Sunday, July 02, 2017

Can an airport be a destination?

Kolkata: Airports, for most travellers, tend to fall into two categories. The first is the shoot-me-now domain of the budget airline, where passengers are kettled into pens akin to those found in a knacker’s yard. The second is the not-as-smart-as-it-thinks international hub.

This is a place where rush-hour crowds, a dire lack of seating and offensive coffee see you trot to the gate as fast as possible. The less time spent in these vacuous, cookie-cutter hangars, the better. But - wait - there is a third.

A holy grail game-changer, with easy-on-the-wallet street food, custom furniture and vernacular architecture. And Changi Airport, on a spit of reclaimed land in Singapore, claims to be such a utopia. Here, I’ve heard, it’s not uncommon for fanatical locals to spend all weekend eating, drinking and shopping without once leaving the mall-like hive of terminals.

I have a 48-hour layover in Singapore coming up, so instead of going into the city, I’m going to have a holiday in the airport, from Saturday to Monday morning. 9.00am. Departures level, a little bleary-eyed from an overnight flight, and I’m zipping to T3 on the Skytrain, a landmark monorail that shocked everyone as Asia’s first driverless train when it opened in 1990, and now ferries passengers between the terminals. We whisk past Changi’s latest madcap attraction; the Jewel, a new, S$1.7b terminal-in-progress that’s due open in 2019.

Once finished, it will house a hedge maze, 130ft waterfall, tropical canopy walkway, and “indoorto clouds”. Barmy? Even Singaporeans think its nuts. 10.00am. Indoor clouds are just the start here at the world’s sixth busiest airport. Eyeing the airport diorama on the public concourse, it’s clear the razzamatazz is relentless.
02/07/17 Mike Maceacheran/Statesman