Thousands of Singaporeans are flocking to the city's newest major attraction, ahead of the new S$1.7 billion (US$1.3 billion) Jewel Changi Airport's opening on Wednesday.
It's not a theme park or priceless piece of art, but it might as well be.
Over four years, Changi Airport Group and real estate giant CapitaLand transformed what was previously the open-air car park of its Terminal 1 into an epic, multifaceted, 10-storey complex.
The 40m HSBC Rain Vortex is the world's tallest indoor waterfall. Photo: Dewey Sim
The gleaming, dome-shaped glass structure was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, whose past works include Singapore's famed Marina Bay Sands.
Inside stands the world's tallest indoor waterfall " at 40 metres high. There's about 300 more shops, food and drink outlets, and nature areas populated with 2,500 trees and 100,000 shrubs hand-picked and flown in from countries including Spain, China and Thailand.
But before Jewel opens to the world, hundreds of thousands of eager locals are expected to get a sneak peak inside.
SINGAPOREANS LOVE THEIR AIRPORTS
The airport launched an online ballot for people keen to get an early look at Jewel from April 11 to 16, before its opening on Wednesday.
Susan Lim, one of the 60,000 people who visited on Thursday alone, took the day off work to spend the day there.
"We go to the airport about once every two months for the food," she said, admitting it takes her more than an hour to get to Changi in the east. "But with Jewel, we will definitely want to come to the airport more often."
The Jewel Changi Airport is populated with thousands of trees and shrubs. Photo: Dewey Sim
Maria Agustiawan said she was looking most forward to seeing the indoor waterfall.
"I think I will really love the nature areas," said Agustiawan, who will be taking her children along on Sunday.
Fellow invitee, Rashidah Samad said she was looking forward to the shopping.
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"I wanted to make it a point to visit Jewel with my family and friends so I balloted for a preview ticket," she said. "This would definitely be a good place to bring friends from overseas to get a taste of Singapore."
Airport officials estimate as many as 500,000 locals and invitees are expected to visit Jewel before Wednesday.
Singapore's Changi Airport is the seventh busiest in the world, hosting more than 65 million travellers in 2018 alone. Photo: Dewey Sim
Though for some, taking the family to an airport for a day out may seem odd, the idea is not so far-fetched in the Lion City, according to Oren Tatcher, a Hong Kong-based architect specialising in airports and transport terminals.
"Jewel is built on a long tradition in Singapore, where locals would go to the airport to eat and hang out and have dinner and watch planes," said Tatcher, noting how Changi Airport has viewing terraces to facilitate such unique culture.
"This is not something you typically see in other airports, except perhaps in Japan."
A WINDOW INTO SINGAPORE
Apart from being a local attraction, Jewel promises to be a major international draw for the city state, according to tourism and retail experts.
Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said the new airport could give travellers a taste of what Singapore has to offer, even encourage them to time a trip into the city on their next visit.
The Pokemon Center Singapore at Jewel is the first of its kind outside Japan. Photo: Dewey Sim
"If you are transiting in Singapore, one option is to take a bus ride out to the city. But this might not be possible for those who don't have the luxury of time," he said. "Jewel's waterfall and greenery gives a sense of what Singapore can offer at other attractions like Gardens By The Bay."
Angela Cheng, a lecturer in retail and event management at Singapore's Nanyang Polytechnic, said the nature element of the new terminal, as well as its abundance of shops and eateries, may convince more regional travellers to transit via the city.
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"While visitors may not make a trip to Singapore just for the airport, it is a great pull factor for transiting travellers," she said.
"It might also encourage travellers to extend their trip by a couple of hours or arrive at the airport earlier to explore Jewel."
And for businesses, Jewel's opening represents another opportunity to get prime retail space in one of Asia's biggest cities.
US fast food chain Shake Shack and Pokemon Centre " the first of its kind outside Japan " will be making their Singapore debuts at Jewel.
Jewel Changi Airport will see the introduction of new facilities such as early check-in and baggage storage. Photo: Dewey Sim
Pokemon Singapore CEO Kenjiro Ito said Jewel's opening was timely, given the period of tourism and retail growth in Asian markets.
"As Changi Airport is a regional hub, we are expecting a lot of international visitors to come by; not only from the countries nearby like Indonesia and Malaysia, but we also envision people from much farther countries," Ito said.
Singapore's Changi Airport is the seventh busiest in the world, hosting more than 65 million travellers in 2018 alone.
For Jewel's CEO Hung Jean, the project's completion represents far more than just a giant waterfall or a smorgasbord of shops.
It's where "the world meets Singapore, and Singapore meets the world", she said.