If you’re a traveler, here’s a question for you: how long does it take for you to get to know a place? Is it a few days, weeks, or months? If you’re in Singapore, it can be as short as a layover.
One of the country’s sources of pride, Changi International Airport, has curated everything the tiny city-state has to offer to its guests. This way, even when you’re confined in its terminals, you can still experience what makes Singapore a first-class nation no one forgets.
Here are three things to do at Changi when you want to catch a glimpse of Singapore:
1. Walk Around an Indoor Forest
How small is Singapore? It will take almost a thousand of it to cover the entire state of Texas. And yet, proportionate to its size, it is one of the greenest spaces in Southeast Asia. All across less than 800 square kilometers are over 300 parks and four nature reserves!
It isn’t surprising then that many of its residents love to spend time outdoors. In these green pockets, they can take a stroll, hike, ride a bike, or engage in other forms of adventure alone or with their friends and family.
If you’re a transit passenger or a traveler in a rush, you may never get to meet any of these places. However, you can still enjoy a similar experience when you head to the Jewel, the latest star of the airport.
At the heart of it is the Shiseido Forest Valley, a sprawling green sanctuary bathed by natural light and complemented by the gushing sounds of the world’s indoor waterfalls called the Rain Vortex.
Here, you can engage, be amazed, and explore a lush forest that’s home to 60,000 shrubs and over 800 trees and palms that are either endemic or brought from around the world.
Around the area are various trails suitable for people of all ages (yes, including kids!). If you’re persistent and patient enough, you will eventually reach the Canopy Park for more fun. Think about bouncing on nets, getting lost in the mazes, or gliding on giant slides.
2. Taste Singapore’s Authentic Cuisines
Singapore is a cross-cultural hub, home to at least three major racial groups and hundreds more from across the globe. That’s why if you are looking for a culinary adventure, this place is it.
But if you truly want to taste the food the defines the country, look for those that serve more authentic dishes that include bak kut teh, Hainanese chicken rice, satay, and chili crab. To complete the experience, enjoy them hawker-style: sit on plain tables and chairs and line up for the food that you want.
Besides these, you can also try Peranakan meals, like laksa. Peranakan means local-born, although it refers to Chinese immigrants who lived in and around Singapore and decided to intermarry. For this reason, the food is a reflection of the combination of cultures. They can vary in taste according to the region where they came from.
Note: If you want to learn more about the Peranakan culture, visit the gallery located at level 2 of T4 (Terminal 4).
3. See the Different Art Installations
People in Singapore may be busy individuals, but many take the time to see and experience the arts. Before the pandemic, the number of those who participated in the arts and cultural scenes increased dramatically.
For instance, in 2019, at least 15 million people watched an arts and cultural event—around 2 million more than the previous year. Meanwhile, close to ten million visited heritage institutions and museums.
And although some modern artworks already reflect the influences of the West, many are still grounded on the contributions of the people’s ancestors, particularly the Chinese immigrants who brought with them not only trade but also various art forms that ranged from calligraphy to sculpture.
Changi Airport wants to highlight this less-known fact about Singapore by presenting various art installations. There’s Coming Home in level 1 Transit T3, which is an homage to a deep-rooted culture of Singaporeans: emphasis on the family.
This massive sculpture specifically spoke about the excitement that comes with being homeward-bound and returning to loved ones after a long trip.
In level 2 T2 is the Million Times, a kinetic artwork featuring dozens of clocks that tell time unpredictably until they become synchronized.
The best way to form an opinion about Singapore is to see and experience it for yourself. But on days when you can’t, a stopover at Changi is enough to give you a pretty good idea of what the country is all about. Hopefully, it will inspire you to come back, get out of the airport, and stay longer.