This is supposed to be the best place in the world to fly into, and I can see why.
It was almost as if the experience of arriving in Singapore by air was designed in a laboratory, tested for convenience, aesthetics, and ambiance, in an attempt to make the best airport in the world. By all accounts the experiment was a success.
The international airport is the place where many visitors are going to develop their first impressions of a country as well as their last. These impressions are often pretty accurate, as a country tends to do their airports similarly to how they do everything else. In a way, the airport can speak for an entire country. NYC Laguardia and JFK Terminal 1 and 3 say, “We don’t give a shit about you.” Bogota says, “We’re trying real hard to look better than what we really are.” Beijing says, “We will impress you.” Hong Kong says, “Welcome to the future.” Guayaquil says, “Welcome to hell.” San Jose, Costa Rica says, “Ha! I bet you thought this was going to be nice, sucker!” Iceland says, “Don’t eat whales.”
After an incredibly fast, matter of fact immigration inspection that consisted of little other than the removal of my hat and a running of my passport through the database of questionable and wanted individuals, I was through. Country number 52, or something like that.
I stood for a moment right as I walked through the arrival gate and took in the scene: in front of me was an ATM, above it was a huge sign that had all the directions anyone would need in five languages, next to that was a tourist information booth that gave out free city maps in bulk, next to that was a bathroom. If I walked to my left I could get on a bus; if I walked to my right I could get on the subway. The place wasn’t big, it wasn’t overtly special, it was just smart. There were no unsolicited persons milling about bothering people, nobody was pushing, there were no crowds, nobody yelling. A couple of guys in black slacks limply offering their services were the only taxi driver to speak of. It was kind of a lonely arrival, nobody was interested in me — and this was good. The arrivals hall appeared to be new, it even sparkled. Really. The floor twinkled, reflecting a complete image of myself stretching out towards towards the ATM that was positioned right in my path.
“Intelligent,” I kept repeating to myself.
It is no secret how good this airport is. It was voted the best airport in the world two years in a row. There is a free movie theater here, a super-slide, shopping centers that sell things that people may actually want to buy, and, apparently, there is also a butterfly garden somewhere. Literally, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The plan in Singapore is simple: find people, talk to them, see what happens.