#1938 | MOCHA MONDAYS: STARBUCKS – JEMMA’S THE ARIANA

Untitled

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would like to announce that of April 2015, I have made it in life. I have made it in life because I have my own starbucks drink named sorta after me and that, of course, is one of the indicators that you have achieved the proverbial it. Along with having a castle and a pony and one of those useless glittery chandeliers.

It’s a funny story: remember the joke post I wrote awhile back – The Ultimate Starbucks Marketing Plan where I detailed the masterplan behind Starbucks’ global domination and monopoly of all future uses of the word viral marketing campaign? Remember how later on they emailed me saying We saw your post, and it’s cool, but a little hard to implement…? And remember how I ended up being invited down by the local Starbucks PR team to visit the Most Beautiful Starbucks in Singapore as featured in one of my previous Mocha Mondays posts?

Well, a while after that, Starbucks asked me out for coffee again, vaguely excited about something they refused to even hint at. I sat down with Steph, their PR girl, and she leaned across the table and said in a low, thrilled hum: Remember how you talked about that Ariana?

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Untitled

The Jemma for Starbucks drink is a collaboration for this year’s Starbucks Summer campaign, but it can be ordered anytime as long as you know how to do it. I went back down to the Most Beautiful Starbucks in the World to try my hand at creating a frap – and in my head, I had this fantastic idea where I’d be shaking a bunch of ingredients together looking cool doing so (in my fantasy I could roll the silver shaker up and down my arm: in retrospect I might have been thinking of a martini shaker..) while everyone else looked on impressed. And when I took my first sip there would be a moment of white, dazzling, clarity, and I would know that this Ariana was the one.

It didn’t happen.

I don’t think there could possibly have been a worse barista than me in the history of ever. I think it was apparent almost immediately that I had no flair for drink creation whatsoever. The first drink I made was met with tentative sips and furtively exchanged glances. There was no Aha! moment.

”What dyou think? I asked, tentatively.
Everyone else exchanged glances.
”It’s… interesting.”

And everyone knows interesting is just code for you suck, so I pressed on. I must have wasted two cows full of non-fat dairy that day – so many half-abandoned carcasses of almost-arianas. It was nearly three full hours later that I stopped, feeling defeated, with something resembling an Ariana. It was a triple tea concoction with blended java and an espresso shot poured in affrogato-style. It sounded very fancy and hipster and I think that’s where the similarity to Ariana ended. Still, it was something. It was kind of tasty.

”I think we might have it.” I ventured bravely.
Everyone else nodded. ”We’ll ring it up. Congratulations – you made your Ariana!”

And that might have been it, if not for the fact that a couple of days after, I received a call from Starbucks.

We’re so sorry..” they said, “but some of the stores cant do it because of ingredient complications. We’re going to have to try again at creating a drink. We’re terribly sorry. Do you mind?

But I didn’t mind. It was a chance at redemption! Hope flooded me anew. Ariana v2 – another shot at the elusive Aha moment!

Such and such and that was how I found myself at a quiet Starbucks tucked away in a corner of Tampines one Saturday morning at eight. This time I was prepared. Previously I assumed an automatic connection, love at first sight, all that jazz. This time I did research. I armed myself with literature on flavours that worked and didn’t work. Flavours that complemented each other. I must have studied the Starbucks secret menu three times over for inspiration and ideas. I was ready.

And that, kids, is living proof that you can study your way into anything. University, jobs, or Starbucks. The first drink we made was a raspberry flavoured concoction that was slightly sweet and mostly confusing. The second attempt we thought about the sensations of comfort. Mornings in my dorm in Germany, waking up to the smell of chai brewing on the stove as my neighbours made their own chai tea from scratch. I opened my eyes: I like chai. Too bad it’s a tea.

The head barista, Haidar, regarded me thoughtfully. Yes – but it can be a frap.

We all exchanged a look. Could it be? I dared not hope.

Quietly, we pumped some chai in a cup (less sweet), with soy milk (wouldn’t Ariana drink her coffee with soy?), and blended some Java chips in (she does have a little edge, doesn’t she?). It shook away cheerfully in the blender. Haidar took it off the machine and poured it out. We all stuck straws in it and took a sip.

A beat.

And then – Aha!

My baby! I’ve never felt more like a proud parent, ever. It was undeniable – this was the one. We experimented with a couple of variations, full milk, an espresso shot, etc etc, but we tended back to the original always – you know, when you know, you just know. If it sounds cheesy that’s because it is. We had found our Ariana.

Untitled

If you’ve been following me on instagram you’ll already know that it’s been implemented all over Singapore as a kind of wink wink insiders only secret club drink – flash my instagram picture over any Starbucks counter and have them make it for you. The response has been incredible – people have been tagging me on twitter, instagram, everywhere – and I adore how everyone seems to love it, it’s been incredibly overwhelming and a little bit surreal, to be completely honest. I still cant believe it sometimes. And I’m so grateful to the entire team for giving me this opportunity and holding my hand through the whole thing!

Untitled

Missing Steph, who couldn’t make it down for our retry

So even though that’s the official name – Jemma’s The Ariana – it really is only called that because Jemma, The Starbucks PR team, and Haidar the Tampines West Starbucks Barista’s The Ariana is a bit too much of a mouthful. It was what it was because of the entire team – everyone was consistently giving suggestions and candid feedback, and honestly, no one knows a Starbucks drink better than a Starbucks barista – it just wouldn’t have been possible without Haidar’s input. Consequently I refer to it as My Dream Drinks Team’s Ariana in my head, even though it’s officially called Jemma’s The Ariana.

Here’s the proper ordering convention if you want to have a go at the Ariana – 1 x chai tea frap, + soy milk, + java chip, – less sweet. The idea was to use existing ingredients in a completely new way so people everywhere could try it forever as opposed to if you bring in new and seasonal ingredients, and in any case, Starbucks fraps are customisable so you can actually personalise your Ariana even more or make a completely new drink on your own!

I put this out on instagram awhile back, and have been consistently instagramming my Arianas and encouraging others to do the same ever since – surely flooding everyone’s feed, because finally Edwin commented in one of my whatsapp chats:

Wah Jem you got your own Starbucks drink ah. Made it in life leh.

As I stared at the message on my phone a slow grin crept up on me, a eureka sort of realisation, which brings us back to the beginning of this post: I have made it in life. Even without that pony I always wanted. I held on to this thought as I turned to the boyfriend and announced: Baby, I’ve made it! He stared at me placatingly and said Sure you have, bunny, and I settled back down, content.

Thank you, Starbucks. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I can now retire in peace.

x
♥jem

Untitled

Thank you – I hope you guys liked it as much as I did :)


Nota Bene: If this post was melodramatic and exaggerated it was only in good humor – I REGRET NOTHING. Mocha Mondays will return to its regular cafe features in the following weeks.

