Lei Feng Tower
Today is the day, the day that I have been waiting for.
Actually, I havent planned to catch the solar eclipse when I planned for my Shanghai-Hangzhou-Suzhou trip early this year. It was during one of my information browsing session that I came across the information that China will be experiencing the longest total solar eclipse in July. So, it further affirms the fact that I am "destined" to go to China this year. Hahaha.....
I loved astronomy since I was 10. But reality has deviated me from pursuing my interest. I attempted to reconnect with astronomy once in a while, but reading astronomy-related articles, and trying my best to impress my peers with the knowledge I know. I use to copy notes about constellations and the planets from encyclopedia and even bothered to keep track of the solar and lunar eclipses in Singapore.
I still recall that I observed my first solar eclipse during my grandmother's funeral in 1995. How time flies. I found new passion as I further my education. I began to drift away from astronomy. Finally, when I graduated, I know nothing more about the universe than I did 10 years ago. If I remember correctly, 2009 is the year of astronomy. So, it made 22 Jul 2009 even more memorable for me. It signifies my first proactive step to find back the interest which I abandon 10 years ago.
I woke up super early this day. In fact, I dreamt about spiders and that I missed the solar eclipse. Even though first contact is at about 8am, I am still worried that I would miss it if we were not there by 8am.
We hurried to Westlake without taking breakfast and found that the Westlake is filled with people already. We settled ourself by the side of Su Di in Westlake, facing Xiao Ying Zhou. I set my tripod and get the camera ready to film the process. My camera was the normal commercial type, so I couldnt get a solar filter. But anyway, as advised by a fourm member, since this is my first total eclipse, it is best to just experience the whole thing. The sequence photo-taking etc can come later when I am better equiped with knowledge.
I got our solar filters out and started to looked at the sun. Whole and round. It was a cloudy morning and I could practically hear people praying for the cloud to clear.
The waiting was long. We looked up through the filter everytime the cloud cleared. I didnt even know where the moon will be coming from. Somehow, I always have the impression that the moon will enter from the right side of the sun. Then I saw it, it was a huge bite from the top. At first I thought I had mistaken a patch of cloud that was obscuring the sun. I told my sister and she said it was the cloud. But then, other observers started to confirm what I have seen. At last, we can start tracking the progress of the eclipse, finally knowing where the moon will be moving.
The wait was long. From a fat crescent sun, we wait until the crescent thinned. The shadows lengthened. It was as if evening has arrived by speedpost.
Just a bit more....
And then, all of a sudden many things happened at the same time, we saw fishes lept from the lake surface, we saw bird flying back to tree tops, and squirrels all chasing their friends' tails as they made their way back to their homes. I even traced a squirrel back to its home on a willow tree that is just next to us. It just froze and stared at us for goodness know why. Then Lei Feng Tower lite us, and we saw that the there is only a tiny bit of sun left. Then it happened. Totality. Darkness just fell upon us. Where there hang a sun that is so bright that only a solar filter can reveal the infinitestimonal sun left to lit up earth moments ago, only the corona of the sun can be seen. The sun body is totally hidden by the dark moon.
It wa an amazing sight. This is yet another moment that only a true self encounter can express how amazing the sight and scene is. I understand Singapore has a direct telecast of the eclispe. Of course, the internet will have all the photos and videos of the total eclipse (as I have shared here too!!). But being just there, experiencing the moment of darkness, when the beloved sun just hide behind the moon for a well-deserved break from its daily job (just like I do!!) the feeling was overwhelming. No wonder many people flock to different countries to experience the total eclipse instead of a partial one. Totality was the best thing that can happen amongst all that Mother Nature can offer.
In the 6 mintues of totality, we just stood there, taking in whatever our eyes and cameras can take in.
Lei Feng Tower lights up in preparation for Totality
Exclaiming how wonderful it is, how astonishing the moment day just turn into night. The sight of the dark round thing that hangs in the sky with the magnificent corona (actually it is quite small because it is a total eclipse), the sight was way beyond what words can describe. Then all the insects starts to call. It was noisy, with people cheering, insectes chirping, and farawat, people are lighting firecrackers to chase away the celestial dog that has just eaten our beloved sun.
Then, totality ended. The moment moon shifted out of the sun's position, the day just light up. I have never seen first light during a sunrise, but I guess that is what happened. I think I managed to catch the diamond ring on my camera, and the rest in history.
Even though the sun is still more than 90% covered by the moon, the power of its ray has lighted up and waken the whole land. It is the power of the sun that made us who we are and we should, as inhabitants of the universe, protect Earth so that we may enjoy these natural phenomena (I am terrible in spelling).
With the day returning, I returned to reality and took pictures of the Westlake. Since I cannot take the sequence of the whole ecplise, there is no point for me to wait until the moon has finally moved away from the sun. We walked the rest of Su Di to explore the Westlake.
Su Di is loonng, and Westlake is BIG!!!.....We walked for about half and hour before we reached one of Westlake's famous 10 sights. There were willows, bridges, clear water and huge pink lotus.
My sister and me were soo immersed in the tranquility and beauty of the place that she (though I did it silently) kept repeating a Chinese ancient verse....Ming Yue Ji Shi You, Ba Jiu Wen Qing Tian.....Though it is not a verse that beautifies Westlake, the place just kept us in a very poetic mood.
We walked further down and saw a restuarant Lou Wai Lou. I have read that it is a very famous restaurant in Westlake so we went in to have our lunch. We ordered vegetable and a soup. All in all, it costs us about RMB88, so it is still affordable for us. We walked down and wannted to go on one of those self-power boat ride around West lake. We walked down Bai Di and finally reached the pier, but unfortunately, by that time it is our turn to buy the tickets, the counter closed and informed us that they are closed for the day as it is going to rain.
True enough, we heard rumbling of thunders in the distant and we just went back to our hostel to get our laundry done (Stupid because it is going to rain!!)
We went back to our hostel to play with the resident cats there, a mother Siamese cat and her daughter (cum sister as they shared the same father). The kitten is super cute. Her name is "Rabbit". She is a long-fur Siamese, whose favourite pastime is to sleep. My sister is soo in love Rabbit and I have to control playing with Rabbit because I am scared that I will forget about my own cat in Singapore.
Indeed, it rained very heavily after that. We walked to Xin Kai Yuan to have dinner. I wanted to splurge as we have not bought anything for the whole day except to eat at Lou Wai Lou.
But surprisingly, Xin Kai Yuan's food is super affordable. We ordered tomato egg soup, noodle, chicken and vegetable and a sweet dessert and all that costs us less than RMB100. To me, I find it super cheap because that translate to about SG20 for a meal in a hotel restaurant. I liked the dessert most because it is sweet and not salty (like all the rest of the soup), but if you are staying in the youth hostels near Si Yan Jing and wanted a good place to have a meal, Xin Kai Yuan is a good place for that.