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Saturday, September 09, 2017

With the talk of family holidays and solo getaways, there’s a lot to be said about the first site you set foot on in a foreign land — the airport. Pearl Mathias tells you why these five airports are in a league of their own

We were taken aback by the glamorous revamp of our international airport a few years ago. This is because we’re used to seeing airports as a mere transit point in our journey, where we sit uncomfortably for hours or hurriedly pick up a packet of chocolates for friends from the duty-free shop. However, this idea changed as the airports around the world changed, and we’re now in the league of some of the best airports across the globe. If you’re an avid traveller, you’re already aware of some of the most iconic ones around the world. If not, the next time you’re booking a trip that isn’t to one of the cities mentioned below, include them in your transit. You may think that it is an outrageous idea, but one look at them and you’ll know why the long detour will be worth it. Here are some of the best airports across the world that gives passengers a little more than just comfort and convenience — a sight to behold. 

Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Ranking eighth at the 2017 Skytrax World Airport Awards, Zurich Airport is the largest international airport in Switzerland. Also known as Kloten Airport, there are over 80 shops in the Airside Centre at which you can indulge in some shopping. You can pick Swiss souvenirs from Türler Uhren & Juwelen, which houses the world’s most famous watch brands such as Chopard and TAG Heuer, or you can head over to chocolate heaven as you stroll through the Lindt Chocolate Boutique or the Edelweiss Shop. While you’re here, try the Swiss special rösti at Marché, which offers the best of seasonal cuisine. And, if you’re in the middle of a long layover, be sure to check out the observation decks or even take a bus tour to get an exciting peek into the behind-the-scenes areas such as hangars and maintenance spaces.

Changi Airport, Singapore

With a rooftop swimming pool and jacuzzi (which offer a splendid view of planes taking off), a free 24-hour cinema, a cactus garden as well as an area featuring 500 sunflowers, it’s only fair that Singapore’s Changi Airport secures top spot at the aforementioned awards. A real treat for the senses, the airport that was opened in 1981 features five gardens that you can stroll in for a breath of fresh air. You can also pamper yourself in between flights at the spas situated at various terminals. And, if your stopover exceeds five hours, a free bus tour of the city of Singapore comes highly recommended. With TV lounges, gaming console sections and music booths set up, you may want to stick around a little longer.

Incheon International Airport, South Korea

Incheon International Airport has been ranked among the best in the world not only because of its impeccable service and facilities, but also because it allows passengers to get a feel of South Korea without them having to step out of the airport. Many cultural performances are scheduled and there are even South Korean treats that you can sample. Head over to the culture experience zones and try your hand at simple crafts that you can take home as souvenirs. Have some fun with your family as you play dress up while trying on the hanbok, the national dress of South Korea. Your layover at the airport is incomplete without a visit to one of the themed cafés here. The Charlie Brown Cafe makes it to our must-visit list. If you’re looking to pamper yourself Korean-style, book an appointment at the Yet Spa on Air and unwind in the jimjjilbang (the Korean word for bathhouse). 

Abu Dhabi International Airport, Abu Dhabi

When in Abu Dhabi, there’s no doubt that you’ll come across an array of designer and luxury brand boutiques. Although not as big as the neighbouring Dubai International Airport, its calmness works in its favour. With stark-white arches and a sleek roof design, this airport will remind you of our very own back home. And these similarities ring true because they’ve been designed by the same architectural firm. The airport also houses a library, which gives passengers an access to books in a host of languages. With a kids’ play area, you won’t have to worry about keeping your little ones entertained during a long stopover. If you don’t want to shell out big bucks on a hotel, the numerous quiet spaces at Abu Dhabi International Airport work best to catch a few hours of shut-eye.

Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong

Securing fifth place at the 2017 Skytrax World Airport Awards, and with an array of interesting activities and scrumptious cuisines, Hong Kong International Airport is one of the most striking airport hangouts in the world. Keep yourself entertained by catching a cinematic experience at Asia’s largest 4D theatre, housed inside the airport itself. Asia is known for its teas, and if you’re a tea lover or know someone who would appreciate a good box of tea, a visit to Fook Ming Tong Tea Shop is called for. And, if you suddenly find your sweet tooth acting up, try the famous wife cake (a traditional Cantonese pastry with a thin crust of flaky pastry, with a filling of winter melon, almond paste and sesame, and spiced with five spice powder) at the Kee Wah bakery. But, the highlight of the airport is the Aviation Discovery Centre, which allows visitors to get a glimpse into the life of a pilot.

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