A column of water (surrounded by lush vegetation) drops from a circular opening in a glass roof.
©Wendy Gan 2024

The Cataract Falls at Jewel

Wendy Gan

What passes for the sublime in Singapore are techno-nature wonders. The 40-metre indoor waterfall surrounded by foliage and housed within a mall at Changi Airport is one. To approach this spectacle, you must go through Jewel, an upmarket shopping centre, where a distant rush of water clues you in that there is something different at the heart of this consumerist palace. Then you see a massive column of water falling from the centre of a glass-panelled dome amidst a lush backdrop of green and it takes your breath away.

Next to the falling water is an elevated track and a train is passing through. There is greenery all around.
A train connecting Changi Terminals 2 and 3 passes through the space ©Wendy Gan 2024

The air is charged with ions from the tumult of water and there is a collective sense of amazement from the spectators, even though they very soon recover and start pulling out their phones to take photos and videos. 

Still, that first glimpse is magical: the elemental force of cascading water wonderfully and absurdly placed in the most urban and mundane of settings shatters your expectations. For a few brief seconds, you are transported into another realm where there is nothing but the wild splendour of a waterfall. 

A view of the glass panelled ceiling reinforced with triangular metalwork and the hole through which the water pours down.
©Wendy Gan 2024

The beauty of it all begins to fray, however, as soon as you walk down the path to the base of this man-made cataract. From a distance, the foliage looks varied and dense. Up close, it seems a little sparse, and someone has unwisely tucked some fibreglass tiger cubs into the planters for a more jungle-inspired feel. The waterfall drains into a sink of gleaming black granite; the spray sends up a cool mist. You feel a slight drop in temperature and, looking up at the curved sheet of water pounding into the granite, there is one more flicker of sheer awe, until the crowds and the large, incongruous platinum Mickey Mouse statue placed at one of the entrances return you to the tawdry reality that this is mere visitor bait in a mall at an airport. 

Visitors pose for a photo before a platinum Mickey Mouse statue. The indoor waterfall is in the background.
©Wendy Gan 2024

You have just visited the HSBC Rain Vortex. Please enjoy the rest of your shopping and dining experience at Jewel.