MICHAEL FERRANTE explores a new attraction
When a country turns its airport into a destination in its own right, you know it is serious about attracting tourists.
The new $S1.7 billion ($1.8 billion) Jewel attraction at Changi Airport cost more than Perth’s Optus Stadium to put the investment into perspective.
Just a short stroll as you head out of the baggage collection area at Changi and you’re in a wonderland of flora, recreation, entertainment, shopping and dining — all in the one place.
Intended to mirror Singapore’s City in a Garden design concept, the centrepiece of the complex is the Rain Vortex — the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 40m tall, with water cascading through an oculus in the building’s roof — complementing the luscious four-storey indoor forest that surrounds it. The experience is even better by night when the vortex changes colour — the sound of gushing water, mist and symphonic music fill the atmosphere and bring me to a kind of magical place.
For Singaporeans and airport staff, the multi-dimensional Jewel offers a playground near home to enjoy. For travellers, it is a convenient, relaxing place to spend time while in transit, and much more than a place just to kill some time.
But, like any popular attraction in Asia, it’s busy, so be patient — you’ll have to line up to get into the waterfall viewing area by night time.
Jewel’s five key pillars are:
Shop and dine
With nearly 300 retail and food and drink outlets including global brands, you can find just about anything — Adidas, Bossini, Calvin Klein, and Charles & Keith are some of the bigger names that can found on the multi-level shopping terraces. And there’s a wide range of international cuisine to choose from.
Try the dumplings in soup at Tim Ho Wan and their famous baked buns with pork filling ... superb!
Get great views of the waterfall in lush garden surrounds in the basement dining areas, or dine under the stars under a glass canopy in the evening on level five.
Early check-in counters on level one and a baggage storage service operate from 6am- midnight, allowing hassle-free shopping, dining or some sightseeing (check availability of early check-in with your airline). At Changi Lounge you can relax, have refreshments, a shower or nap in comfort before the next leg of your journey, 24 hours a day.
Wi-fi connection means you can stay in touch or catch up on work as well.
The lounge is also an option for fly-cruising if you have time to spare before your cruise departure, with end-to-end baggage transfers to the maritime terminals available.
There are 130 Yotelair cabins for business travellers or those looking to recharge in between flights.
The smaller cabin-style spaces have high-speed wi-fi and flatscreen TVs and are able to be booked for anywhere from four hours to overnight.
It’s a short walk to the departure gates.
Just last month, another two areas were opened up to add to the place’s excitement. One is Canopy Park — a ticketed area on the top level which is full of play attractions including mazes, bouncing and walking nets, creative garden trails, giant slides on an interactive sculpture, and foggy bowls of mist to create an experience of playing among the clouds.
The Canopy Bridge is suspended 23m above the ground with glass panel flooring and fog is emitted at both ends for a walk-among- the-clouds experience while you take in the forest vista.
The other is Changi Experience Studio — a virtual airport environment to learn about the inner workings of the airport and its history.
There is projection storytelling, interactive games, immersive shows and exhibits across 10 zones, for all ages.
You’ll need about an hour and a half to get through it all.
According to Jewel Changi Airport, the aim of the development is to entice more travellers to choose Singapore as their preferred stopover destination “amid intensifying competition on the global airports landscape”.
And with an expected 40-50 million visitors annually to the complex, it is well on the way.
Cost: S$1.7 billion
Gross floor area: 135,700sqm
Shops, food & drink outlets: 280-plus
Flora: More than 2000 trees and palms, and 100,000 shrubs, spanning about 120 species.
Estimated visitors per year: 40-50 million (comprising 40 per cent travellers; 60 per cent locals)
Opening hours: Rain Vortex, 10am-10pm daily