There’s childlike wonder for one seeing butterflies take flight. One is awed by their beauty and serenity. It’s a sight for sore eyes and the stressed mind.
Well, if you’re in Singapore, there’s a butterfly garden that you can visit where you can experience the bliss of being surrounded by more than a thousand butterflies inside a two-level greenhouse with lush greenery and a manmade waterfall.
But what makes this butterfly garden so special is that unlike other butterfly gardens found in the heartland or in the outskirts of town, this one is found inside Singapore’s Changi Airport.
As the world’s first butterfly garden inside an airport, Changi gives travelers who’d like to spend time with nature the chance to interact with butterflies and discover the species’ life cycle as incubation units are also found in the garden.
And one needs not to worry of the aircraft noise that may cause stress to the butterflies as this garden, located in Changi’s Terminal 3, is at a safe distance from the tarmac.
Apart from the butterfly garden, flora lovers can also visit Terminal 1’s Cactus Garden and Terminal 2’s Sunflower Garden, Fern Garden and Orchid Garden. All of the plants seen in these gardens are naturally grown in a vacant lot within the airport premises.
Changi Airport Group corporate and marketing communications manager Samantha Lee said that the gardens reaffirm Singapore’s label as a garden city.
“The airport is the first and last thing a traveler sees whenever he visits a country,” Lee said. “And so, we want to maintain in the traveler’s mind the idea of Singapore as a garden city the moment he arrives and leaves Singapore.”
This holds true as travelers waiting for their luggage at Changi’s Terminal 3 are welcomed by the Green Wall, a 15-meter high vertical garden spanning 300 meters across the terminal. And upon leaving Singapore, various plants sprawl in the waiting lounges of all terminals.
Of Changi’s four terminals, Terminal 3 is the newest and possibly the most eco-friendly terminal. (The budget terminal is temporarily closed to make way for Terminal 4, which is scheduled to open in 2017.) Apart from the flora and fauna found inside, the architecture itself is a model for low-energy consumption.
Its main building roof has 919 skylight openings which allow natural sunlight into the terminal building while keeping the heat out. Replicating the flap of a butterfly’s wings, it opens wide when it’s gloomy to let more sunlight in and closes on a bright sunny day to regulate the light so as not to glare the people inside.
With an annual handling capacity of 70 million passengers, in 2011 46.5 million passengers used the airport. Thus, Lee said, they make it a point to make Changi “a breathing airport.”
City in its own
In the 2004 Tom Hanks starrer “The Terminal,” Hanks plays the role of Viktor Navorski from the fictional country of Krakozhia. Shortly after arriving in the United States, Navorski is denied entry because war has broken out in his country.
Navorski then finds himself stranded in the airport terminal unable to set foot in US soil or return to his country. For months, the airport terminal becomes his home.
Flight delays and cancellations are a traveler’s nightmare. But to be stranded and to live for days inside the airport, that’s probably even worse.
But Navorski’s fate wouldn’t have been that bad had he been stranded in Changi, an airport that is so efficient it would make one forget it’s an airport, not a city.
For a time, I’ve been hearing different stories of Changi Airport being the best place to get stranded or delayed in because there are so many things that you can do inside that you’ll forget your situation. Fair enough, there’s really so much that you can do to pass the time—from shopping to dining and doing recreational activities.
Since it’s highly unlikely that one will experience what Navorski has gone through, why not try on your next trip to Singapore to spend your last 24 hours inside Changi Airport and discover what the world’s most awarded airport has to offer. Below is a rundown of what you can do inside the airport.
Communicate with family and friends. Be it through phone or the Internet, communicating with your loved ones is not a chore inside Changi. There are 500 Internet stations located throughout the airport that you can use for free. As the whole airport is equipped with Wi-Fi, you can surf the Internet at your convenience. To gain Wi-Fi access, just approach the information counter and present your passport.
Landline phones are strategically located inside the airport. All local calls are free, so if you want to grab a quick chat with a friend who’s staying in Singapore, this service is for you. Running low on battery? Within all the terminals are free locker-style charging stations that you can use and leave your phone behind. No need to worry for the safety of your phone as every locker is equipped with a key.
Discover the world’s culinary wonders. With over 120 food and beverage outlets, one can never go hungry. Whatever your taste may be, the humble food kiosks to fine dining restaurants have you covered—from Asian to European and Mediterranean cuisines.
These outlets cater not only to travelers but also to locals as one can notice on weekends the number of families strolling inside the airport. Lee said that it has become a sort of family activity among Singaporeans to come to Changi and spend quality time and savor good food.
