Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Each terminal has a Transit Hotel (http://harilelahospitality.com/), where you pay as little as S$35 for six hours in a decent-sized room with a TV. There are also pay-per-use gyms (with gym clothes provided) and transit lounges. These lounges, where you pay S$30 for five hours of buffet, drinks, office services, showers and other amenities typically reserved for airline business class lounges, is, like so much of Changi, the future of airport hospitality. You can also get (for additional fees) a massage, pedicure, haircut and time in a nap room.
Inside T1 I found an impressive diversity of dining and shopping options catering to international palettes and wallets of varying sizes. The restaurants and shops (everything from 7-Eleven to Cartier) are the financial engine of Changi and even locals are lured by a tax exemption extended into the public areas and a price guarantee that doubles the refunded difference of any lower price found in downtown Singapore, part of an effort to combat airport price gouging.
It was in Terminal 1 where I decided to avail myself of a pedicure. Not a typical one, of course, but one serviced by a wading pool of flesh-eating fish. At the Fish Spa & Reflexology, in the Transfer D corner of T1, you can remove the dead skin of your travel-weary feet by immersing them in a series of pools filled with hungry fish of increasing sizes. I started with the largest size.
Though others seemed to be enjoying this novel form of public grooming, seconds after I dipped my bare feet and felt the collective suction of the swarm, I yanked them back out. The woman running the spa had seen this behaviour before. "Don't be afraid," she said. "In Turkey they have this massage, and they go in up to their necks! Try the smaller fish." Plunging my feet into another pool, small black fish with the taste for human, obscured my feet. If I had just closed my eyes, it would have felt like a million tiny fingers were massaging me. But I did not close my eyes. "Don't look at them! Don't look at them!" another employee admonished. I could feel a girlish scream rising in my lungs and saved myself that indignity by swinging my legs out - a single, committed critter still hanging from my big toe. Towelling off in defeat, I watched two other customers quietly enjoying their fish pedicures. "I find it quite relaxing," one of them said to me. To each his own at Changi.
I went in search of my own blissful moment and decided to end my visit in what is perhaps Changi's most unexpected amenity: an outdoor pool. For a mere S$13.91, I was given a towel, non-alcoholic drink at the pool's otherwise alcoholic bar, and access to a large pool and deck. It was not the best of facilities - my locker door was busted, the shallow pool was excessively chlorinated and there was nothing hot about the hot tub - but floating in a rooftop pool before getting on my flight capped off what was the most fun I have ever had in an airport and led to a deep, relaxed sleep on the plane. Next time I am in Changi, in addition to my bathing suit, I will add a pair of goggles to my carry-on.