"You should catch the sunrise here tomorrow morning from one of our bigger bridges." the restaurant owner said. "It is beautiful and much better than sunset." he added.
"What time does the sun rises nowadays?" I asked.
"Around 6 to 6:30 am." he replied.
With that information, I told my son to set the alarm at 6 am the next morning and went to bed, hoping for a spectacular sunrise over the ancient water town of Wuzhen.
It was cold when the alarm went off at 6 am. What do you expect since it is right in the middle of winter. My son rolled over after switching off the alarm. He is definitely not an early riser and no amount of sunrise is going to get him off that warm bed. I was struggling too and almost dozed off when my wife reminded me that it was already 6:30 am and I better get my ass off the bed if I ever wanted to catch the sunrise.
I picked up my gear, put on my winter jacket and ventured out into the cold misty morning. Any hope of getting that perfect sunrise was dashed when I walked onto slippery wet walking paths as it has been raining the night before apparently. The sky was gloomy and downcast and more rain was forecast for the day. I was somewhat disappointed but as I stood on one of the stone bridges looking towards the two rows of houses lining the water canal and a mist covering the rest some distance away, I realized that I was presented with a different perspective of this ancient water town in the morning. One that is cold and damn, sleepy, quiet and tranquil, and that was exactly what I was feeling right that moment, standing on the bridge.
The wind has not picked up and the water was calm. At 6:45 am, before the harsh sunlight breaks through, I could still get decent long exposure shot without using any big stoppers to cut down the light.
I did not manage to get a lot of shots during the day when we first arrived the day before with two little toddlers tagging along, although I did managed to capture what I wanted to see at night. Being alone now, with just my camera and my gear and without having to rush through every shot, I could go about checking each shot through different angles and settings.
The town was practically deserted at this hour. Most of the overnight visitors were still in their warm bed. I guessed none was as crazy as I am, braving the chill and the freezing temperatures just hoping to get some good pictures. Many, I guessed, just as I was, initially, thought that there were no opportunities to catch a good sunrise with the gloomy weather and hence gave up the idea. Whatever their reasons were, I was glad as I get to have the entire town almost to myself.
As I took shot after shot, from this bridge to the next, I began to realize that these are scenes and atmosphere that I wanted to capture of an ancient water town. Not just the bright lights and their reflections on the water, but the dreamy feel of a sleepy ancient water town, without the commercialisation, in all her serenity and tranquility, allowing your imagination to go back hundreds of years.
The "Bridge In Bridge" during the day with both bridges in view as well as their clear reflections on the calm waters.....
As day brightened, this sleepy town started to wake up with some residents getting their shops ready for the day. Workers started to arrive, bringing along their breakfast for yet another busy day, hoping that the crowd would be larger since it is a weekend.
As the day brightens, I caught this little boat starting his round to start off another day down the river .....
By 8 a.m. the rain had started to drizzle, signalling me that it is time to head back to the hotel. As I walked back, I saw more tourists now, coming out from the hotels, taking a walk among the wet walking paths, taking pictures here and there. I had my fair share and I would like to believe the better parts too.
By the time, we walked over for our breakfast around 9:30 a.m., the slight drizzle has got heavier and so has the crowd, both from those staying overnight and those arriving for the day, all decked in raincoats or umbrellas, jostling around the narrow alleys and bridges for their pictures.
I walked past them with a grin and a smile on my face, knowing deep inside, I am a contended man and having had the best moments of a misty dreamy Wuzhen, an ancient water town of over 1200 years history at the breaking of dawn.