Shop till you drop. What’s the best way to lose those unwanted calories after a good feeding? Shop! With over 330 retail and service outlets available—from high-street brands to local brands—one will go gaga over the multitude of selections.
As a matter of fact, over the last year, Filipinos bitten by the shopping bug have emerged as the fastest growing market in Changi’s retail sector. With a growth of 23 percent, the Philippines now ranks 10th in retail spending.
With prices guaranteed not to be higher than the prevailing price, Changi data showed that the top five purchases of Filipinos are perfumes and cosmetics, liquor and tobacco, chocolates, electronics, and luxury goods.
Get ready to be entertained. It’s every gamer’s paradise at Terminal 2’s Entertainment Deck. Equipped with the latest gaming gadgets—XBox 360, XBox Kinect, Playstation 3—one can enjoy the comforts of playing just like they do at home. The best part of it, it’s for free.
While the teens are at it with the gaming consoles, kids can run their hearts out at play areas located throughout the airport. And when they’re exhausted, they can enjoy the wide array of toys or their parents can read to them stories from an assortment of books available.
If you’re the type who’s seeking for some adrenaline-pumping activity, try Terminal 3’s The Slide. This 12-m tall spiral slide is the tallest slide in an airport. It sets you off four storys at a heart-pumping speed of six meters per second.
For every single receipt purchase of S$10 (P340) at Changi Airport, you can redeem a free ride at The Slide. If you’re unsure if you can handle the 12-m slide, you can try the milder one-and-half-story slide.
If playing isn’t your stuff, why not relax and watch a movie you’ve probably missed in your local cinema. How? Well, there are two cinemas inside Terminals 2 and 3 featuring the latest blockbusters. Screenings are absolutely free and you need not to worry that you’ll miss your flight because a clock is strategically positioned at the top left side of the screen.
Just this year, Terminal 1’s upgrading was completed. Part of its upgrade is the installation of the Kinetic Rain. A sculpture made up of 1,216 bronze droplets that transform into multiple shapes akin to poetry in motion, it symbolizes the thousands in the airport community who work together every day to provide passengers and visitors a memorable experience at Changi.
With its hypnotizing beauty, the Kinetic Rain never fails to captivate visitors. One would notice the number of people watching in awe as the rain transforms into an airplane, a flock of birds and a flying fabric.
Glimpse of Singapore. Changi has around 6,200 flights each week, but many travelers arriving there don’t actually see Singapore. That’s why in 1987, Changi introduced the Free Singapore Tour, a program targeted at passengers with long layover periods.
In partnership with Singapore Airlines, the tour has two itineraries—the Heritage Tour and the City Lights Tour.
Available four times daily, the Heritage Tour includes a visit to the Colonial District, Chinatown and Merlion Park. Travelers are given at least 15 minutes to have a quick tour and take some photos of Merlion Park.
On the other hand, the City Lights Tour introduces travelers to Singapore’s pulsating nightlife. They also get a panoramic view of the city from Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade.
If you have at least five hours of layover, hurry and sign up to this tour as slots are easily filled up.
Pamper yourself. After a long day of exploring, shopping and dining, you’re surely in for that well-deserved rest. And if the airport’s the least place you think you could get that, well, while in Changi, you’d think otherwise.
There are foot-and-calf massage stations offering free 15-minute foot massage. You can also try out the fish spa at S$22 (P745) offered at the Fish Spa and Reflexology in Terminal 1.
But if you want to rest in the privacy of your room, you can stay at any Ambassador Transit Hotel at Terminals 1 to 3. At S$76.51 (P2,600) for six hours, you get a decent room with your own bathroom. If you’d like to save on cash, you can avail the budget room with common bath at S$47.08 (P1,600), also for six hours.
Although the tricky part here is that rooms in the transit hotels are always fully booked that you have to book two weeks ahead or rely on luck that they still have an extra room.
In the event you weren’t able to get a room, there’s nothing to worry about since all the terminals have rest areas equipped with specially designed snooze chairs. Or if you’re the type who gets to rest while watching, you can try Terminal 2’s Xperience Zone. With its custom-built speaker seats and large-format TV screens, resting can’t get any better than this.
Finally, refresh with a dip in Terminal 1’s rooftop open-air swimming pool and Jacuzzi. If you’re not in the mood to swim, just take a shower as all terminals of the airport have showers.
“Every interaction at the airport is defined by the Changi-service DNA—personalized, stress-free and positively surprising,” Lee said.
Truly, the garden city of Singapore has once again proven how efficiency drives progress.
Like any garden, it becomes more attractive with the presence of a butterfly—a role played by Changi. We may not see every day the rigors the people behind it undergo, but we appreciate its beauty in its every flight.