#1937 | 24 Hours

IMG_1894
IMG_2092


Pictures taken at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, which has a very photogenic bathroom

I get way too many questions on my study/ work/ balancing technique when the fact is, I don’t have a technique beyond just doing it. Still, between that and my love for Harpers Bazaar’s 24 hour feature, I thought it’d be a fun thing to do my own version of 24hours in what my typical day looks like, and you guys can make of it what you will. Yes? Yes. Here we go:

9:00AM: My alarm always goes off at 9am – an annoying barrage of electronic beeps and shrieks – and I always turn it off immediately. I never wake up right when my alarm rings, so I don’t know why I set it so early. I’ve reasoned it out before and I think it’s a secret tendency towards self-immolation.

9:30AM: I drag myself out of bed and scroll through instagram/twitter for the the RSS on what’s going on around me visually and news-wise (twitter). Yep, I’m one of those people. I know all the news sites say it’s the worst habit but I can’t kick it.. and besides, I always get some form of useless entertainment from twitter like a life hack or some punny joke that brings joy to my morning lol.

DSC_1433

Benta Berry and GinZing Origins moisturizer

9:45: I get up. I wash up. I make my first coffee of the day. I feed my cat. I try to remember to moisturise. Right now I use my Benta Berry trifecta for face-washing and also Origins GinZing moisturiser because it’s so light and suitable for daytime use. Most of the time I forget, so I used to have a little post-it note that goes MOISTURISE OR YOU’LL BE AN OLD HAG on my dresser. I crumpled it up and threw it away after day three because i still forgot anyway and i decided i didn’t need that sort of negativity in my life.

IMG_0024

10AM: From ten to twelve everyday I either go to the gym or go driving. I’m pretty hardcore with my driving lessons right now because my years of failing at daytona have magically made me somewhat okay at driving. Also, someone told me that if you get your license this year it has the SG50 logo on it, and I’m a sucker for limited edition shit like that, okay? Either way, I’ve been driving nonstop. If I don’t have driving lessons scheduled that morning, I’ll be at the gym running or meeting my personal trainer. Ironically, I find it easier to drag myself to the gym when it’s not the holidays. I’m that kind of person – I need order in my life – and I highly recommend implementing some form of discipline in your life, be it waking up everyday to run or play the piano or make your bed.. you’ll find that having some routine or order will benefit your productivity through the day exponentially.

Be that as it may, my walks to the gym are often punctuated with me grumbling my personal trainer is trying to kill me i swear.

12noon: Shower, get home, cook lunch. I make my own lunches a lot, because I hate ordering off a menu and getting stuff I don’t want. At home I can have a full meal of salmon and egg without having to haggle with the waiter to swap my beans or fries out for a sunny side up egg or something, you know?

DSC_8360

1pm: I get ready to go out. I rarely stay home to do work, because there are just too many distractions – my sisters will invariably be yelling about something or other at home, or my mother will want to HTHT, or my cat will start mewing for food even when she was just fed by someone else. That cat is a great case study in obesity. All she does is sleep and eat. Anyway, doing my hair and make up is something I’ve honed down to a fifteen minute olympic-level event, if I’m just going out casually.

I won’t leave the house without at least straightening or curling my hair a little, because I feel like it makes a huge difference to one’s entire look. Yep, still using the Bosch 2-in-1 re: my 2014 Favourites post. Nope, don’t foresee myself switching it up anytime soon. I bought mine for approximately $90 in the departmental stores, but a reader recently dropped me a message to say that it’s available online for $65, with free delivery. Dammit.

While my curler is heating up, I do my make up. This is basically the most exciting part of my day because I have a lot of fun painting my face on. I’m a girl, okay? I get to be frivolous if I want to. Society says so.

IMG_1925IMG_1918

Naked Skin Ultra Definition Powder Foundation

For shoot days, I go full out: foundation, bronzer, lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, falsies, setting and primer sprays, primer potions, ETCETERA ETCETERA ETCETERA. On casual days, I used to just put on eyeliner + bronzer + lipstick (optional), but I’ve been ridiculously, ridiculously addicted to this foundation by Urban Decay lately, which is ridiculous because I don’t even use foundation normally. You know I mean it because I used the word ridiculous in two variations three times. And I’m a lit major.

I still try not to use it every single day because I don’t want to put too much stuff on my face if I don’t have to, but I really do adore the silky way this feels. It’s incredibly light and matte and I can’t stop gushing about it! I use it whenever if I feel like my face is a little shiny that day (not really heavy coverage, i think, just matte-ifying in general), and I think it’s really gotten me into foundation when previously I didn’t really give two hoots about it. Now I just want to try all the different products so I can look like one of those matte skinned girls in advertisements all the time lol. I know, I know, it’s probably airbrushed. Still.

It coincidentally goes really well with it’s companion product, the Naked Skin Liquid Concealer.

IMG_1955IMG_1963

This is the way you’re supposed to apply concealer to your undereye..

Another thing I don’t use often, but recent circumstances have made the concealer a little too necessary for my liking – late nights, too much coffee… it’s the life of a final year student for you. Thank goodness I’m all but done now.

I’m still using MAC’s gel liner for my eyes, and I’ve got an unreasonably number of eyeliner brushes littering my dresser, from korea, japan, and random drugstores, because I keep misplacing them. I buy the MAC gel liner so often that I’ve started stocking up on them only when I go abroad, because I use the pots up super fast and I might as well get the three dollar or so discount on each pot.

I should probably clarify that since my eye accident in November, I’m no longer doing monthly eyelash extensions even though I love them so much because my doctor doesn’t want me to. Instead, on casual days I’m using the UD Perversion mascara and the Benefit They’re Real! mascara interchangeably, with the UD Subversion lash primer beforehand. When I have shoots, I use false lashes from Korea (they were a gift and I can’t read the brand name in korean) with Ardell eyelash glue, available in SaSa.

DSC_1444

The NAKED ON THE RUN palette

Here’s my travel make up palette, that I’ve been burning through, because I use some bit of it every single day.. It comes with a full sized rose lipgloss, which I surprisingly really like, given that I typically don’t enjoy using lip glosses, and what’s apparently the travel sized versions of their Perversion Mascara and 24/7 glide on eyeliner in Stag. They look pretty full sized to me though.

Lips wise, my favourite is still UD’s Revolution line in 69, which is this really strong red. But I’ve been trying sheer colors of late as well, because, you know, springtime and all that, and thankfully UD produces the same shades in a sheer finish as well.

IMG_2067

The number of lipsticks I have on my dresser is insane. What I do, actually, is pop two lipsticks in each handbag I have, just so I can always touch up my lip color on the go. Even though I personally prefer the finish of matte lipsticks, I have to say, the sheer ones glide on much easier and feel more.. moisturising. If that makes sense.

