Text and images KRIZETTE CHU
There is no airport in the world that can rival Singapore’s Changi.
That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. Skytrax, a UK-based consumer group, has named it the World’s Best Airport for seven years running.
No airport in the world has come close to Changi in recent years—unless you can find another airport with a free movie theater, a butterfly garden, a pool, impressive selections in an impressive food court, hassle-free tax refund service, seamless terminal connections via the Skytrains, the list goes on.
But before any other airport could come close, Changi unveiled its newest star—the Jewel Changi, which opened last April 17 after four years of building and much anticipation (they made 500,000 preview tickets available for local and international guests, and it all sold out).
In the middle of the sprawling 135,000 sqm multifaceted retail hub, which will house 280 outlets, is the HSBC Rain Vortex, which is the tallest indoor waterfall in the world at 40 meters.
It is the centerpiece of this beautiful SGD 1.7 billion airport center designed by Safdie Architects along with Mott Macdonald.
The Rain Vortex, the piece-de-resistance in this crowning jewel, is the work of Californian company WET, which also designed the famous water features at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the fountain in Dubai .
Changi serves 65 million passengers annually, which is close to its 85 million capacity. What this translates to is 7,400 flights a week. Or one takeoff and landing every 80 seconds. Changi is the seventh busiest international airport in the world, and the most internationally connected airport in Asia Pacific at this point.
Hung Jean, the CEO of the Jewel Changi Airport Development, said, “The vision for Jewel Changi Airport is to be a destination where ‘the world meets Singapore, and Singapore meets the world.’ The unique proposition of world class shopping and dining, seamlessly integrated with lush greenery, fulfills the needs of increasingly discerning Filipino travelers for a meaningful and experiential journey, even for brief layovers.”
Jewel Changi is the answer to making the passengers’ experience immersive, enjoyable, and multi-sensory. At Changi, there is free tea tasting at TWG Tea, SK II has a free skin age analyzer, and you can knock back a free drink at the bar. Changi—little known fact, hardcore shoppers— even has a free (yes, free) personal shopper service.
As a big airport in a small state, Changi has always had one vision: to level up the experience of transiting passengers. Enter Jewel, four years in the making and already an icon in the Singaporean landscape. The retail hub presents multiple retailing formats so that you will never want to leave the airport, or get bored inside it, or ultimately, be so intrigued that, if you were just transiting, you would consider exploring more of Singapore the next time.
Here, passengers with long layovers or redeye flights can just roll over to Jewel’s YotelAir, a 130-room capsule hotel that allows four hours use of their minimalist but high tech rooms. Singapore wants to draw those passengers on connecting flights, get them out to experience a taste of Singapore, so that they might come back for a longer stay.
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO
The ultimate goal is to turn this stopover into its own tourist destination. And with these attractions, we know it’s just a matter of time before Jewel is not just a stopover, but an important part of an SG itinerary .
1. Take IG photos and marvel at the Rain Vortex
The tallest indoor waterfall in the world is surrounded by trees, shrubs, and plants shipped from all over the world and raised in nurseries by botanists and horticulturists who chose the kinds that would thrive best in this particular setting. At night, beginning at 8:30 p.m until 12:30 a.m., a lights and sounds show turns the cascading waterfall into a veritable LED screen.
2. Finish a trail at the Canopy Park
If you go around the top floor, called Canopy Park, you would have made one lap around a running trail—that’s how long it is. The Canopy Park features bouncing and walking nets (secure, of course), a 165- foot sky bridge with a portion that has glass bottoms, two mazes (one with mirrors, the other hedges), a giant slide accessible for both kids and adults, and eight bars and restaurants, including the famed Burger and Lobster.
Because of the building’s exterior design—glass crisscrossed with aluminum and steel, the interiors is bathed in light. You can also view the Petal Gardens here at the Canopy Park. The kids’ favorite will be Foggy Bowl, concave bowls of mist that mimic playing among the clouds.
3. Visit a treasure trove of retailers
Jewel has 280 outlets, 30 percent of which is dedicated to food and beverage. Twenty-five percent of the shops are new to Singapore, such as the famed Shake Shack burger joint and the beloved London casual luxury restaurant Burger and Lobster, Pokemon Center (the only one outside of Japan), Laderach Chocolatier Suisse, Emack & Bolio’s.
Fifty percent of the outlets are homegrown and established brands like In Good Company, Supermama, Tiger Street Lab, Bengawan Solo, Cookie Museum, Rich & Good Cake Shop.
4. Immerse in the Garden City’s flora and fauna at the Shiseido Forest Park
You can hike up at the four-storey Shiseido Forest Valley and discover plants from all over the world, including 900 kinds of trees and plants and 60,000 shrubs.
5. Eat your way around Singapore at the food court.
At the Five Spice Food Junction, brands with more than 25 years of culinary heritage and awards will be featured. These would include Fu Lin Yong Tofu, Xi De Li Fried Fritters, Huat Huat BBQ Chicken Wing, Guan Chee HK Roast, Li Xin Teochew Fishball Noodles, and Faai Dy by Ka-Soh.
6. Experience ease of flight
If you want to explore Jewel but have already checked out of your hotel, and your check in counter opens later, simply use the check in counters at the Level 1. You can even check in 24 hours before your flight. Jewel also has a pay-per-use Traveler’s Lounge, which has shower and napping facilities.