For as long as memory serves me, we have been living in the very far East of our sunny island. It’s not much of a surprise then that our favourite hangout is one of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks: Changi Airport. Each time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say pilot (but Mum keeps insisting that I spelled it as ‘poliot’… which of course I don’t believe). I eventually ended up having three different work stints at the airport before I even entered university, but that’s a story for another day.
The airport was a big part of my growing up years really. We went there a lot (and I really mean A LOT) but didn’t fly off. I guess you could say we’re one of those thousands of people who also moulded what the airport has become today; it’s not just a place that connects Singapore to the world, it connects Singaporeans too.
When Dad was home from work in the day and used to ask us where we wanted to go for lunch, Sis and I would always scream “AIRPORT”! And we would always head to the Terminal 2 Staff Canteen at Level 6 – in the days before it was renamed as 3M – of the carpark. Without fail we would always order something from the chicken rice stall, the second stall from the entrance, even if it wasn’t chicken rice. The uncle who runs the stall had seen us grow, from when we couldn’t even look above the counter until I became taller than him. He still remembers us whenever we visit.
Of course, the trip to the airport is not just about the food. It’s also about the bookshop. How can you leave the airport without visiting the bookshop?!?! We would always, and I really mean always, head over to the bookshop whenever we go to the airport. The Times bookshop used to be at the Arrival Hall but one day it closed. We were quite sad really… until we found out that it had just moved up to the Departure Hall where it still stands now (though it’s now under the W.H. Smith chain and not Times, and now there’s a bag shop next to it to keep Mum occupied too). I think we spent more time at the bookshop than we actually did eating and walking around. At the end of it, Dad would come home with a magazine, Sis with a piece of stationery, me with a book or a comic, and mum with a headache. The book shelf in our study room is a testament to that.
And then there are the aeroplanes. A kid can never get enough of seeing them take-off and land. We would always take the walk down from the canteen through the viewing gallery and just spend some time watching the planes. That was until Sis and I discovered that the viewing gallery at Terminal 1 had an indoor playground. We would just race through to the Skytrain and head over from then on.
But time changes things, doesn’t it? Growing up meant that we have less time for family lunches so we hardly go to the canteen there anymore. New places started popping up around the East (now Tampines has THREE malls, Simpang Bedok has so many choices, and Changi City Point anyone?) and indoor playgrounds are definitely out of question.
Changi Airport still holds a special place in our lives though. Although not as frequent, we still do go there for dinner but not at the canteen. Swensen’s at the Terminal 2 Arrival Hall has become quite a favourite of ours, especially on birthdays. Visiting the bookshop has never changed. No matter the occasion – be it sending someone off, having dinner, picking someone up – we never fail to drop by our beloved hangout. Plus, it always feels like we just came back from a holiday whenever we drive past the ‘Welcome to Singapore’ sign on the way out of the airport!
Which reminds me, Dad’s birthday is coming up in a couple of days. If I was home now, guess where we would be going to celebrate?
P.S Swensen’s gives free ice-cream on your birthday! Why do you think we always head there for it? Just don’t forget to bring your IC though.