IMG_2082IMG_2044IMG_2002IMG_1998IMG_2048

unsure if blotting or singing karaoke

One of my girlfriends told me when I was 18 – lipstick should stain, not stack. It makes sense. I hate when your lipstick stains your teeth, and besides that finger/straw trick everyone talks about, one other thing that’s quite essential post lipstick-application is blotting – pressing a tissue gently to your lips

And then when I have shoots, or if I know i’m going to be out all day, I use a finishing spray. The one by Urban Decay lasts a long time because it’s just light mist, and I believe the particular model I use (all nighter) was created in collaboration with bridal finishing spray brand Skindinavia. I’m unsure if this is an unintentional side effect, but I find that beyond making my make up stay on longer, it prevents me from getting those bright red spots of shine when out and about in Singapore weather. So – not exactly oil control, but pretty decent for helping you stay relatively matte.

A great thing that’s happened in terms of Beauty for me is my finally gearing up and getting my brows done professionally, which I think I can safely say is one of the best decisions I’ve made of late. A few companies have approached me regarding brow embroidery, but the concept has always been kind of scary to me – commitment phobia taken to a skin level, maybe? Anyway, after a couple of my friends paid to get theirs done, I was convinced.. so I finally said ok to one of the companies, Erabelle, because I have friends who are paying customers there and because they’re quite reputable in the field. Best decision ever! I wake up everyday with perfect brows now lol.

IMG_1871

On top of that, I’ve come to occasionally play around with this clip on fringe from Jean Yip – it’s a trend trickled down from Korea, and gives girls the opportunity to have temporary bangs without having to commit to actually cutting their fringe. Me, I just want my sideswiped bangs to look fuller.

DSC_0968DSC_0979

With and Without the clip on. You can kind of really see the difference, no?
(I’m using the UD Revolution lipstick in shade 69 for the first pic. It really is as intense as I want my reds to be.)

Ha ha ha ha despite the fact that it was a longass chunk of words, that only takes about 15-20 minutes in my daily routine. I told you I was olympic-level when it comes to make up application.

1:30PM: I head out.

If it’s shoot day, I go to the studio or wherever that day’s shoot is.

UntitledUntitled

While my hair and make up is being done, I swing between enjoying it and struggling with how disgusted I am by my privilege. There was this once I was sitting there with five different people working on me – two on hair, one on nails, one on toenails, one on make up – and I looked up and thought to myself what am I doing?! It was ridiculous. I felt so incredibly spoilt. I get that it’s all part of the job but being so fussed over sometimes makes me want to stand up and laugh and ask everyone if this is all some kind of joke.. well. Don’t get me wrong, I love every part of what I do, but sometimes I wonder if these ‘job perks’ will cultivate a sort of entitlement or headiness that comes not with due diligence but with the dizzy smell of aerosol. Anyway!

If it’s not a shoot day, I head out to get work done. I generally do work alone, in some air conditioned cafe. My criteria for working cafes are simple – airconditioning, steady wifi, powerpoints. I don’t even need fantastic coffee – I just need somewhere to sit and not be disturbed. I document my attempts to find the perfect cafe in my Mocha Mondays series. The search is still on.

I tend to go out and do work alone. The reason why is really, really, basic: you get more work done alone. I don’t know why people try to convince themselves otherwise. I used to pretend that studying or working with other people around was effective – in my JC/ secondary school days I’d make plans to study out with friends, but it’s so clear in retrospect that studying then was a social activity. You end up talking about the meaning of life more than you do study, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. I made a lot of great friends during my “studying out” period back in JC/secondary school, but not a lot of headway in terms of work.

Untitled

I try to get at least three to four hours of solid writing done a day. Whether it’s articles for my blog, or freewriting, or fiction. When I was still working on my FYP I would spend my full three to four hours writing, rewriting, and editing my pieces.

At any one point in time I have at least two writing projects going on, so that if I get tired of one I can switch to the other. And if I can’t write – writers block, blah blah – I read. Whatever time I don’t spend writing, I spend reading. I’m a firm believer of the idea that a bad book can do much more damage to someone than not reading at all, so if I can’t find anything new and good to read I re-read books I love for various reasons – style, voice, plot, etc.

I don’t listen to music when I’m working or reading because I don’t believe it helps you focus unless it’s white noise – but I do plug in my noise cancelling earphones just to block out noise. Right now I’m using a pretty pair from Sudio Sweden that works pretty well for my purposes. They’re a brand that tries to deliver quality headphones at a fraction of the usual cost. The boyfriend and I are both using their products – they sent us a couple’s set.

Untitled

7pm: is the next time I should be looking up from my work, hopefully to get dinner or something like that. If I’ve got a close girlfriend or my boyfriend in the area, I meet them to grab a bite. Otherwise, I just buy something from wherever’s near where I’m working. If I’m eating alone, I do a takeout and eat while watching an old episode of FRIENDS or something. Dinner for me is always a mixed bag. If I’ve been working all day, chances are I won’t have the appetite for a real dinner, because caffeine always makes me feel slightly queasy, especially when mixed with too much staring at the screen. It’s either that, or I get crazy hungry, and walk around looking for sushi and eggs till I procure them somehow. I really get the most specific cravings.

8pm: Back to work. When I start getting tired at night, I switch to ‘official work mode’ ie. I reply emails, I post process pictures, I edit layouts. These are things that don’t require as much active brain space – save the creative stuff, the writing, absorbing, studying, whatever, for when you’re the most alert. When I switch back to official work mode, I plug in, pull up whatever playlist is on my recent obsessions on spotify, and unwind while getting pictures edited and emails replied.

_DSC0032

11pm: On good days, I wrap up about 11pm wherever I am and grab an uber home. I freakin love uber, because it doesn’t charge for the after 5pm/ after midnight surcharge, and doesn’t charge for the CBD pick up surcharge either. I spend way too much money on Ubers, actually, but the way I see it, it’s an investment because 1. i really just zone out in ubers and relax, 2. the time spent in a car vs the time spent on public transport is insane and 3. i’ve had a long day, ok? let me chill. If you’re a first time user, jeq1l is my code and you’ll get 10 bucks off.

12midnight: Back home, I shower and consider my options. After showering I am invariably wide awake. I could mentally pig out on a couple of FRIENDS episodes I’ve watched five times already, and then go to sleep, or I could get more work done. There’s always more work to be done. If it’s anywhere near cram time, this isn’t even an option. Exam periods see me studying way into the night, because it’s dead quiet and nobody but the cat is awake to bug me. If not, I nua around at night and read or watch FRIENDS till it’s time to sleep. Either way, I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep because otherwise it eats into the next day’s productivity and it’s just not worth it.

