the real thing. We felt like we were in a scene out of Avatar as we walked past trees towards the viewing gallery at Level 2.

Many were already waiting in anticipation for the light show as we inched our way to a good spot to watch and catch some good shots.

The waterfall was a delightful sight to behold. Though it’s man-made, it is so wonderfully designed. Just looking at the curtain of water flowing down from the roof to the basement made me feel so proud to be a Singaporean.

A burst of ooos, ahhhs and wows accompanied the lights that came on.

The half-hourly show was enchanting with the play of lights. It’s a must-see so make sure that you plan to stay till night time when you visit.

Besides the glorious waterfall, there are many other insta-worthy photo spots, including the Shiseido Forest Valley, which features more than 900 trees and 60,000 shrubs.

Shop and eat
Shopaholics will feel like they’ve entered a combination of Marina Bay Sands and Vivocity (two mega malls in Singapore). Jewel is huge and packs more than 280 shops and eateries. Locals were drawn to A&W, which went off grid many years ago, and Shake Shack.

For me though, the sight of Zara, Marks and Spencer, and Lim Chee Guan, the famous bak kwa store, is enough to convince me that this place is worth many more visits. My family calculated that it’d take more than two years of weekend dining to complete all the eateries here.

Play and enjoy
Catch the latest movies at the cinemas, including Singaporeโ€™s first dedicated children and family hall and next-generation IMAX hall which comes with laser.

By mid-May, children and the young at heart will certainly go wild as several Canopy Park attractions will open at the highest level. These include bouncing and walking nets, hedge and mirror mazes, discovery slides, foggy bowls, petal garden, topiary walk, and the canopy bridge.

Thoughtful planning
Sometimes, it’s not the bells and whistles that draw the crowd but the desire to provide good visitor experience. With its many levels of parking, one could be forgiven for forgetting where the car is parked. Here’s where a car finding system lets you enter the licence plate of the car and gives you the exact location. Now, that’s what I call “great deployment of technology”.

Thought is also given to travellers, since the mall is located at Changi Airport. Get this — up to 24 hours early check-in is available for 26 airlines, including Singapore Airlines. Those who cannot check in can store their luggage at Baggage Storage at Level 1 for between S$10 and S$45 for 24 hours. Even smaller items such as travel pillows can be stored at S$5 for 24 hours.

Asia’s first Yotelaor offers smartly designed cabins for travellers to catch some rest, work out or do some work.

Crowning glory
As such an iconic mall, Jewel will surely cement Changi Airport’s position as the world’s best airport. It’s the crowning glory to an amazing airport that I take great delight in whenever I’m travelling. I’m mesmerised and foresee that my family will be spending lots of time here, and find any excuse to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

555 Villa Thai is no laughing matter

IMG_20180826_181501Imagine Suvarnabhumi Airport right next to Changi Airport? It’s not just possible with a small scale map but right smack adjacent to Changi Airport, within a stone’s throw from Changi Prison. Of course, I’m not talking about the airport in Thailand but a sign bearing its name along with many other popular places in Bangkok, such as Chatuchak and Siam Square.

The signages are part of the decor at 555 Villa Thai, an authentic Thai restaurant tucked deep into Cosford Road. I only stumbled on this jewel while taking a walk around the neighbourhood. The curator of Changi Chapel Museum asked if I had been to Johor Battery and pointed me in that direction.

After walking past the World War Two site, I spotted a few eateries, one of which is the Thai joint.

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I decided to bring my family for a meal here on a Sunday and we were pleasantly surprised by the crowd. Makes me wonder how these folks knew about the place.

At the entrance was a tuk tuk, a popular form of transportation in Bangkok.

We asked for a table near the stage and ordered a mookata set for four which comprised various meats, seafood, vegetables, and bak kwa!

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The entire set up is so Thai that one of my Thai friends on Facebook really thought that I was in his hometown. The ambience was very Thai, as were most of the staff. Best of all, the view is to-die-for with only a small gathering of trees separating us from the runway. Every now and then, we had to pause our conversation as a plane took off or landed.

Back to the food, we opted for chicken instead of tom yum soup and it didn’t disappoint. The juices from the meats and their marinades flowed down to the soup, making it simply delicious. The only catch is that the soup area is so narrow that the ladle provided could not fit. We resorted to using our metal spoons instead, which worked perfectly because it was straight from the steamboat to the mouth.

As for the meats, they were very well marinated and tasty on their own but the chilli fan in me couldn’t resist a dip in the hot sauce.

Besides tang hoon, the set also came with a packet of instant noodles which blended really nicely with everything. If you need your carbo fix, just order a bowl of white rice or other staples from the a la carte menu.

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Having just returned from a trip to Bangkok and a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market, I had to try the coconut ice cream at 555 Villa Thai. The verdict: It’s just as good except for smaller amounts of toppings.

Even though we were dining in the open air, the place was nice, breezy (albeit with fans on) and the experience is great. Plus, the price is reasonable at around $15-20 per person.

