From oxygen therapy to free movies, reflexology, swimming, video-gaming or just staring into ponds full of koi, Singapore’s Changi Airport has almost as much to offer as Singapore itself, which is good news for the in-transit traveler. Story and photographs by Tamara Pitelen.

I am into my 19th hour of a 21 hour-long stint in transit at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Maybe it’s the recycled air being pumped into every cranny of my cellular structure or the bizarre sense of time suspended – a symptom of the relentless artificial light and 24-hour services that have done away with the concept of night and day – but I am feeling strangely contemplative.

Periods of time waiting in the limbo of transit for connecting flights are an inevitable by-product of travel and are usually regarded in the negative. I’m not sure though. Transit has a bad rap and I’d like to offer another perspective because – and I’ve had a long time to think about this – I’ve concluded that the powerlessness of lengthy, incommunicado stretches in transit bring an intoxicating freedom. I am in global limbo. Officially I’m not actually in Singapore. Yet I am. Officially, legally, I am apparently not anywhere at all. So, if I fall over in a forest will I make a sound?

Ah dear Reader, my apologies – I did warn you that my mood was an introspective one. Kindly humour the philosophic ramblings triggered by hours of aimless wandering through thick-carpeted, climate-controlled lushness interspersed with frequent spells in one of the airport’s public houses. A venue called Harry’s, which boasts live jazz in the evenings, a smoking room and non-stop sport on Plasma TV screens above the bar.

Admittedly, I am sitting in Harry’s right now. I’ve settled in at one of the establishment’s small glass tables, my only companions are a silver dish of no doubt well-fingered peanuts and a rum and diet coke. It may only be noon in Singapore but I’m still on New Zealand time where it’s 6pm.

Perhaps the rum has as much to do with my mood as the recycled air (if we’re being truthful with each other, my valued Reader, I owe it to you to admit that I’m onto my third) but I feel like one of those people who report near-death experiences.

They are, apparently, between worlds for some moments – neither here nor there. There are similarities with the lot of the in-transit traveler. Although, if the limbo land between here and the after-life is anything like Changi Airport, it will be filled with happy souls asking for “just another half hour on the foot massager” before they have to return to their bodies on the operating table. Because, say what you like about the Singaporeans and, sure, they may be questionably hardline re chewing gum offences but nobody does transit like they do.

During the last 20 hours, I have taken advantage of the many free services on offer. I have spent a whole hour having my feet and calves vigorously massaged in one of the many massage chairs, called USqueeze, that are dotted around Changi’s three terminals – an area so vast, I might add, that even in 20 hours I haven’t covered more than a third of it.

Other facilities on offer at Changi include free internet access, video gaming and movies at a proper cinema as well as massage and reflexology therapists, a gym and swimming pool, hairdressing and beauty salons, as well as endless opportunities to shop, drink and eat. This place has prayer rooms, family rooms, tranquil garden areas with koi-filled ponds and an art area where you can make your own woodblock print of Singaporean icons.

In transit travelers at Singapore’s Changi Airport can get in a few laps between flights…  so remember to keep your swimming trunks in your carry-on baggage. (Source: Changi Airport)

If you’re feeling grubby, you can have a shower. If you’re knotted up, you can have a massage. If you need to sleep, you can have a six-hour stint in one of the Ambassador Transit hotels. There’s even oxygen therapy, with twenty minutes stints breathing 98 per cent pure oxygen infused with lavender essential oil.

Ah yes, there’s worse way to kill time in transit. Next time you’re held over at Singapore’s Changi Airport treat yourself where there’s everything from aromatherapy to reflexology. (Source: Changi Airport)

Me, I’ve spent a lot of time taking advantage of the many public computers with free internet connection and watching television in the Hi-D lounge. Changi is the world’s first airport to feature a full HD-themed entertainment lounge, it showcases the latest state-of-the-art interactive entertainment technology available in the world. Even for someone like me who’s never once curled her fingers around the phallic joystick of a Playstation box, it’s impressive. This is the home of the world’s largest HD Plasma screen. How big is it? A whopping 103 inches.

Big telvision sets and free movies are all very well but it would be a woman of steely resolve who could spend 21 hours in Changi Airport without shopping. This is Singapore after all. Hundreds of duty-free shops spreading as far as the eye can see. All the gorgeous designer fabulousness a girl could wish for. This is a golden opportunity to lather, splash, spray and rub all the lotions and potions most ordinary humans can’t normally afford. For me, this means a La Prairie orgy. The only limiting factor is how much surface skin I have on which to apply the horrifically-priced concoctions.

Take for example (and I did) La Prairie eye gel at S$205 for a jar not much bigger than a matchbox. My beauty editor friends tell me eye creams should be applied in rice-kernel sized amounts but clearly such advice doesn’t count when faced with a tester pot and, since arriving in transit, the skin around my peepers has been slathered every few hours with the equivalent of a plateful of biriyani. If the advertising spiel is to be believed, I’ll have the youthful skin of a 12-year-old by the time I get home.

I’m getting signs though that my time here is almost up. Strange, disembodied voices are calling me, urging me to walk towards the light.

“Calling all passengers on Singapore Airlines flight 483 bound for Dubai, your plane is now boarding. Please make your way to gate 52.”

See you on the other side.

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