And lastly,
An indefinite time in the dead of the night: Bedtime.

x
♥jem

#1936| How I add handwriting to my pictures!

how to write on pictures


Pictures in this post taken with the Nikon D5500

Hey guys,

Ever since my last post on Tokyo, I’ve gotten a crazy number of emails asking me how I add font to my pictures. After the first few questions, I thought to myself This is ridiculous. I’m just copy-pasting all my answers. And so that’s how I ended up here today, penning one post to end them all: How I add font to my pictures!

So, firstly, to clear the air. It’s not a font, it’s handwriting. Ie. Not handwriting font, it’s my handwriting. As in, I scribbled it.

how to write on pictures2

Sometime last year, I bought a Wacom Bamboo Pad. It’s the most basic of drawing tablets from the Wacom line, and it comes in wired/wireless variation. You can get it online or in stores (I bought mine at Funan), and the wireless version set me back about eighty bucks or something, I don’t remember. Cheaper for the USB version.

With the Bamboo Pad, you can do very basic handwriting and sketching. If you’re hardcore into drawing and all that you might want to get something from their more expensive range, but it wasnt necessary for me. It’s very neat because it’s a tiny tablet i can carry everywhere with me, and it’s got a docking station for the stylus and USB dongle so you don’t have to carry a bunch of different parts around with you all the time!! Love. I bring it with me when I’m out and about traveling or doing work at a cafe or whatever, and it slips into a handbag just fine.

I use my Bamboo Pad with Autodesk Sketchbook on the computer. You can also use it with Photoshop/ Photoshop Elements, which I don’t have, and I personally feel like Autodesk is more straightforward since you only use it to draw and not to edit everything else, so it takes up less space on your computer and runs faster too.

how to write on pictures5

There’s a free basic version, but I’m paying about 25USD/year for the Pro version, which includes a bunch of brushes and a whole range of copic marker colors. From there, I import my pictures and scribble on them. You can also use the paintbrushes or smudge brushes to actually draw – I believe a lot of illustrators use Sketchbook! – but I mainly stick to scribbling and using it to sign documents on the computer itself so I don’t have to print, sign, and scan it back :)

how to write on pictures4

And honestly, that’s it. It’s super simple. That’s how I draw, scribble, and handwrite on my pictures. When I started using it I found it a little clunky, but this is really a case of practice making perfect – it’s really fast and easy to do the scribbling now, and it gives your pictures so much more character, don’t you think?

Right, I hope this short post was informative/helpful to you. Have fun trying it out, you guys! :)

x
♥jem

#1935 | The Broke Student’s Guide To Tokyo

lets talk tokyo1D50_2783transport7


Pictures in this post taken with the Nikon D5500

I made my virgin trip to Japan this year, and I fell in love with the country so much I booked my next trip there immediately upon my return. There’s just something about Japan that converts people to the country..

We did Tokyo in April. Metropolitan hub of Asia. A Hollywood favourite. The subject of multiple pop songs over the years. It was everything I’d dreamed of and more. It rained the entire time we were there, and usually that messes up your entire trip, but even in the rain we were wandering around the city, faces tilted up in wonder, so incredibly and blatantly happy. Thinking: I can’t believe it took me this long to make it to Japan.

So here I am as usual, pining after the city post trip, and working it off by immortalising it in words. I feel like there is this conception that Japan is very expensive – and it is, I’m sure, compared to its other Asian destination counterparts. But I did Tokyo, supposedly the most expensive japanese city, on an extremely low budget, and it was pretty much the best trip I’ve had this year so far. Which means that you can do Tokyo without going bankrupt. And here’s how:


japan
5D4N in Tokyo – A Note:

I didn’t go to Japan with the conscious decision to craft a very nitty gritty BSG, so you wont get the same kind of cost breakdown you do with my Phuket BSG. I did, however, have a rough notion hanging at the back of my head that i didn’t want to bankrupt myself on the trip, so as and when cost-effective options came up, I made a mental note, which is what I’ll be documenting in this post.


emoji whee
Flying to Japan

I planned to fly in during cherry blossom season, and I don’t think I could have done tokyo at a better period! Cherry blossom season is truly a new brand of magical. But because everyone wants a piece of this magic, flights and accommodation tends to be slightly jacked up during this period – which means you won’t get any super deals on flights, I guess. I paid 590SGD for a return fare, no checked luggage, with Air Asia X. It was already considered a ‘deal’ fare, which is just as well.

Two months later, my friend booked a return trip to Tokyo on a super-deal fare for SGD270 return. That’s something that is nearly impossible during cherry blossom season, but I guess the payoff for a higher fare in April is that you get to frolic in pink fields of falling blossom petals, which is something I feel is totally worth it

General Budgeting

There’s never been a better time to go to Japan – the yen is at an all time low. Trust me, I’m not just speaking out of my ass: the boyfriend’s brother works in the Bank of Tokyo, so I really do know, okay? It’s a good time to go.

Everyone told me that a hundred SGD worth of yen per day is a good gauge for conversion. Well, I did that, and I had so much money leftover I spent it all on a ridiculous number of tokyo banana boxes. The main thing you spend on each day is that transport pass. Other than that, it’s just street food, snacking, and meals. I didn’t shop much because that wasn’t why I was in Japan, but I did go to shopping areas to soak up the vibe. And for every must try food thing, we bought one and split it between us – I honestly think that’s a large part of the reason we got to try so much and spend so little. It was awesome!

Accommodation

accomodation in tokyoD50_3295
apartment view

On the one sunny day we had..

Accommodation and transport are quite closely linked when planning for Tokyo. I’ll explain why later. For now, just know that you should definitely be looking to book a place on the JR Yamanote Line, because Strategic Accommodation Planning, ok?

I booked a private room in this darling traditional japanese apartment on Airbnb, which was located in Meijiro, in the Shinjuku area. I picked this apartment for several reasons:

1. I wanted somewhere that would afford me a traditional japanese experience. I didn’t want to just check into an ubiquitous modern apartment that I can find in, say, hongkong or bangkok. Japan is known for their traditional apartments, and I wanted the full experience! I wanted to sleep on the floor! On that futon thing!

transport1transport2

Going full jap with this traditional room + the best cup noodles of my life..

2. I specifically booked a private room with a host because I was going to be in a new country where I knew nobody and wasn’t familiar with the language. I wanted to have someone to talk to about recommendations in the area, about Tokyo in general, and I wanted to spend extensive time with someone who’d been naturalised into Tokyo. That someone was Catherine, a Frenchwoman who’s been living in Japan, and I swear, the recommendations she gave us… it was like living with a very detailed secret version of wikipedia.

airbnb catherineD50_2330

Gathering around the traditional japanese tatami – the best alternative to a sofa ever! It heats up and your legs get all warm and toasty in the winter. It’s superbly comfortable.

3. The apartment was reasonably priced and well located. Still on the JR Yamanote line within the Shinjuku area, but a couple of train stops from Shinjuku centre itself. This meant that it would be easy to get to and fro places, things would still be affordable in my area, but also that it wouldn’t be superbly noisy or expensive.

