I have seen many sunsets, but I’ve usually been by myself or with one or two friends, and the fiery sky is usually just the beautiful backdrop to a peaceful walk or rooftop drinks (or a welcome distraction from work as I sit at my desk), but at Gaomei Wetlands, the sunset felt like a main event — an incredible show that hundreds of us had gathered to watch together.
The journey began early afternoon from T-Life Hostel, where a fellow traveller (who is a fantastic photographer) and I set out, determined to take public transportation the entire way. This turned out to be very easy — just two buses and it’s almost impossible to get confused, because you transfer at a single stop. Also, as usual in Taiwan, friendly locals offered to tell us when our stop was approaching.
We reached Gaomei about 45 minutes before sunset. It had been a nearly cloudless day, incredibly humid, and the sun was baking hot. We followed a stream of people through a street lined with food stalls selling grilled squid, sausages, dumplings and ice cold teas, eventually reaching the edge of the wetland and the gangway that snakes out over the water.
We meandered along, weaving past throngs of teenagers and families with small children and dogs in tow. People sat along the edges, dangling the feet in the cool water and pointing out fish swimming beneath them. As we returned back to the shore, we saw tiny white crabs skittered in the sandy flats and groups of tall, slender shore birds wading in the shallows. Music was playing and the smell of fried food was in the air, people were laughing and shouting; it reminded me of summertime at the lively boardwalks in New Jersey. There’s even a red-and-white striped lighthouse to complete the picture.
We found a spot to set up the tripod and waited for sunset, high above the gangway so that our vantage point would capture both the sunset and the shadows of the people below. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the vibe slowly shifted. The music silenced, couples and families began lining the fence along the shore path. Cameras were constantly snapping, phones and tablets were held aloft for selfies, but there was a peaceful hush over it all.
The sky was beginning to show a pink tinge, the sun sliding tantalisingly close to its final descent, when suddenly a flock of shorebirds alighted and the crowd let out a gentle “Ahhhhh…”
As always happens, the sun seemed to suddenly pick up speed, dropping steadily and eventually forming the most perfect, brilliant red orb I have ever seen, the wind turbines and people all black shadows against its light.
Then it slipped below the horizon and was gone.
People began to quietly disperse. Bats flitted through the evening sky, catching mosquitoes, and in the distance, twinkling lights began to appear along the coast like the closing notes of a beautiful symphony.
If you’d like to see a time-lapse of the sunset, I’ve posted one here on Facebook.
Getting there from T-Life Hostel:
- Note that Google Maps does something weird and adds phantom hours to the journey (it is actually about 2 hours each way) but it will give you the correct buses.
- Take Bus 301, 304 or 305 from the Dong Hai stop going in the direction away from the city center. Get off at Qing Shui High School (you will hear lots of stops saying Qing Shui, this is the name of the district).
- From that same stop, take bus 178 or 179 to Gaomei Wetlands (again, you will hear other stops with Gaomei in the name; ignore them). There will be a digital display in the bus stop shelter saying when the next bus comes — it may be awhile, so if you have a 30-minute wait or more, go down the road to the Family Mart and hang out in the air conditioning. It has seating and free bathrooms, like they all do 🙂