Frugal Money Diary #3 – Exploring Jewel Changi Airport during the COVID

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport

Written by Liz

Just your regular 27-year-old, queer, super-introverted, FIRE-chasing, frugal Singaporean, who lives a pretty good life while earning only a modest salary, but still plans to retire at age 40 with $1,000,000. Click here to read more

September 20, 2020

There’s always something magical about visiting Changi Airport.

Travelling (especially to Japan) has always been my reward for surviving a dreary year of office work. And the prelude to every amazing overseas adventure is always seeing that iconic control tower in the distance, while the taxi that I’m in swiftly makes its way to the airport.

Unfortunately, there’ll be no amazing trips or stories to write home about for this year, because of the COVID pandemic.

But all things considered, I’m grateful for being largely unscathed by the pandemic. Heck, if not going to Japan (or any travelling, for that matter) this year is one of the worst COVID consequences for me, then I’m privileged beyond doubt.

That being said, why not just visit Changi Airport for fun? After all, Jewel has some of the most beautiful urban design I’ve ever seen in my life (and it better be, considering that it cost S$1.7 billion to build).

So, that’s exactly what I did (after pestering my girlfriend to accompany me).

And here’s what we did.

A Michelin-Starred Lunch

We arrive at Jewel, ready to explore. But first, lunch.

Our choice of cuisine should come as no surprise – Japanese ramen.

There’s this lovely ramen place called Tsuta, and they pride themselves on being the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen.

The décor is minimalistic, the menu is simple, the food is undoubtedly delicious, and the price is shockingly inexpensive.

I have a basic Tonkotsu ramen, $12. I also get greedy and order an additional egg, $1.40.

Tonkotsu Ramen at Tsuta

My bowl of Tonkotsu ramen at Tsuta.

My girlfriend has a Mala ramen, $13. Mala is a Chinese seasoning that’s spicy and numbing, and is one of the spices my girlfriend loves the most. We’ve never seen it in a ramen before, and it could go so wrong, but we decide to just try it anyway.

Mala ramen at Tsuta

My girlfriend’s bowl of Mala ramen at Tsuta.

Surprisingly, it is absolutely scrumptious. The Mala isn’t too overpowering (much unlike traditional Mala hotpot dishes), but there is still enough flavour for it to be delightful. I say they’ve struck the perfect balance of spice and flavour. If you enjoy Mala flavours, this dish is highly recommended.

The total bill comes up to $31.10, including a 10% service charge and a 7% goods and services tax.

At the cashier, I pull out a $25 voucher code (that I paid $15 for) from Chope, which the restaurant happily accepts. This brings my total cost down to $21.10.

An absolute steal for a Michelin-starred meal.

I live by my motto, and it has yet to let me down – you don’t need a lot of money to enjoy a good life. Not even in an expensive city like Singapore.

Tsuta Vouchers on Chope

If you’re looking to try Tsuta, we highly recommend it. The Tonkotsu and Mala ramen dishes were incredible, though their Shoyu and Miso ramen dishes pretty much fell flat (we don’t recommend these).

There’s currently a $25 voucher on Chope that you can buy for $20, which gives you a solid $5 off. Not sure how long it’ll last though.

(Not an affiliate link, just recommending a really awesome restaurant.)

Window Shopping

My girlfriend and I want to keep our spending to a minimum, so we decide to go window shopping.

We visit lots of different stores, like Muji and Tokyu Hands. Thankfully, these places are mostly empty.

An empty Muji store at Jewel Changi Airport

An empty Muji store in Jewel Changi Airport.

We also take our time to admire a massive collection of BearBricks, though we wonder how people fork out thousands of dollars for giant plastic bears.

BearBrick Collection

A massive collection of mid-sized BearBricks.

Our favourite store is the Pokémon store. After holding an adorable Clefairy stuffed toy for a good 15 minutes while we walk around the store, my girlfriend looks at me and asks, “Should I get this?”

For a moment there, I’m undecided. It’s super cute, and would make an excellent addition to our collection of Pokémon stuffed toys. But it’s also $20. That’s as much as our lunch. And we’re also supposed to be decluttering.

Eventually, I convince her to put it down by telling her that I’d pick up one for her the next time I’m in Japan. It’s a lot cheaper there, and I always enjoy picking up souvenirs for her.

Clefairy Sitting Cuties Toy

An adorable Clefairy from the Sitting Cuties collection.

In Japan, Pokémon stores are everywhere. Whenever I’m in Japan, I’d step into a Pokémon store at least every other day, because I’m accompanying my brothers who love playing the Pokémon arcade game.

It’s extremely nostalgic to be back inside a Pokémon store, and I find myself already thinking about my next trip to Japan.

More Food Deals

All the roaming around start to make us thirsty, and we stop for some bubble tea. Earlier, I had picked up a $1 deal from a new bubble tea place called Chun Yang, and it happens to be situated at Jewel Changi Airport. Perfect timing.

Bubble Tea at Chun Yang

Bubble tea from Chun Yang.

The voucher redemption process (from Chope) goes smoothly, and the bubble tea is in our hands within minutes. There’s a smooth milky taste to it, and I enjoy every refreshing mouthful. My girlfriend isn’t that big a fan of it though, she thinks that there’s more milk than tea.

Definitely still worth a try though. It costs about $4 for a cup when you get it through Chope. I got mine for just $1 because well, I’m a huge fan of flash deals.

After, I pick up 2 boxes of durian puffs from Four Seasons Durians, a gift for my girlfriend and her mom. Each box had 24, which means that there were 48 durian puffs in total.

Durian puffs from Four Seasons Durian

Two boxes of durian puffs from Four Seasons Durian.

The cost? Just $9. This deal I got through Shopee during their Dining and Services Promotion Day. You can still find a variation of this promotion at this link here.

I don’t expect much from it (as I’m not a huge fan of durian), but find myself pleasantly surprised by the creaminess and the lightness of the durian flavour.

Before we leave, we admire the humongous 40-meter rain vortex. It was a beautiful sight, which solidifies my belief that Jewel Changi Airport is one of the most incredible urban structures I’d ever seen in my life.

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport

Rain vortex at Jewel Changi Airport.

As we leave, I watch the iconic Changi Airport control tower fade in the distance, my heart aching a little, yearning for another trip, missing Japan.

Well, maybe next year.

I’ll be back again, Changi Airport.


How Much Did I Spend?

  • Lunch at Tsuta: $21.10 (for both my girlfriend and I)
  • Window Shopping: Free
  • Bubble Tea at Chun Yang: $1
  • Durian Puffs Gift from Four Seasons Durian: $9
  • Admiring Jewel: Free

Total: $31.10

Not a lot of money for a Michelin-starred lunch (for 2 people), bubble tea, a gift, and a full day of fun.

What do you think of Jewel Changi Airport?

As always, thank you for reading and supporting this blog.

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  1. Budget Life List

    I may have to go to Singapore just to experience the airport… That is incredible! I loved that you crafted a fun adventure right in your own “backyard”. Of course, the food looks amazing and cheap! I bet you would be a great foodie tour guide!

    • Liz

      Thanks BuLL! It’s definitely a beautiful place and I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favourite places in Singapore 🙂 If you’re ever in Singapore, I can take you around! I honestly don’t know if I can make a great foodie tour guide, but I’d love to try! 🙂