I’ve spent several nights in the Singapore’s Changi Airport. And when I say “nights” I am talking about 12-plus hour stretches of hanging out in an airport. Luckily, however, Changi airport is like a grown-up Disney world. They have a movie theater, restaurants, a pool, shopping for days, I mean, this airport has a butterfly garden for crying out loud. But all of these entertaining time-wasters are only available to you if you are inside the airport. Once you walk out through customs… you can’t get back in without a boarding pass. And if you have foolishly walked out at night time to take a quick tour of the city, and are flying… let’s say Delta, you will not be able to get your boarding pass issued until they open their gate at 6 a.m. The following morning. This means: you sit outside of the world’s best airport and you wait. For 16 hours. Picking up on the fact that this is not hypothetical???
So let me re-phrase. I have spent several nights out of Changi Airport
Luckily for me, I found a 24-hour Starbucks with wifi and set up camp. Editing pictures, facetiming, blogging and on the second time around, I even discovered “streaming vpn” which is a way to fool your computer into thinking you are in the US so you can access other valuable time wasters like huluplus. I caught up on an entire season of Revenge.
The first time I got locked out of Changi could have happened to anyone. I was on my way to meet my friend Lesley in Phuket, Thailand. I left Vietnam in the late afternoon. Landed in Singapore around dinner time, and was told that with a 12 hour layover I should leave the airport head down to Marina Bay Sands for dinner and the rooftop views. (Quick budget backpacking tip to get to the roof top of Marina Bay Sands for free. Say you are going to the bar. If you say you are just going up for the view, they will charge you, but if you say you are going to have a drink, it’s free.) Well, I went, I saw, I ate, and then I headed back toward the airport. My plan was to rent a room (they rent by 6 hour increments), take a shower (separate charge than the room) and get a few hours of sleep. But when I got back… I couldn’t get through customs. Here’s another fun fact. You can’t go through customs three times in the same day unless you are active duty military (as in out of one country, into another, and back out of said country). I ended up camping out on the floor, facetiming with Dane until they finally reopened the Air Asia gate and issued me my boarding pass (with lots of prodding from me) four hours early.
This time though… (two months later) was just really stupid on my part. I knew better. As soon as I walked through customs I had this sinking feeling and tried to turn around and go back. I was exhausted and not thinking clearly. I was on my way home after four months of backpacking. I had flown Tiger Airways to Changi and was supposed to collect my bags and check in with Delta to get my ticket to begin the 2-day long journey home to The States.
What I should have done was allow my bags to go to lost and found, chilled plane-side for about 10 hours, then gone through customs, checked with the lost and found, collected my bags, and checked in for my next flight the following morning. What I did though, was collect my bag and get stuck outside. Again. How HOW does this happen??? TWICE?!?! This time no one could help me. Even if I had been able to talk someone into issuing me a boarding pass, there was no one to talk to. Because Delta operates one flight a day. At 6 a.m.
Oh well, memories made and lessons learned. Obviously not well enough. But third time’s the charm. The next time I go through Changi… I will not get stuck outside. I will go to the damn butterfly garden.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.