Category Archives: Transportation

What are the best airports in the world, and why?

I have traveled to many countries, but am not seasoned enough to know the world inside out! Travel is expensive and time consuming. My favorite airport so far has been in Singapore because I like being able to take a shower, a nap, get a gourmet Chinese snack, coffee, and get a massage, all for a reasonable price! But, there are many other great airports out there too! Unfortunately for the USA, we are falling behind the Asians. Most of the great airports in the world seem to be in Asia, and ironically, not even necessarily in wealthy countries!

My opinions about airports
Too many airports in America are slow, poorly designed and boring with inefficient parking & shuttle service. America doesn’t feel like it wants to be on the up and up anymore. Asia is rearing to rule the world, and their airports show it. But, most airports are too much about architecture and who. Singapore is the only country that gets it. It is about giving passengers what they want and need to enjoy long hours far from home! People need a hot shower more than they need great architecture. A thrilling movie is a nice way to pass the time during a sixteen hour layover. People like it when they can in and out quickly more than they will appreciate glass walls or a glass ceiling (especially women.) Having choices of twenty things to do at an airport shows that they are thinking about me. Honestly, I give Singapore top bidding in my personal ranking system. The other airports need to think about services before I would speak highly of them!

Singapore’s Changi Airport
This is an airport with movie theaters, indoor jungles, comfortable napping lounges, luxury showers for only a few dollars, and more. You can get a massage, have choices of many nice places to have Chinese or Western food, not to mention great bars and coffee houses. You can entertain yourself for hours there. Stopovers are actually a pleasure for me in Singapore. I look forward to a chance to rest and clean up on a long flight to India. Sure, it’s nice to have a quick ice cream (with a complimentary bow) in Japan, but nothing beats that shower and nap at SIN. Additionally, they have a rooftop pool, hotels, and even a butterfly garden!

Another point I’ll make about Changi is that upon arrival, you get in and out faster than at any other airport. They check your bags before you ever see them. You just go through the immigration line, show your passport, get a quick stamp, pick up your bag, and the cab drivers are waiting for you at the exit desk. How easy! Just remember — the penalty for drug trafficking is death… (gulp!)

Additionally, you can get by with English, Chinese, Malay and sometimes Tamil in this clean and inviting country! Singaporean food is excellent with noodle shops everywhere. Try their famous Chili crab and also try a Singapore Sling — their national drink (tastes like spiked hawaiian punch by the way.) Don’t forget to visit their National Museum, the Zoo and Clarke Quay if you want to sample restaurants with great ambiance from around the globe!

Incheon International Airport — ICN

This airport serves more than seventy airlines. They have a Korean culture museum. They are very clean, have great rest areas, internet, and many choices for Korean food.

Munich Airport — Press 1 for German, or press 2 for German.
This is a very artistically designed airport with walls and ceilings made of glass. My personal experience at this airport is mildly noteworthy. There were nice restaurants in the airport complex. I witnessed some European girls enjoying a beer at 9:30 AM. You know you’re not in America when people drink beer in the morning! I got a nice (small) rental car for a reasonable price and it was easy to return as well. The clerk at McDonalds gave me a cup of water when I asked for it and told me he was doing me a favor. Maybe you will get lucky, and you will get a favor too in the form of a glass of water that would be a free courtesy in almost any other country in the world. Calling the airport about my flight was not so easy. Your language options were German, Deutch, and more German. I guess it is not like America where we cater to the needs of Spanish and sometimes Asian language speaking folks. So, I had to physically go to the airport since nobody in the entire nation of Germany would assist me in making that phone call to the airport. I guess that brings new meaning to the concept of — German Hospitality! A pretty airport is nice, but being treated like a human being gets more mileage in my book!

Hong Kong International Airport
This is one of the best airports for dining and baggage delivery. They have excellent shopping and it is also one of the cleaner airports. Enjoy a nine-hole golf course if you have a few hours to expend! The attributes of this airport are predictable. Cantonese people like to shop and dine — it is not a mystery why they have excellent facilities for both at the airport. Also, not surprisingly, Taiwan’s main airport looks more like a world trade show than an airport — that is their reason for living!

