Guide to Popular Transit Airports for Singapore Travellers (Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei)

Guide to Popular Transit Airports for Singapore Travellers (Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei)

Airports are transitory by nature. People rush to buy souvenirs for forgotten friends at duty free shops and grab hurried bites at generic-looking restaurants, anxious to get to the boarding gate without delay.

But the seasoned traveller knows well the frisson of anticipation that runs through an airport. To a true jetsetter, airports are the perfect place to seek refuge from the unending motion inherent in travel, sit still for a moment, ruminate over a coffee and watch planes take off into the sky.

It helps, of course, that the region is home to some of the world’s most thoughtfully designed airports, sophisticated microcosms where thousands of visitors shop, dine and unwind before being spirited away to their next destination.

Spend a few hours at some of Asia’s best airports and you’ll realise they are tiny reflections of the larger reality of the cities they serve. Here are highlights from some of Singapore visitors’ favourites.

 Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong is a modern metropolis at the confluence of East and West. The sleek boarding area at Hong Kong International Airport, characterised by high ceilings, looks out onto runways set against a mountainous backdrop. The tenants at this airport include a flurry of international superbrands and East Asian heavyweights.

Shopping

The Hong Kong Airport offers the best of East and West, with an emphasis on East Asian retailers. While some of the world’s most famous high fashion brands such as Prada and Ferragamo are prominently represented, it is the East Asian offerings that stand out.

Singaporeans who mourn the departure of bilingual bookshop Page One will be particularly pleased to know there are multiple outlets at the airport. Minimalist Japanese brand Muji maintains a travel-themed Muji to Go outlet, where busy travellers can pick up portable goodies in Muji’s inimitable style.

Click here to browse the shopping directory.

Dining

Many Singaporeans make yearly pilgrimages to Hong Kong solely for the food, and the airport’s offerings do not disappoint, ensuring that hungry travellers are stuffing their faces right up to the departure gate.

Travellers who can’t get enough of Hong Kong-style cafes will be pleased to know that the eating can go on at Hong Kong Delights, where tasty classic dishes such as thick toast can be enjoyed. At Michelin-starred Hung’s Delicacies, enjoy Chinese standards such as won ton noodles made to perfection

Of course, Hong Kong’s international character can’t be ignored even in the realm of airport cuisine, and if you’re the sort of person who wears sunglasses indoors and occasionally signs autographs, you’ll want to be seen at the ultrachic Agnès B Café.

Entertainment

The entertainment options at Hong Kong Airport appear to have been designed with the goal of keeping kids out of their frazzled parents’ hair—and they work so well that even adults join in on the fun.

At the Aviation Discovery Centre, try your hand at flying a mock-plane, while way-larger-than-life movies await at the IMAX theatre.

Incheon International Airport, Seoul

Incheon International Airport (Seoul)

South Korea appears to be taking over the world with its trendy and supremely accessible music, films and TV dramas, and the airport at Incheon has followed suit with its ultramodern appearance and a fun, fashionable tenant mix.

Shopping

Seoul has become one of the trendiest shopping destinations in the world in recent years, and the huge range of mid-range and accessible luxury brands at the airport caters to a growing army of hip young shoppers who don’t have millions to burn.

Pick up a handbag that dutifully incorporates all of the season’s biggest trends at Lovcat, and then hop over to streetwear brand MCM, where you’re likely to leave attired like a K-pop star.

Click here to browse the shopping directory.

Dining

There’s a reason Korean food has taken Singapore by storm, and Incheon Airport cashes in on the enormous popularity of everything kimchi.

Local restaurants lead the pack. JaYeon, where you can enjoy excellent premium spicy soups, and ultra-traditional Punggyeongmaru, with an interior that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Korean period drama, are firm favourites.

Even European-style chain Paris Croissant is a Korean brand. Such is the soft power of East Asia’s darling of the moment.

For quick, tasty and well-priced food in a casual food court, you can go to Vita Via Food Court.

Entertainment

Free concerts featuring classical music and traditional dance are held regularly at the airport, and a Korean Cultural Street familiarises visitors with traditional architectural styles. To the dismay of many visitors, the airport has held off on organising fan-meetings for soap opera stars.

Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

Taipei Taoyuan International Airport

Taipei’s airport is, for lack of a better term, not that fancy. It lacks the glitz and glamour of the major international airports in the region, but makes up for it by offering a down-to-earth range of shopping and dining options.

Shopping

The Hello Kitty Gift Gate could be, depending on your preferences, a blessing or a curse. For interesting local designs that make good souvenirs, browse the shelves at Ciao Taiwan Shop and avoid having to buy your friends yet another boring t-shirt.

Click here to browse the shopping directory.

Dining

Taiwan is famed for its night markets and street snacks, and the range of casual eateries at the airport takes this into account. Tuck into irresistible snacks like crispy chicken and bubble tea at Taiwanese Gourmet Bar, before slurping up a bowl of hearty beef noodles at Casamila Taiwanese Food.

In a city with a mind-boggling number of convenience stores, it goes without saying that popular chains like 7-11 and Hi-life are decidedly not in short supply.

Entertainment

The last thing you’d expect to see in an airport is a library, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Mind Garden. Besides an area dedicated to computer users, there’s also a delightful selection of books in Chinese and English.

Exploring an airport can be just as good as experiencing a new destination… well, almost. If you’re forced to spend two or three hours in transit, you won’t have to think twice about how to occupy yourself. With so many top-notch airports in the region, you can start feeling like a traveller even before you clear immigration.

Photo credits: Shenghung Lin, Marc Huguet Reyes, Tzuhsun Hsu, Stan Wiechers

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