People say airports look the same the world over. To some extent, I agree.

Airports in most First World countries like the US and Europe are kind of like babies and very old people  – they are obviously different but they look suspiciously alike to me. If you showed me a picture of a departure lounge and asked me to guess where it is, chances are I’d get it wrong. It could well be London, Paris or New York.

But of course, when you’re flying into destinations that are not big cities or hot tourist spots, airports are always more interesting. One of my favourite airports of all time is the one on Moloka’i in Hawaii.

Moloka’i is a sleepy island that makes you feel like you’ve tumbled out of a time warp into Hawaii in the 1950s. It’s home to the world’s highest sea cliffs and to Kalaupapa, a former leper colony. The airport at Moloka’i only serves domestic flights, and there is only one runway. This is how the airport’s one and only luggage belt looks like…

Moloka'i Airport, Hawaii.

Moloka’i Airport, Hawaii.

But even airports in First World countries that are tourists hotspots can surprise you. I often think of Greece as a First World country – albeit in a severe debt crisis – and one of its most popular islands is Santorini. Oh, the gorgeous blues and whites…

Santorini, Greece.

Santorini, Greece.

When I was there in August 2011, I was mildly surprised to find the airport cramped and devoid of little luxuries you’d expect from a popular Greek holiday island. While we landed on a runway flanking the gorgeous blues of the Aegean Sea, the airport looked something like this…

Santorini Airport, Greece

Santorini Airport, Greece

There were fewer than 10 gates, and one of them (Gate 3, picture left) had been closed off and replaced by a snack stand!

But there is a certain charm about Santorini’s airport, especially once you step outside the terminal building onto the tarmac and are greeted by the breathtaking ocean view and the caressing sea breeze.

To be honest, I’m not sure how this airport has managed to handle the plane loads of tourists who have flocked to the island over the years, but somehow the Greeks have managed. They have survived this long after all, from ancient times. *blinks*

And then, there is Bhutan. The moment you step out of the plane, you know you’re in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

My BFF Ning at Bhutan Airport, 2011.

My BFF Ning at Bhutan Airport, 2011.

So much of Bhutan’s culture and heritage is reflected in its architecture, in the clothing the locals still wear daily, even the children’s school uniforms.

Ning with Sonam, our Bhutanese guide, 2011.

Sonam, our Bhutanese guide.

You almost feel like the locals are all dressed up in costumes and you’ve stepped onto a movie set. But the charm of Bhutan is that tourism is so controlled and restricted (you have to spend at least US$200 a day) that its cultural heritage is well-preserved and kept intact.

But I digress. We were talking about airports.

My favourite airport must still be Singapore’s. I must admit it’s not the most unique or memorable airport in terms of how it stands out aesthetically, but the feeling I get every time my plane closes in on the runway is unique and irreplaceable.

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P1240822

When I’m on an AirAsia flight, I love it when I hear the words announced, “And to all Singaporeans… welcome home.”

The BFF Ning & I upon returning from our world travels, 2011.

The BFF Ning & I upon returning from our world travels, 2011.

Much as I love traveling – and much as I’ve said “the journey is home” for me – I always feel proud when I touch down at Changi Airport and walk out into the arrival lounge towards immigration.

It seems now that the world agrees with me that Singapore’s airport is the best in the world.

According a Straits Times article dated 11 April 2013, Singapore Changi Airport has been named the World’s Best Airport at the 2013 Skytrax World Airport Awards held in Geneva.

It’s the 4th time our airport has bagged this prize. The Awards are based on The World Airport Survey, which included 395 airports worldwide this year, and evaluates key performance indicators in areas such as check-in, transfers, security and immigration, and shopping.

World's Best Airport, 2013.

World’s Best Airport, 2013.

It’s a reason to be proud – extra proud.

But I think for any Singaporean who travels extensively, no international award will mean more than the feeling we get when we step into this gateway to home.

It’s hard to explain that feeling. No matter how good a trip I’ve had or how reluctant I am to go back to reality, our airport makes me feel proud to be Singaporean – prouder than any National Day Parade.

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