The greatest news of the week for Singaporeans have got to be the impending opening of Jewel Changi Airport Singapore. The organisers have cleverly stirred up
some great hype by opening the place for preview. From 11 – 16 April, everyone who wants to have first dips on visiting Jewel, the newest addition to the already shopping-heavy Singapore Changi Airport, will have to book tickets via an online booking system, just like one does for a pop concert, to be granted a 3-hour entry into the spanking new spot in the city.
Entering Changi Airport’s Crown Jewel
True to expectations, there were queue poles at the entrance from T3 Departure Hall, complete with ushers to help visitors scan their QR coded tickets at the verification stand. From there, it was a 5-minute stroll in the glass-cladded link bridge into the famous glass doughnut that has caught the world’s attention.
There was also a bridge linking T2 to Jewel Changi Airport, though the best way to enter the newest Capitaland Mall was via the Arrival Hall of Changi Airport Terminal 1. The latter was not just directly connected to Jewel Changi Airport (you wouldn’t even realise they were separate buildings), when it’s fully opened, travellers departing from Terminal 1 could check in at the self-service check in counters inside Jewel itself. And yes, you can drop your bags there and it would be uplifted into your flight’s aircraft via the automated baggage handling system.
Before entering the main building of Jewel Changi Airport, I already caught a waft of floral scent in as I approached the end of the link bridge. Just right before I stepped into the glass doughnut, 3 imposing floral chandelier greeted me – they were obviously the source of the sweet scent.
The entryway was flanked by eateries, most notably Din Tai Fung. To orientate yourself, the entrance from T2 link bridge was flanked by Jumbo Seafood, while the main entrance from T1 was flanked by (who else?) Shake Shack and Tokyu Hands. These landmarks will come in handy, because this place, which was once the sprawling open air carpark of Changi Airport Terminal 1, was a huge maze of shops and restaurants.
HSBC Rain Vortex and The Terraced Garden
The first thing I did upon entering Jewel Changi Airport was to head to the (literally) centrepiece of the building – HSBC Rain Vortex, which was the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Cascading from the glass canopy, the water collected from rain plunged 10 stories, or 40 metres down to the basement (B2). The sight brought to mind a Chinese poem from Li Bai:
“The sun’s rays shone upon the rising smoke from the cauldron, I watched the waterfall hanging above the river. It cascaded down 3000 feet, and for a moment, I thought it was the Milky Way overflowing from the skies.”
The poetic emotions aside, what amazed me was how the whole canopy held itself up, free from columns, to create such a cavernous greenhouse (the whole interior, when viewed from the rain vortex, looked like a scene from Jurassic World). Amongst this, the collected rainwater was channeled up the canopy and the engineers could control the flow of the water such that it changed its texture every now and then, and became a cylinder canvas for the light shows that entertained visitors at night.
And the light shows were what thousands of the visitors gathered there for.
Terraces, lined with lush greenery from creepers to palm trees, rose from the rain vortex, offering thousands of visitors 360-degree views from all around the waterfall to view the light shows. Needless to say, Singaporeans were already huddled around the rain vortex, occupying every inch of space available by 7pm, half an hour before the first show was to start.
It was like a gathering of worshippers, everyone armed with a sense of eagerness and a mobile phone, ready to take photos and videos of the engineering marvel and offer the shots to the gods of the houses of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Foodie Heaven in Jewel Changi Airport – Café&Meal MUJI
Almost every eatery in Jewel Changi Airport was filled to the brim. A&W, which made a comeback after decades of absence, saw queues that was reportedly 1-hour long. I’m queue-adverse and I have had A&W at least twice in the past 2 years in KL and Bangkok, so we went to source for a quieter place to eat instead.
MUJI took a 2-storey spot in Jewel Changi Airport and Café&Meal MUJI was situated at a balcony overlooking the hustle and bustle of the shopping street below (with also a view of the skytrains as they shuttle between T2 and T3 and passing through the glass doughnut. So yes, if you want to have a view of Jewel Changi Airport and the HSBC Rain Vortex, even before the place is opened to public, the skytrain is a good way to have a quickie experience).