Other high ranking airports

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Great dining, shopping and leisure options. Former military airfield.

Tokyo International Airport- Haneda
This airport is very clean and has excellent shopping.

Beijing Capital International Airport
Beijing airport has a huge volume of traffic and stays very busy.

Zurich Airport
Leave it to the Swiss! This airport has excellent security, immigration and dining facilities.

Vancouver International Airport
This airport is not that busy, but has beautiful Pacific Northwest Totem-poles and artwork throughout the airport. This airport was named best airport in North America and is reputed to have excellent staff and help facilities.

London’s Heathrow Airport
This airport is renowned for being one of the world’s busiest, most efficient and practical. But, lacks the niceties that the Singaporeans have. I guess if you fly from New York to Zurich, a stopover in London might be more on the way, than Singapore, but I still have my preference.

A final note or two

Bangalore, India
Bangalore built a new airport which started being used while I was there in 2008. In many ways it compares to some of the world’s best although it is not on anyone’s top ten list. They had many unique restaurants, coffee shops, and bars that were more eclectic and creative than in any other country I have seen. They kept the floors immaculately cleaned, but the bathrooms were a mess. The paid attendents just sat on their rears collecting two rupees per guest and let the place be a filthy disaster of a rest-room! You can build a 1st class structure in India, but if you let low-class people manage it, it will still have filthy bathrooms — guaranteed!

Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
Although, not on anyone’s top ten list, the architecture was stunning with a massive domed ceiling and angular roof supports giving the building a very roomy feeling. The food and coffee houses were great, although I didn’t like having to change my currency. Why can’t they accept rupees or dollars without making a fuss? I enjoyed seeing Arabic music videos in one of the lobbies. One of the perks of being in an Islamic country, but I never expected it! I had a stopover, and stayed at a hotel less than a mile from the airport. The food was a choice between Chinese, Malay, and Indian food at a buffet. All I can say is that this cuisine works for me, although I like Thai and Japanese too. I’ll send them an email and let them know! Your plane might get lost, but the airport and hotels won’t!

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A new airport & bullet train system for the USA: The midnight bullet train to Georgia

Going to the airport for an international flight is a headache. You have to show up very early, wait in long lines, and then wait some more after you are checked in. Then you stand in another line to go through security, walk a long way, and wait more at the gate. It is all waiting and no fun! I live near LAX in Los Angeles. The airport is nothing special. The highlight is getting Haagen Daz and sitting in an overly crowded food court lounge in the international terminal. The Chinese food there is not bad, but honestly, for the allegedly greatest country in the world, Singapore has us beat ten times over!

Imagine an airport where there is no waiting?
What? This can’t be possible! How would that be the case? Imagine that the entire North American air traffic system were reworked. Is it possible? How much would it cost? In our universe, the only thing that is constant is change. If an idea catches on, a few years later, everyone is trying to do it! The United States has many large airlines. These airlines typically have hubs where you transfer from one plane to another. If you fly from San Francisco to New York, expect to Transfer in Las Vegas or Dallas — wherever their hub is. Imagine a different system. Imagine that no airline offered destination to destination service, but left you at a hub shared by all airlines?

A new hub system
The problem with U.S. airports is that they are in metro areas where land is scarce. You can’t really modify airports so easily, because there is nowhere to expand. Additionally parking is never convenient. You always have to take a shuttle to the airport. Imagine having hubs that are in the middle of nowhere. Imaging having bullet train systems link to these airport hubs creating a very differently functioning network.

A sample trip from Los Angeles to Miami using my hub system
The problem with LAX is that everyone is going to the same small place to try to park and get a flight. It is difficult. I’m not saying that the airport should be abolished, but imagine a parallel system! Imagine bullet trains with large stations where you could park securely for a reasonable price. Imagine these bullet trains taking you to an airport in the desert somewhere where you could fly to another hub in Southern Georgia and then take another bullet train. What is the advantage of all of this transferring you might ask. If you had routine plane trips from hub to hub, you could have huge planes that could fly every 10 minutes. There would be no need to wait!

