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Where are the Best Airport Transit Distractions?

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by Julie Mundy (subscribe)
Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog:
Published September 22nd 2012
Surely there is nothing worse than dragging your swollen feet and befuddled jet-lagged head around the glaring duty free shops of an international airport for 5 hours between connecting flights. All you want to do is get there and start your holiday, or get home and get horizontal in a proper bed?

If that's your experience as well as mine you might be interested in some of my favourite transit airport distractions. I reckon these are the top three I have come across, but as a regular traveller, I'd love to hear of others to distract me from my long-haul economy-class crumpling:

No. 3 - The O2-Spa near Gate 28 at Dubai International Airport

Foot massage at Dubai
Foot heaven in transit at Dubai

Let's face it, other than the life-size gold camel display (and more recently the frozen yoghurt and juice bar) in the middle of the Duty-Free mayhem at Dubai International Airport, there is not much to redeem this over-full transit stop. However, if you head to the tiny little black booth between Gates 26 and 28 in Terminal 3's Concourse C , and stick your head inside, you will find two luxury lounge chairs and two wonderful masseurs with fingers and the reflexology skills to relieve your bloated legs. US$20 buys you 15 minutes of bliss, peace and the experience of a first class seat if you can't afford the real thing on board! Worth every $. Rumour has it that there is another right at the end of Concourse B, but good luck fighting your way through the crowds to get there, as it's about 3 days and a packed lunch walk away!

No. 2 - The Brow Bar at Kuala Lumpur Airport, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur Airport Brow Bar (c) JP Mundy
The Brow Bar, Kuala Lumpur

Even my somewhat over-travelled eyebrows were raised when I saw this new 'experience' shop in the middle of the KL transit satellite building. Of course, the thing one worries most about on international flights is one's facial hairiness (!) - but no more. Here in a quirky retro-feeling shop smack in the centre of the duty free shops, they can shape, wax and otherwise refine your monobrow into a thing of beauty and wonder. You can then dash off for a walk through the central atrium outdoor jungle, where no-one can hear your delayed scream of agony you really needed to have as the wax strip is ripped off!

No. 1 - The public swimming pool on the roof of Singapore's Changi Airport

Changi Airport Swimming Pool (c) Changi Airport website
The outoor swimming pool at Changi Airport

Hands-down winner for any transit airport anywhere in the world has got to be Changi. It's tranquil, full of ridiculously gorgeous exotic orchids, tinkling waterfalls, free movie theatres, hotels, free massage chairs, and you can even hire those nifty little 2 wheeled upright electric scooters to whizz about on.

Personally though, I think the well-hidden outdoor swimming pool is the best kept secret and the best way to recover in the middle of a long haul flight - it certainly has kept my kids in good travelling form for a number of years. For around $10, bring your swimmers and make your way to the outdoor pool and bar opposite the Transit Hotel in terminal one. You can float on your back in the warm water and watch the planes taking off overhead. Surreal. Your fee includes a towel, shampoo and conditioner, a shower and a free non-alcoholic drink at the pool bar.

Of course, if you forget your swimmers, you can detour up to the Butterfly Garden to suck in a bit of that famous Singapore humidity amidst the colourful butterflies which land on your head and clothes. Or alternatively have some of those little slight creepy little fish massage your feet by nibbling off the dead skin in a dedicated foot spa. If you are there for a minimum of 4 hours, you can even get whizzed off on a free 2-hour tour of Singapore. Kids are crazily catered for - in fact, if you can't afford the trip to Disneyland, spend a few days here instead: science museums, art and crafts, 12 metre slides, playgrounds, koi ponds - you name it. They may never want to go home. They certainly make it easy for you - the airport has a helpful webpage outlining all the different things you can do while there.

So, what and where is your nomination for all time best distraction while in transit? I'd love to hear from you to keep me motivated through my next brain-numbing 28 hour flight!
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Great article - monobrow????????????????
Can't come up with anything better yet... my best so far, is a film loaded onto the ipad and buying Billabong thongs in Ngurah Rai airport, Denpasar, as my child's feet had swollen on the plane, so her shoes had given her blisters. The thongs (flip flops) at least, provided not only my child some relief from her sorry, blistered feet, but myself, and the film on the ipad had provided cheaper entainment than the inflight!!! With nothing under $10 and that was snacks.... it had also helped to have some Tim-Tams in portioned snaplocks; nuts; sweet/salty popcorn - all in aforementioned snaplock bags, so portioned. We also did wraps - roast beef & baby spinach leaves, so the wrap bread wouldn't go soggy and cut in half, for ease of eating. Saves a packet! Nothing beats your suggestions, though. Changi - well, I could spend a coupla days there, too. Never mind the kids
by curiouser&curiouser (score: 2|526) 2000 days ago
Hi Curiouser - yes, I have also spent some less than inspiring moments in Denpasar airport - and BYO is definitely the way to go if you don't need to extend your mortgage during extended airport stays! J
by Julie Mundy (score: 3|1725) 1994 days ago
by liann (score: 0|2) 1967 days ago

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