I ordered a Barramundi set meal, while N ordered a Chicken Leg set meal. Each meal came with a choice of 2 cold deli – I had Prawn with Broccoli and Couscous, and Rolled Omelette, while N had Brinjal and Rolled Omelette.
To be honest, the cold deli was the most disappointing part of the meal. Each mouthful of the salad felt like I sprayed my mouth with air freshener (the one used in toilets some more), while the omelette, shaped like a slab of cake, was too cold and raw (the raw taste of mushroom and vegetable) for my liking.
I loved my Barramundi the best – the fish was soft and firm and had none of the fishy taste. The gravy that came with it was thick and umami, very salty but complemented very well with the fish! There was also nuts (I guess it was almond flakes) that added crunch to the fish, which made the whole dish a multi-textured experience.
I only tasted the gravy of the chicken leg, which was just as umami as my fish sauce, except that it was light (think shoyu vs miso).
And guess what? My fish gravy also went very well with the 16-grain rice, which was soft and fragrant, without any of the grainy-taste that was usually associated with multi grain rice!
We ordered drinks on top of the set meals – Sunset Tea and Hibiscus Tea. Let’s just say there was miso soup that came with the set meals, so there was no need to spend money on additional drinks.
Ice Cream Cones for Dessert
After our meal, we tried to cover every inch of Jewel Changi Airport by continuously walking the whole length of the shopping streets. If you looked at my Google Timeline, it would look like I was walking in spiral continuously for 3 hours!
At the basement, after viewing the spectacular sight of the 1-hour A&W queue, we walked past a highly-recommended ice cream parlour: Emack and Bolio’s. Their highlight was that their ice cream cones were coated with different flavours. I had Oreo while N had Almond. He had a scoop of Cookie Dough ice cream to go with his Almond cone, while I had Space Cake, which just tasted like strawberry-flavoured ice cream with velvet cake bits.
I also found out that the “Oreo” was coated onto the cone by means of caramel – I had to bite through endless caramel to finish the whole dessert. In my mind, I was wondering if I had to starve myself for 3 days in order to burn away all that sugar I had just consumed.
It was totally a sugar-filled dessert that was not at all enjoyable. I highly recommend giving this a miss.
Canopy Park Crowning Jewel Changi Airport
After leaving the basement, we tried our luck to enter Pokemon Centre, but was shocked to find that the queue was even longer than that of A&W. So it was just a fleeting meet up with Pikachu as we walked past the shop front.
We eventually made our way to the top floor of Jewel, after plying through kilometres of shopping alleys. By then, the sun had set and the glass dome was illuminated by the soft light from the shopping area below.
The entrance to Canopy Park at the top most floor of Jewel was flanked by pubs for those who are interested to get a pint or two. For the purpose of the preview, visitors were directed to go through the park in a clockwise fashion from the pubs.
The Canopy Park was dimly lit, so I could not really see the burst of colours that were shown on social media. Instead, the visual treat was replaced by the scent of flowers that dominated the whole landscape.
Most of the amenities in the Canopy Park was not opened – like the discovery slides, and bouncing and walking net (to the dismay of all the sex-hungry uncles in Singapore). They are expected to open only in mid-2019, which is still some time after its official opening on 17 April. Whatever that was opened, like the Topiary Garden and Foggy Bowls, were children focused – good for families, but for me… -_-
By the time I left Jewel Changi Airport, I had clocked 10,000 steps, so it was indeed a very big complex to explore! Yes, travellers could conveniently check in and drop their bags at Jewel and then go for a pre-flight shopping trip, but I wonder if the place would suck one into a shopping and dining vortex such that the number of people who miss their flights would rise? Perhaps that was why Yotelair opened shop in Jewel!
I believe the place would still be swarmed with people for months after the official opening on 17 April 2019, which was why I plan to next visit the place only in like half a year’s time! For those who did not manage to book a preview ticket, you can imagine the crowd it attracted by just lingering around in T3; T3 had not seen such a crowd for a long time!
The power of a new shopping mecca….