D50_2332

A good part of town – the main street out from where we stayed.

Lex and I arrived in Japan separately – she arrived about twelve hours earlier than me. Catherine met Lex at the train station and walked her in, showing her the shortcuts to our apartment and pointing out the best hidden gems along the way. We would have been hopelessly lost without her, I think: Lex later told me that she asked Catherine how people navigated their ways in the neighbourhoods since only the main roads had proper street names.

“We call them by the name of our neighbours. So, a Japanese person would say, you enter at Mr X’s street, turn at Mrs Y’s house, and walk straight till you see Madam Z’s blossom tree.”

Staying with a host you get accidental gems like that. This meant nothing to Catherine but it amused Lex and I for days.

Untitled

Late night home cooked dinners with Catherine – not a very good photo I’m afraid, I took it on my iPhone hurriedly before digging in

Here are some other things you save on when living with a host. Much like our airbnb apartment stay in Bangkok, she provided us with train cards so we wouldn’t have to buy one and load it up. She also gave us this wifi egg which was useful when Lex and I were occasionally separated because then we could contact each other – I brought along my own wifi egg from y5buddy of course, but I imagine this would be especially useful for travellers who were intending to rely on wifi the entire trip to save costs :)

Beyond that, she was also always contactable (and very quickly so!) via LINE chat, which is a popular mode of contact for airbnb hosts, I’ve realised. The three of us had a LINE chat group a week before our arrival in Tokyo, and we were happily making plans on it the whole time. When there, she would check in with us randomly and answer all our sudden questions when we were out and about. And honestly.. I think half of our itinerary came from her. It was awesome! More specifics on that later..


tq cat

PS. You can read more about how to pick an airbnb apartment on my Broke Student’s Guide to Accommodation in Europe post. Different continent, same underlying rules.

Transport in Tokyo

transport

Remember how I mentioned earlier about staying on the JR Yamanote Line? Now’s where I explain that.

Everyone says that transport in Japan is superbly expensive, but I actually find it ok, compared to Singapore. It can be a little confusing, but it’s workable, and very, very efficient. Basically, the whole of Tokyo is covered in the criss cross of train lines. You can view the full train map here. Getting around Tokyo can be done a few ways:

1. With a JR pass.
You can get those passes that give you access to all trains in Japan. Yknw, intercity, within the city, whatever. They also cover most of the local trains, so that’s convenient. But they cost upward of two hundred dollars for a week (i think?) and usually people only get them if they’re travelling to a few japanese cities.

2. On a per trip basis.
This is basically like every other transport system where you top up stored value into the card (provided by the airbnb host, otherwise you’ll have to purchase one) and then tap in and out of the train gantries. This works if you’re intending to venture to places a bit further, but it tends to be rather costly because if I’m not wrong it’s something like two singaporean bucks for every couple of stops.

Untitled

On one of the very quiet and efficient trains lol

3. With a localised JR pass.
This is what I used every day I was there. There’s this daily pass you can purchase called the JR Yamanote Line Pass, and it costs 730Yen/day. It covers all the stops on the JR Yamanote line, which is a loop line, and it’s the best line in all of Tokyo in my opinion because if it’s your first time in Tokyo, it covers all the places tourists will want to go. Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Ueno, Akihabara, Tokyo Station.. they’re all on the JR Yamanote line. And of course, so is Meijiro, which is where I stayed.

I only ventured out of the JR Yamanote line a couple of times. To and fro the airport, obviously. To Disneyland, which is far out of the city centre. And once more, to the tsukiji fish market for brunch on Catherine’s recommendation. Otherwise, I was exploring all the areas on the JR Yamanote line, and trust me – that’s enough to keep your hands full for days.

shibuya

A rough itinerary

So, this is where I try to flesh out the details of my trip. I won’t be going into Disneyland here, because I think that’s a post for another day. Instead, I’ll list the places I visited by area and other memorable things about the place! Besides the tsukiji fish market, they’re all on the Yamanote line, which only serves to reinforce my point that you should definitely stay on the JR Yamanote line. You can view my listing here.

Shinjuku

pokemon center tokyo3shinjuku gyoenD50_2648D50_2565D50_2726

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 3 train stops.

Shinjuku is the centre of Tokyo, according to Catherine. The place is a massive attack on one’s senses, with neon lights and japanese signs screaming out at you. I loved it. It felt very cosmopolitan in a japanese way, as opposed to shibuya which just felt cosmopolitan. On Catherine’s recommendation, we headed to Shinjuku Gyoen which was about ten minutes walk from the station to try and catch the last of the cherry blossoms: and as you can see, we were very happily successful. It was gorgeous. Entry to the Gyoen is 200Yen, I believe, which is completely worth your money.

D50_2737D50_2756

Ichiran: a must try

Shinjuku is also where you can find Ichiran, one of those bucket list ramen places that can and will change your life. I still dream about it sometimes: it was so good.

pokemon center tokyo2tokyo skyline

I returned to Shinjuku a couple of times – on my last day again, on Catherine’s recommendation, I headed to the Tokyo Government Building on the fringe of Shinjuku to get a view of the city skyline. It’s pretty popular with the tourists – I settled myself in a piano bar and had a latte while gazing down on all of Tokyo. Pretty surreal experience.

Akihabara

transport3D50_2808transport6

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 11 train stops.

Akihabara is geek fantasy land. It felt the most japanese to us of all the places we hit – giant, flashing, neon buildings with anime characters plastered all over them, rows and rows of arcades and game canters, dedicated comic book and gachapon shops… it felt like we’d stepped into an Otaku’s fantasy. Which, funnily enough, is what Akihabara is nicknamed to be. Spent nothing, but had a good time walking around.

Shibuya

transport4transport5harajuku crepes 1

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 6 train stops.

Shibuya is another one of the more iconic places in Tokyo. I think it’s probably a close tussle between Shibuya and Shinjuku for most iconic. Shibuya is home to the famous Shibuya crossing, which, I don’t care what anyone else says, is a damn mess. The entire place is swarming with people and I expected to feel like it was a more momentous thing, being amongst the thronging jumble cross walking crowds, but all I felt was claustrophobic. It’s a huge shopping district, with Shibuya 109 (not keen on it, personally), and giant Muji/Tokyu Hands stores, but what I liked most about Shibuya was slipping into its tiny streets and discovering gems like the Standing Sushi Bar we had such an amazing dinner at.

Harajuku

ikebukuro1harajuku crepes

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 5 train stops.

Harajuku! When you get off the train at harajuku, the japanese recorded voice heralds your arrival: hallajuuuukuuuu. It’s cute, which is basically what all of Harajuku is: cute. Harajuku is the bright, goth-punk, hotbed of youth culture in Tokyo, and you’ll find cosplay and neoprint shops here amongst other things. If you find cosplaying a little too hardcore a venture into Jap youth culture, drop by a neoprint store instead. They’re only four bucks per machine, which works out to two bucks per person, and the technology is amaaazing. A great way to dabble into cutesy jap youth culture at low cost.

