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Here's a little guide to help you manage your expectations on the island. Knowing what to expect, and not, will help you make the most of your trip to this paradise!

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As soon as I emerged from the trail, a magnificent beauty greeted me. Exhausted after a 1-hour-45-minute trek, the view was a pleasant reward. Who would have thought that this beautiful landscape was ironically created by destruction? It was simply beautiful.

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What is BRATpacking?

Everyone's familiar with the life of a backpacker -- those who live on a backpack to travel the world for long months, even years. They have the reputation of being grungy, spontaneous, friendly.

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Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro

I am not (yet!) a climbing enthusiast. In fact, this is my first real climb, as I consider my first two experiences of mountains as "treks" (Taal Volcano in 2005 and Sagada to Bomod-ok Falls in 2007). This is also my first camping trip as an adult, and I was worried that I wouldn't like it because of the absence of a toilet, shower, soft bed, nice linens, and all the other things that make life comfortable.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was love at first sight. That kind of love that makes you feel lost, and yet you know you're home. That kind of love that overwhelms you with emotions, and yet you feel serene. That kind of love that makes you feel like a fool, and yet you don't care. This is my favorite spot on earth, where the place is enchanting and the people are endearing.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Off the Bucket List: Sleeping in an Airport

Like everyone else, I have a bucket list -- those crazy, beautiful, philanthrophic, obscene things you want to do or see before you "kick the bucket." As I travel, it makes me wonder and wander more, growing my list a hundredfold.

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I love going around airports -- the hustle and bustle of people coming and going, the mad dash to make it to the next flight, the happy faces of people going back to their families, the staid look of businessmen bored of the idle time, the worried look on someone's face who went over the luggage weight limit -- all of these make up for a culturally dynamic place that is an airport. People from different places converge, with only one thing in mind: FLY.

Most stared-at board in the airport!
Changi Airport - Lego style!
However, there's more to an airport than waiting for your next flight. Shopping, for one, is a popular activity specially if there are a lot of tax-free deals. Eating is another, sampling different cuisines available. But have you ever thought of sleeping at the airport -- as in spending the night on one of the couches, to wait for your next flight or until the public transport to the city is available? That, my dear, is in my bucket list! And I am glad to have just ticked it off.

Changi Airport is voted as one of the world's best. After so many trips to Singapore, I have fallen in love with this airport -- the architecture, the design, the little things that they put in it. Needless to say, if I am to sleep in an airport for my bucket list, I will have to do it here. And so I did. Twice.

Icon of Changi Airport




What a creative way of segregating your trash!
Guide on what to bring in the plane (liquids, aerosols and gels).
My flight arrived at an ungodly hour -- 1:00 AM. The MRT and the bus that will take me to the city have stopped its service by this time, and since I am not in a hurry and this was a laid-back trip, I decided to stay until the MRT starts its service at 5:30 AM. I was hungry, but most of the restaurants were already closed. I found a convenience store and grabbed my favorite Marigold Mango Juice (I wish we have it here in Manila!) and a small cup of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough. I spotted a few people sleeping on the airport couches, and decided to find my spot near them. However, Terminal 1 is under renovation so it was noisy. I transferred to Terminal 3 via the skytrain, and found a quiet nook. It wasn't the most comfortable "accommodation," but it was better than camping in the mountains. At 5:00 AM I woke up, and walked towards the MRT station.



The Skytrain 
Inside the Skytrain
My flight out of Singapore three days later leaves at 6:00 AM, so I decided to be at the airport the night before and again spend the night there. I arrived at 11:00 PM for my next-day flight. Like a pro, I spotted a good bench, set up my trolley, attached my important belongings on my body, and set out for a long night.

Airport seats at Changi Terminal 3
Interesting floor atop Changi MRT station
Here's a guide on how to enjoy your stay in Changi airport:

  1. Wear layers of clothing. As your body cools down in sleep, your core temperature drops, too. It can get very, very cold.
  2. Secure all your belongings. Needless to say, you wouldn't want to wake up missing a shoe, or a luggage.
  3. Ask for your free wi-fi username and password at the Customer Assistance Center. They'll ask to see your passport and will give you a slip containing your access information. It's good for 4 hours.
  4. Put on some music, but make sure your iPod is securely fastened to your body. There were reports of backpackers who woke up with only their headset, but this happened in other airports.
  5. Chat with like-minded travelers. You'll never know what would spark in you listening to someone else's travel stories. But don't try to start a conversation with someone who is asleep!
  6. Turn your alarm on -- missing your flight while you're at the airport is nothing short of stupid.
  7. If you get to the airport before midnight, stock up on food if you're a heavy muncher. Most restaurants close by midnight.
  8. Stay near your check-in counter, so you can see when people are starting to line up. Sometimes they start piling up even 30 minutes before it opens.
  9. Use your bag as a pillow. It keeps it secured, and gives you some comfort.
  10. Never leave your luggages unattended. Security is very strict at the airport, and the next thing you see your luggage, airport personnel would be tearing it apart in search for a bomb.
For more tips and opinions on airports around the world, visit Sleeping in Airports.

My Burger King breakfast -- fit for a KING!

I wouldn't sleep in the airport again if I were attending a meeting or doing a heavy itinerary on the same day. Nothing beats sleeping on a comfy bed, of course. But the airport has its own charms. It gets serene at night, and all you get is a different feel of the airport that is just pleasing to a traveler's senses. I will do it again, maybe in another airport. It's, fun, it's adventurous, and it's something that you have to do at least once in your life. It saved me a few bucks on cab fare, too -- about S$60 (P2,000), in fact.

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