Water plays an important role in Singapore.
In many parts of Southeast and East Asia, water equates to wealth, to the extent that money and water are somehow intertwined; how a country manages its water resources is a reflection of how it manages its finances.
Amongst the Chinese, water denotes luck and fortune, and thus water elements that are sited properly in one’s abode is considered auspicious, likely to bring prosperity and success.
In the heart of Singapore, there already exists a Fountain of Wealth, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest fountain.
It is believed you’ll be blessed with good luck if you walk around it three times (clockwise or anti-clockwise).
If you’re a frequent visitor to Changi Airport, you will also notice water features in many areas of Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
It is therefore hardly a surprise that the star attraction at Jewel, the new mega shopping mall at Singapore’s Changi Airport is a water fountain – the HSBC Rain Vortex – at 40 metres high it is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
It’s not known how much HSBC paid to have exclusive rights to the centrepiece attraction at Jewel for five years, but suffice to say Changi Airport is already feeling lucky.
HSBC isn’t the only corporate name to be associated with Jewel.
Surrounding the Rain Vortex is the Shiseido Forest Valley, billed as a “lush green sanctuary”, courtesy of the Japanese cosmetics company.
Then there is the Manulife Sky Nets which, depending on how many drinks you have imbibed in, promises to make you feel as if you’re bouncing among trees.
Branding aside, a trip into Jewel is a journey that is likely to make you (and your wallet) vacillate into the vast unknown.
It’s a tough call.
The best time to visit is at dusk, where ambient lights penetrating the roof of Jewel are at its most alluring.
For dinner, you can opt to queue for an hour (or two) to sample the Shake Shack burger or meander to the top of the complex and treat yourself to a gourmet meal at the Privé, and watch the Rain Vortex weave its magical lights.
Why put a mammoth man-made waterfall in front of an airport terminal, surrounded by an artificial tropical rainforest and then throw in 280 retail and food outlets, you might ask.
Because that’s what most people like and judging by the thousands who milled around the mall on 15 April, the SGD1.7 billion (USD1.3 billion) construction costs is a small price to pay to build this edifice.
Jewel is just jaw dropping huge.
It makes the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest, looks like a cumbersome corner store.
And to think the site that Jewel sits on now was a stale, staid carpark just five years ago.
It is testament to the inventiveness of the people who manage Changi Airport, voted by Skytrax just last month as the best in the world – the seventh consecutive time that Changi has claimed it.
And we are going out on a limb here, and predict that Changi Airport will be voted the world’s best airport for the next three years and become the first ever to be crowned the best in the planet for 10 years in a row.
With the official opening of Jewel on 17 April, Changi Airport has moved further ahead of the competition by providing a unique travel experience and sensation unmatched by any other airports.
The best way to experience Jewel, in our view, is not inside it but hundreds of metres above, in the darkness of the night, when you are on board an aircraft that’s either taking off or about to land at the airport.
And then, Jewel comes glistening into view, a modern architectural and engineering marvel glowing next to another Changi icon, the control tower.
Of course, Jewel was designed for you to explore on foot, and it involves traipsing along the mall with shops on both sides that just scream for your attention.
The buzz and the noise radiate throughout Jewel – here a luxury baggage store brimming with bags of varying hues, there a Pokemon mascot peddling merchandise to the young and old.
If you like the company of people, strangers – thousands at any given time – then Jewel will guarantee you enlightenment.
One thing the foreign visitor to Singapore can’t escape is the national fascination for food: Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Vegan, they are all represented at Jewel.
There is an orderly exuberance to Jewel that, we assume, would make you want to spend time (and money) even if you aren’t flying anywhere.
And there’s that water flowing, funneling from the glass and metal roof through the oculus – rainwater to be exact – that promises to make this Moshe Safdie creation a selfie scene for many years to come.