Ikebukuro

ikebukuropokemon center tokyopokemon center tokyo1

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 1 train stop.

Ikebukuro felt pretty heartland to me – but then again we were there with single minded determination and purpose: to get to the Pokecenter in Sunshine City! Geeking out, as always. I thought I went crazy, picking out soft toys and other collectibles I will never use, but then I saw the other tourists who purchased things by the truckload. What can I say? They gotta catch em all..

Sugamo

sugamoD50_3078

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 3 train stops.

We would have never made it to Sugamo if not for Catherine! Her favourite onsen is in Sugamo, a ten minute walk from the station, and she recommended that we visit after a long day of walking around Tokyo. We went from 9-11pm, but the onsen is open from 10am to 11pm, for those of you who want to spend all day there. The entry fee is 1260yen, and there’s actually a free pink shuttle bus to and fro the station – just ask the gantry guards for the timetable.

The minute we entered it was easy to see why Sakura Onsen was her favourite place. I’ve been to several onsens with similar concepts in Korea, but this is by far the nicest onsen I’ve ever been to! The entire place was ultra clean and classy, with indoor and outdoor baths that consist pools of different temperatures, ph levels, and mineral content. The outdoor baths were especially incredible – imagine soaking in hot waters while feeling the icy cold night air on your cheeks. Heaven. Yes, it’s a naked spa, and yes, it’s gender-segregated. 10/10 would recommend.

Ueno

ueno park1ueno park2ueno park3ueno park

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: 9 train stops.

Ueno is where all the street food is at. Walking along Ueno i had the freshest, juiciest, sweetest strawberries of my life. I had no idea strawberries could taste so good.. it was mind-blowing. I sprained my ankle sometime before making it to Ueno, and by that time Lex had already left for Singapore and I was exploring Tokyo alone, so I was basically hobbling through Ueno torn between wonder and misery. Still, if you wanna get snacks to bring back home, Ueno is the place to be. It’s cheaper and there’s more variety. I also bought back dried scallops for my mum, the kind you use to cook. It’s 200 bucks in singapore but I only paid 80 dollars for it there. Not bad, eh?

Ueno also has its own park, which has free entry, but I personally didn’t think much of it because it only had one surviving cherry blossom tree which was infested with selfie-stick-touting tourists. And of course, Shinjuku Gyoen spoilt all other parks for me…

Tsukiji Fish Market

D50_3409

Distance from our Airbnb Apartment: one line change.

Tsukiji is the only place not on the JR Yamanote line, which meant I had to use the travel card Catherine lent me to get there instead. Honestly, my impression of Tsukiji before heading there was basically this vague idea of a 4am fish auction, which I wasn’t very keen on because 1. all sushi in japan is good, i didn’t feel the overwhelming need to have MIND-BLOWING sushi so far away and 2. i didn’t want to wake up at 3am. But when I mentioned this to Catherine, she told me that you could actually go to Tsukiji throughout the day for lunch in the surrounding areas! So I did. And it was mindblowing.

The entire area is packed with stalls selling food, inside and outside the tsukiji fish market building. I went into the first stall i saw, which happened to be selling oysters, scallops, and other forms of grilled fresh seafood. Now, I’m not a huge seafood person, but when in Rome.. right? So I ordered 3 oysters and 1 scallop.

pokemon center tokyo7

It was so freakin good. It was the freshest I’ve ever had, obviously, and so cheap too! I remember ever paying thirty bucks for a platter of half a dozen oysters in SG, and they tasted weird. These were delicious, and cost me like five bucks for three?!?!? I died.

pokemon center tokyo6pokemon center tokyo5

Walking along the outside of the tsukiji fish market building is like threading the outer rings of an onion’s cross section. It expands outwards and each ring is so intensely packed with flavour. I bought so much to eat at the fish market.. tamago sticks, the freshest tuna sashimi of my life.. and then I bumped into two expats working in Japan who overheard me speaking in English, this limping asian girl hobbling along alone, and ended up hanging out with them all day.

pokemon center tokyo4D50_3453

They also brought me to have the BEST BEEF BOWL EVER. Unfortunately I have no idea what it’s called because i don’t read japanese (one of them does) but i think it translates to Fox Face or something and it’s located on the outer rims of the fish market. You’ll know it when you see it because the queue is ridiculously long.

Food

Honestly, if you couldn’t already tell, Tokyo is the kind of place you munch and snack your way though. I don’t remember ever being actually hungry in Tokyo because we were just always snacking on new things, and if you’re on a budget, the convenience stores serve amazing sushi and sandwiches! The short walk from our apartment to the train station already saw us passing one supermarket and four convenience stores, which should give you some idea of how densely littered Tokyo is with convenience stores..

D50_2337D50_2334

Really good and inconspicuous sushi stand near our apartment that the locals love – obviously recommended by Catherine

Anyway, we all agreed that it is pretty damn near impossible to have a bad meal in Japan. Everything you eat is bound to be a new level of delicious.

japan is awesome

Are you in love with Tokyo yet?

Alright, so we’ve touched on food, accommodation, transport, flights, budgeting, and a very rough itinerary. What else? While writing this post, I had to force myself to pare it down a lot because I frequently caught myself getting carried away gushing about one place or another… which meant, that long as this post is already, it could have been much, much longer. Documenting Tokyo in categories – food, destination, travel – was something of an attempt to pen Tokyo down as something concrete, something relatable to people who haven’t been there before. Still, my adoration for the city spills out at the seams. It really is the most exquisite place.

I say this a lot, but much of my experience with destinations has to do with where I stay and who I meet – which is something that I believe shows up pretty strongly in my travelogues. Over the past year, I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to partner with Airbnb in exploring the world. It feels like a match made in heaven, Airbnb being, of course, the proverbial one. With them I’ve had the freedom to really connect with hosts all over the world, and while I’m pretty rough around the edges myself – I’m totally game for couchsurfing or slumming it out in hostels as y’all know – I have to say that it’s pretty hard to opt for anything else now that I’ve established Airbnb as my firm favourite in terms of accommodation options.

And as with all partnerships I’ve had thus far, creating good content and working through new ideas is something I genuinely enjoy and am excited for. This time for Tokyo, Airbnb and I decided to go one step further beyond just reviewing and recommending listings / destinations, to really connecting more and more people around the world together via Airbnb. Which is why I headed this section Are you in love with Tokyo yet? Because..

exciting news
JEMMA X AIRBNB GIVEAWAY

I roamed Tokyo for a week picking out items I felt really suited the full Japanese vibe – snacks, themed trinkets, etcetera etcetera – and put them all in a personalised, hand stamped paper bag. Airbnb matched it with their exclusive Airbnb tote bag, their Pineapple magazine publication, and a SGD hundred dollar Airbnb Voucher.