Of yes, before I forget, a live band played on the stage from around 7.30pm. Their repertoire of songs in multiple languages and dialects took the already wonderful atmosphere to another level. I’m looking for another reason to have a meal here.

 

 

 

To Subang and back on propellors

IMG_20180620_085251Think of flying to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore and immediate thoughts are to search for a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

That was precisely what I thought when I was trying to book a trip to the Malaysian capital this week. I was surprised when someone told me that it’s better to fly to Subang to get to the office in Petaling Jaya. Subang is only about 15 minutes away from my meeting venue compared to the 45 minutes’ journey from KLIA.

I went online, did some research and booked a flight on Firefly. The price was comparable to a Malaysian Airline flight to KLIA.

When I arrived at Changi Airport on Wednesday, I was in for another surprise. Instead of boarding via an aerobridge, I had to take a bus to the parking bay where I was greeted by as ATR 72, a twin-engineย turboprop aircraft.

It brought back memories of days long ago when I hopped onto a military C130 aircraft for a joyride.

The single-aisle aircraft reminded me of the domestic flights I took in the US. When I looked around before boarding, I realised that I wasn’t the only one intrigued. Several of my fellow passengers were whipping out their smartphones and taking photos of the plane.

With such a compact feel, I was bracing myself for a bumpy ride as the sky was cloudy with light rain. Thankfully, the take-off was smooth and I managed to see more of Changi Airport than before as I was allocated a window seat. I usually pick an aisle seat but seeing that the flight was just a little over an hour, I decided that seating doesn’t really matter and it’s not worth paying to pick a seat.

IMG_20180620_151149The seat was simple with no in-flight entertainment but I was impressed by the branding on the seat belt. I’ve taken flights on many airlines but this is the first I’ve seen — OK, maybe I didn’t notice in some of the rest.

In-flight service included a snack and drinks. Fifteen minutes into the flight and the crew offered soya bean drink or mango juice and peanuts or curry puff. As I wasn’t hungry, I chose mango juice and peanuts.

Before I knew it, it was time to buckle up and prepare for landing — not that I unbuckled my seat belt in the first place.

Overall, the flight was smooth, stable, comfortable, and pleasantly quiet. I was expecting it to be louder than conventional jet but think it’s quieter.

IMG_20180620_104316The aircraft parked at the gate and it was only a short walk from the gate to the immigration counter, baggage claim and customs.

Subang Airport or Subang Skypark, now called Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, used to be the main airport for Malaysia until KLIA took over in 1998. One of my first trips overseas was to Genting Highlands and I vividly remember landing in Subang.

Today’s Subang reminds me of a smaller Don Muang Airport, which has been replaced by Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

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A friend picked me up from the Arrival driveway — nearly everyone else was taking a Grab vehicle. The trip to my meeting venue was short, very short — under 10 minutes.

My meeting itself was just a tad longer at about an hour.

After a quick lunch, I headed back to the airport for my return trip. Everything was a breeze — check in, immigration clearance and customs check.

IMG_20180620_142218On the second flight, I picked the curry puff for snack. The pastry was tasty and came with a couple of chicken bits. As it was pre-packed, it wasn’t crispy enough. There again, it’s a nice touch for a short haul flight — much better than the mainstream airlines.

IMG_20180620_154900I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of flying on the turboprop aircraft and through Subang Airport. It’s something I’d like to do again if the opportunity arises.

The sad thing is that Firefly has been reported to be shifting to Seletar Airport by the end of 2018 as Changi Airport wants to focus on purely mainstream jet aircraft.

How to get the best deal

How to get the best deal

 

Torch lightA friend of mine once told me that his purchase is better than mine because he paid more for it. He may be right if the products are of different quality but they were the same.

Not wanting to debate too much with him, I was secretly thrilled inside of me that I got the better deal.

After researching on the product and deciding that it’s what you want, it’s time to look for the best deals.

From experience, it boils down to three things: right shop, right price and right timing.

  1. Right place: The sites that you gathered information on the product may just be the right place. Some e-commerce platforms such as Amazon are massive and can list lots of shops offering the same product. And sometimes, brick-and-mortar shop can have great deals too! My family bought a Nakamichi bluetooth headset for under S$20 (usual price is about S$90) while on a trip to Changi Airport Terminal 4 in Singapore.
  2. Right price: Compare, compare, compare. Don’t buy from the first store or site, or even if the ads are shouting at you from your social media sites. I regretted big time one such incident when I bought something online without thinking twice only to find out that it was selling at less than half the price elsewhere.ย  Take time to search for the best price. Use the “sort” feature in sites such as Aliexpress.com and Lazada.sg. A word of caution. If the product is too cheap, be very cautious. It may be a good deal or a scam.
  3. Right timing: Timing is important if you’re in no rush to buy. Look out for sales and special discounts. The shop of my favourite football team offers discounts and deals regularly — sometimes even several times a week. I take advantage by looking out for “free overseas” shipping because it can save me lots.

I hope that these tips are helpful. I’ll update them if others come to mind — it’s a learning process and we don’t want others to make our same mistakes.

If you have other tips, do share with us.