Imagine the converse system: Fly to a bullet train station, ride the train, and then a transfer to your final flight!
What if you could take a flight from any small airport in California to a hub in a remote part of Arizona or Colorado. Then, transfer to a bullet train to Southern Georgia, and then a flight to Miami. The beauty of this system would be that you would have lots of planes all going to the same destination hundreds of times per day which would enable you to use huge aircraft and eliminate waiting times. Since urban areas in California don’t have much room to build more trains, using existing airports to connect to a hub in the desert is a practical choice. But, in the wide open spaces in America, there is plenty of room to build a new train! Think of how exciting that would be!

Imagine not having to check in your bags?
For security purposes bags will always need to be screened. But, imagine an airline with huge airplanes that lets you take your bags with you and store them inside a really wide plane in a compartment? That eliminates the time spent checking in your bags, and wondering if they will come out on the other end. Think of the anxiety you will be spared. With the use of better designed carts, and help from large golf carts, you would get your bags on the plane with no hassle. The type of plane I’m talking about doesn’t exist, but it could be designed if the idea caught on. It might seat over one thousand people per flight. The idea behind the plane is that it would save you time — so, you would need to load the plane with passengers from more than eight different entrances to save time.

Boarding the plane
Imagine a mega-huge wide plane. It might be two stories tall in all parts. Imagine that there were ten entrances to the plane, all large enough to allow carts with huge bags. Or imagine robotic carts that would move themselves on the plane and guide you to your storage cabinet and seat that could talk to you. The future is near folks, and this idea is very possible, and entirely pleasant too! The only draw back is if you get a robot who talks back to you, or takes time off for their oil break!

What is the allure of the bullet train?
Although flight patterns criss-cross the United States, a bullet train wouldn’t have to. It would only need to go in certain routes and transport huge numbers of people twenty-four hours a day on those routes. The benefit of the bullet train is that it could travel over 200 miles per hour which is about 40% of the speed of a plane. It doesn’t take time to land (well, most trains don’t.) It offers spaciousness which is a huge benefit to the elderly who need more leg space, and to those of us who want to enjoy the voyage as much as we enjoy the destination. Sure it costs a lot to build bullet train rails, but if it were used non-stop, the investment would pay off faster than a speeding bullet! It is easier to serve food in a train, not to mention the opportunity to have bars, choices of movies, internet lounges, showers, and many other conveniences that would be impossible on a plane!

How long would it take to ride a train across the Southern United States?
It might be about 1900 miles from the California desert to Southern Georgia for our LAX to Miami transport. This new hub & bullet train system would allow you to fly to the desert hub, or just drive there and park at a low rate. It is only two or three hours to the desert from the city. But, for those in the Eastern suburbs it might only take an hour and a half! The 1900 mile journey (midnight train to Georgia) would take about nine hours. That is a lot longer than a four hour flight, but consider the comfort. America tends to focus on being anti-social and anti-hospitality these days which is a shame. But, imagine if this new hub system was designed to be friendly, considerate, and meet your every need. Imagine that it was actually such a pleasure to travel using this system that you might want to travel even if you didn’t have anywhere to go? That is what transportation should be like!

In India, it is popular to take a night train. You sleep in the train, and awaken to the smell of freshly brewed masala chai, Madras coffee, and other goodies. Imagine an American train that would smoothly deliver you across a continent while you sleep and offer you a choice of breakfast items delivered to your seat at a specified time! If America could capitalize on the niceties of India and pair it with high technology, we might have a winner!

A final note
My hub idea with a bullet train would not be like Europe with its confusing train system. The train would have only two stops per ride. The stop you get on, and the stop you exit. This would make it easier to book seats, and not be disturbed in the middle of your trip with endless stopping and noise. Your trip would be one long and quiet whoosh!