Untitled

I hope you can tell how much heart went into this – hand picked and carried all the way back from Tokyo!

And if you’ve fallen in love with Tokyo, just as I have, then all the better for you. We are giving this personalised gift as a present to one of you, and what you have to do to win it is prove your love for Airbnb and Japan to us. Like, really convince us! Comment on the Jemma x Airbnb Facebook post, show us your favourite Japan listing and tell us why you love it. (Yes, it can be a listing outside of Tokyo too!) If there ever were an excuse to spend hours lusting after dream listings on Airbnb, this would be it.

The contest only runs three days and will be held over on the Airbnb Singapore Facebook Page. I really look forward to browsing all your dream japan listings!! We thought long and hard before deciding on this giveaway, and I really hope you guys like what we have in store for you. I mean, a hundred bucks off your next booking is pretty damn sweet, isn’t it? And if you win it, well, it’s a great reason to finally tick another place off your travel bucket list.

Luvly. I’m super excited about this giveaway because I feel like it’s really a present from us to you hahaha. I CANT WAIT FOR ONE OF YOU TO WIN IT AND EAT ALL THE AWESOME JAPANESE SNACKS IN THE BAG. So yes, start picking out your listings now and enter as soon as you can, because it’s only going to run for a short while. I’m really looking forward to giving one of you an awesome reason to get away and travel soon :)

And till then,

sayonara

x
♥jem

#1934 | The Singaporean’s Guide to: Changi Airport in Two Hours

_DSC5227_DSC5232_DSC5341

Hey guys,

So, ever since I posted this picture of the Sunflower garden on instagram, everyone has been going bat-shit trying to figure out how to get there. Newsflash: you can’t. Not unless you have a boarding pass. But that made me think: why don’t we know anything much about what Changi Airport has to offer us, as Singaporeans? Everyone I’ve met while traveling knows that Singapore is the best place in the world to transit at. I mean, just look at sleepinginairports.net. But being a Singaporean, the chances that you’ll ever get a transit in Singapore itself is near zilch, because if you have a long transit you might as well just hop on a train home, given how accessible Changi Airport is. The only time we get to spend a proper amount of time in Changi’s Transit Area itself is when we’re flying somewhere. Which brings me to my point today..


The Singaporean’s Guide to Changi Airport in Two Hours

Obviously, if you’re one of those travellers that appears at the airport just in time to check in and board your flight, you’ll need to change that now. Our airport is awesome, and it really annoys me to no end that we can only check in two hours before most flights, because I love roaming around the Transit area. I love it! Anyway, this is my take on how to maximise your two hours before your flight – and if you’ve got the option of early check-in or you’re an overseas traveller transiting in Changi, then lucky you.

1. Get all your shopping done beforehand

Don’t waste your precious two hours roaming around in duty free! If you know what you want (ie. you need to replenish your skincare products and want to take advantage of the tax relief), then go straight to it. Otherwise, I personally recommend purchasing everything online first and then just picking it up. I don’t know why more people don’t use this – iShopChangi is Changi Airport’s own in-house duty free shopping site, where you purchase whatever you want online and then pick it up just before you fly. They have a pretty extensive collection of Make up, skincare, and alcohol, which is what most people purchase in duty-free anyway, right?

You can do your online shopping anytime from 2 weeks to 24 hours before your flight, and there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.

_DSC5218

If you’re the last minute type.. you can do it at the free internet terminals all over Changi Airport.

_DSC5226

And then pick it up before you fly at the iShop counters near the gates!

If you must drop by a duty-free store (it’s ok, I get it, I love walking around in duty free even if I’m not buying anything), then go big or go home. May I suggest hitting the best one (in my opinion) – the one in Terminal 3’s Transit Area?

_DSC5381_DSC5385

Some of you may know that the Korean retailer Shilla Duty Free has just expanded to Singapore. Honestly, the price point is the same as the previous Duty Free stores, just that this is Korean-managed and so the selection of brands is slightly different. And the store itself is shinier. Obviously.

It’s still under construction now, but pretty soon Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 Duty Free is going to be the only airport in the world with two-storeyed luxury brand stores like Dior and Chanel.

2. Get a free massage

_DSC5230

Experience pain with pleasure…

I can’t get over this because 1. that’s terrible copy given the 50 Shades discussion all over the internet right now and 2. what other airport does this??? In fact, what other place gives you free massages? I’ve seen these around malls and they always cost like a few bucks just for fifteen minutes.

_DSC5229

I suppose this is really a promotional effort on OSIM’s end – try, then hopefully you’ll like it so much that you’ll buy. But it doesn’t make a difference to the fact that you can get a free massage anytime if you want to! For the kiasu Singaporean, this is.. perfection.

*For overseas readers, kiasu is colloquial slang for FOMO.

3. Go play a game

_DSC5245

There are free LAN gaming rooms around the transit area, for those of you who are checking in to travel with friends. There are xbox / wii / PS3 consoles in the vicinity, so you guys can challenge each other to Ultimate Mario Kart or whatever. But honestly, this has nothing on what’s right next door..

4. Hang out in the free movie theatre

_DSC5248

The movie theatre is right next to the LAN rooms, and they stream the latest blockbuster/ feature films 24/7 in Terminal 2 and 3. Now you see what I mean when I say Changi Airport is the best place to transit overnight in? I would just drop by the theatre, catch a film, and take a nap there (though I’m not sure that is encouraged).

5. Take a load of photos

If there’s one thing Singaporeans love to do…

_DSC5316_DSC5331

Well, you can’t say that Changi doesn’t know its audience. The entire transit area is full of photo opportunities, some accidentally beautiful, some publicly declared Photo Spot!! in a way that reminds me of a certain whine: if you call it cool it ain’t cool anymore, mooooom..

_DSC5322_DSC5325

The queen of all photo opportunities though, has to go to the Social Tree at the Terminal 1 Transit area. Basically, it’s a giant electronic tree surrounded by photo booths, where you can take a picture, decorate it neoprint style, and *flick* it up to the tree where it stays for basically forever. You can retrieve the photos when you come back, by typing in your own password, but otherwise it’s displayed in all its 64 giant 42-inch high-definition screen glory for everyone to see. When walking up to it, I mused: Why would people want their photos uploaded for everyone to see on a giant animatronic tree?

Shannon, from the Changi Airport Group team, stared at me. Because not everyone is like you, Jemma. And gestured smugly to the girls crowded around the tree.

_DSC5327

I was, once again, proven wrong.

6. Go garden hopping.

_DSC5239

Orchid Garden and Koi Pond, Departure Transit Lounge (Level 2). Terminal 2.

