In Singapore, even airplanes can have paparazzi

Singapore's airport offers a good look at the super-jumbo Airbus A380. You can also check out an unofficial Apple store, try out Microsoft's Kinect, and watch koi swim. What a way to spend 18 hours.

As home to Singapore Airlines, the first carrier to fly the Airbus A380, Changi Airport is an easy place to spot the behemoth airplane. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

CHANGI AIRPORT, SINGAPORE--If you don't think airplanes can have paparazzi, consider the following scene.

I was here last month, having flown in from San Francisco the night before, only to wait about 18 hours for my flight to Calcutta, India. Carrying my camera around in search of things to photograph at what I had been told was one of the world's most-interesting airports, I spotted my most-desired prey: An Airbus A380.

But a clear view of the plane was blocked by some walls, as well as a locked gate lounge, and I couldn't figure out how best to get the shot I wanted. Looking over, I noticed another guy sporting an even better camera, trying to solve the same problem.

Just as we were both about to give up, a bathroom attendant came out of one of the terminal loos and, seeing the two of us with our Canons at the ready, and clearly recognizing what we were trying to accomplish, beckoned us to follow him back into the restroom.

Confident this wasn't a Larry Craig situation, the other fellow and I followed the attendant into the bathroom, where he quickly pointed out how, if we jumped up onto a platform behind some potted plants, there was a window facing out onto the tarmac, right in front of the A380.

Clearly, the attendant had seen a whole lot of camera-toting travelers trying to take pictures of Airbus' famous behemoth airplane. Like I said, planes can have paparazzi.

Besides what has to be a disproportionate number of A380s--the world's-largest commercial passenger plane making its initial home here as Singapore Airlines was the first carrier to take delivery of one of the double-decker monsters--Changi offers those passing through the airport a plethora of entertainment, technology, nature, and artistic options. It is home to a pseudo-Apple store, a real Sony Style store, a full-on butterfly sanctuary, orchid gardens, koi ponds, and more.

Changi Airport, in Singapore, is home to a plethora of technology that awaits travelers as they pass through, either on a quick layover, or during an 18-hour wait for their next flight. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

You can test Microsoft's new Kinect motion controller, sit and rest in front of a 103-inch plasma TV, charge any number of mobile devices, shop for Rolexes, Hermes scarves, expensive Scotch, and the latest best-sellers, even see an exhibit of the 600 daily flights out of Changi, each represented by an individual paper airplane.

And lest I get too rapturous about the bathrooms here, I'd also scoff at your skepticism about this idea: it may actually be worth flying half-way around the world for a shower. For, those staying in the airport overnight can book a room in its transit hotel which, other than being a featureless motel-like experience right inside the terminal (no passport control needed), offers what I say confidently was one of the three best showers of my life. And not only because I'd just spent 19 hours on an airplane to get there.

In short, while I would never choose to spend 18 hours in an airport, I can't think of one where I'd rather do so than Changi. Clearly, the Singaporeans--who are very humorless about things like gum (you can't chew it in the small city-state) and drugs (the immigration form makes it clear that smugglers will be put to death)--want those who have to spend a few hours in their airport to be comfortable, entertained, and have no shortage of things on which to spend their hard-earned dollars (either American or Singaporean).

 

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