Seriously, only in Singapore. Changi seems to have taken Singapore’s nickname, The Garden City, at face value: and planted five gardens around the three terminals. Obviously in two hours you’re not going to be able to visit them all (although you’re welcome to try), but these are my two favourites I think you should definitely hit:

_DSC5348_DSC5365_DSC5370

Butterfly Garden, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 2 & 3. Terminal 3.

This is so freaking crazy! There are over a thousand butterflies in the Butterfly Garden, which in itself is super impressive given that I don’t even see that many butterflies around Singapore on a regular basis. These butterflies aren’t shy either, they’re always posing for photographs – see above. You can just sit around and enjoy watching them flutter around, go and read the educational posters hung around the garden, or watch the butterfly growth cycle in the Emergence Enclosure.

And definitely drop by everyone’s happy place:

_DSC5259_DSC5261_DSC5266_DSC5269

Sunflower Garden, Departure Transit Lounge, Level 3, Terminal 2.

This was what elicited the craziest response on instagram. The sunflower garden houses approximately 500 sunflowers, and overlooks the runway and airplane parking bays. It’s honestly just the most instant pick-me-up I’ve seen – everyone who’s seen it loves it, and it just makes one smile, yknw? Look at all those happy little sunheads!

7. People-watch at the rooftop pool

_DSC5287

Terminal 1. Near Transit Hotel at Departure Transit Lounge East, Level 3

Since you’ve only got two hours, its unlikely that you’ll actually have time/ want to swim. However, if you’re like me and just like being near water bodies, you can just sit by the pool, read, and people watch. Most of the people who use the pool are tourists, who get access to the pool and jacuzzi free if they book a room with the Ambassador Transit Hotel. Otherwise, there’s a fee to pay to use the pool, but I think just hanging around without going in for a dip is fine.

8. Get a proper massage.

_DSC5292_DSC5300_DSC5298

No offence, free OSIM machines! But sometimes, you just need a full body massage. There are a bunch of lounges for people pre-flight, but I was personally very impressed by the presence of the Airport Wellness Oasis outlet at Terminal 1. Some credit cards or airlines give you complimentary use of their facilities, but otherwise they have pretty reasonable prices for a massage session. If you book a massage, you can also add on lounge access, which gives you complimentary buffet-style refreshments and so on. I can totally see myself planting myself here before a flight.. and I actually think i will the next time I fly.

Traveling with kids? I’m so sorry, but you can ..

9. Dump them at the giant play area and grab a cuppa nearby

_DSC5303_DSC5301

Maybe you’d like to go visiting all of Changi Airport’s awesome facilities but you have a screaming kid in tow. No problem – leave them at these giant play areas (the one pictured is shaped like a huge orange airplane and was obviously a hit with the kids, judging from the general noise level) while getting a bite nearby. All the play areas are situated near coffee or food stands, just so you can drop off the kids and relax with a cappuccino while keeping one eye on them. It still doesn’t beat being able to cover most of the facilities in 2 hours, but hey, it’s better than having to deal with them screaming at you for over an hour about when take-off is going to happen..

Not travelling with kids? Go bar hopping.

_DSC5340

There are a bunch of bars around Changi Airport’s transit areas, my favourite being this Harry’s at Terminal 1 with the option of outdoor seating and an amazing amount of natural light at the indoor areas. There’s another Harry’s in Terminal 3, but I like this one better.

Traveling on your own, but all the great things above sound too tiring to hit all in one trip? You can just..

10. Lounge around in the main Transit areas.

_DSC5305

Changi makes lounging around super convenient for all travelers, and I’m not just saying it. There’s free wifi all over Changi Airport, Transit area or not, and charging ports literally everywhere. You can sit by any cafe or main area watching planes take off while getting some work done, or zone out watching sports or news at the Xperience Zone.

_DSC5222

The sound for each individual screen comes from that weird looking metal bar above the seats, so it doesn’t bother people watching other channels

Lastly!

11. Get your last fill of Singaporean food before leaving the country

_DSC5376

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that the worst part about being abroad is undeniably having to go without Singaporean food for ages. I don’t know how many people I’ve amused abroad, by going firmly: Singaporean food is the best. It’s just the best. It annoys me endlessly that my American friends coming to visit me always ask if we can go get General Tso chicken when I try to bring them for chinese food – it’s not real Asian food, guys! This is the real deal. Singaporean food is basically the best of every culture’s food brought together to explode in your mouth like a million delicious fireworks. I love that there’s a proudly proclaimed Singapore Food Street in Terminal 3 now, but not having actually tried it, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the food. Still, the option is there..

Bonus Round! For the international Traveler:

If you’re reading this and you’re not Singaporean but do have a Changi Airport transit coming up, here are a couple of things you can do for free during your transit:

a. Get a free 2-hr tour of Singapore – they’ll bus you there and back, and you’ll get to see all the iconic landmarks in Singapore! Details here.
b. Sleep in the free Snooze Chairs at the Rest Areas – there’s a reason why SG was voted best airport. Sure, you can check into one of the airport hotels, but if you aren’t too picky about sleeping with other people around, there are specially designed Snooze Chairs you can take a good long nap in for long layovers. They can be found at the following places:

Terminal 1 – Central Window Isles, Transit Mall West, Level 2
Terminal 1 – Central Window Isles, Transit Mall East, Level 2
Terminal 2 – Sanctuary – opposite Gate E5, Transit Mall North, Level 2
Terminal 2 – Oasis Lounge – beside Gate E11, Transit Mall North, Level 2
Terminal 3 – near Hard Rock Cafe, Transit Mall North, Level 2
Terminal 3 – near Global Tax Refund, Transit Mall South, Level 2

It definitely beats sleeping hunched over a table in a 24hr Macdonalds somewhere – trust me, I’ve done it before. Remember the nightmare that was Stansted Airport?

And local or international travellers both – you can and should definitely check out the Changi Airport Facebook page because it’s regularly updated with promotions and seasonal / new offerings that will be more up to date than most existing information out there on the web. I know, I know – my country’s so savvy.

Writing this post, I felt this immense sense of pride – I mean, I’ve always loved our airport, but putting it down in writing just solidified everything for me, you know? Over the past one and a half years I’ve travelled so much and hit so many airports, and nothing, nothing compares to Changi. If there’s not much Singaporeans can agree on, there’s this: we all have an incredible amount of pride in our airport. We just do.

There are a lot of other things you can do in the airport given a 2 hour check in period, but I thought I’d get you started first, get you guys inspired to start looking beyond the duty free shopping area or Starbucks. Go forth and explore, you guys, and start off every journey with a new experience! Do I sound too cheesy? That’s alright. This is the kind of airport it’s worth being cheesy over.

x
♥jem

PS. Thanks for letting me hang around the transit area and showing me around, Changi Airport Group x
Unravel Travel SG!