When You Watch the World Wake Up

When You Watch the World Wake Up
An illustration depicting sunrise over Lake Michigan Photo Credit:

An OT reader recounts watching sunrises in the places he has travelled to and the impulses the early hour lends him

Rameshinder Singh Sandhu
June 08 , 2021
10 Min Read

It’s only been a few weeks, since I transformed into an early bird, rousing exactly at 4:30. All thanks to the Morning Miracle Morning book by Hal Elrod that turned my ages old wish into reality. After all, early mornings are absolutely magical.

It’s when the same world we are part of is in a completely different hue, enveloped in all the solace and tranquillity. It’s also when knowingly or unknowingly it remains engrossed in rolling out surprises, not noticed a few hours or just an hour later.


Hence, I have come to realise why many of my favoruite travel memories too are from the moments of dawn, some even before its crack. And I have adored narrating them to all, for the fascination they hold.

When I was in Chicago, staying with my uncle, one evening, he ebulliently announced the morning’s plan. “Let’s sleep on time today as I will take you to Lake Michigan tomorrow around 4 to catch the sunrise. We can also take the cycle along, in case you want to ride it along the shore…” I was instantly up for it, and we reached there, after a silent yet exciting ride in the car from a suburb called Burr Ridge, nearby.

Read: Sunset Dates to Go On

Lake Michigan at dawn

With still time for the sun’s rouser, we began with walking, joining many other walkers, joggers, cyclists. Every few steps, we also saw many people indulging in yoga, news channels’ vehicles for weather reports, and of course the silence that gave us a soothing company.

It truly felt like one of the most breathtaking paintings as the sun began to wake up. It was magnificent, as if coming out of the waters of the lake, and soon changed its colour from golden to orange. Its reflection on the lake, the world around, especially on the sky scrapers on one side, was phenomenal –all happening so peacefully.

I soon pulled out the cycle out the car and began riding, singing along praises to the sun, the lake and to my uncle, who brought me here. I had often come earlier to this lake never earlier had I experienced the same magic. It may have been a bit arduous to wake up the same morning but it was worth it, and we returned home with one of the best shows of nature. For days, we kept swapping our moments of joy at the lake, and even years later, whenever I phone him, that morning naturally walks to the tongue.

On the last day of my Hong Kong trip, as suggested by many locals, I was out of my bed by 5 to enjoy my breakfast 428 meters above South China Sea at famed Ritz Carlton’s 102nd floor lounge. “You have to be there early for the best tables known for providing the best bird eye views,” I was told.

The view from the Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong, that the writer talks about

From my relatives’ home in North Point – my hosts here, I embarked on the almost empty train (usually full during the day), all the way to Kowloon, which also went under the water, dropping me exactly under the feet of the hotel’s building –also home to the International Commerce Centre. Being one of the first persons for breakfast, I was taken to one of the best tables, facing the large floor to ceiling transparent glass wall, overlooking the large sea and sky scrapers.

Read: Sunrise to Sunset

Best was when my eyes also clapped on the small binoculars placed on all tables, considering the views they offered. It was around 6 as I took a seat, mesmerised with Hong Kong in front. The sun had freshly come out, reflecting beautifully on the water, dotted with ferries of various shapes and sizes.

As the sun was still figuring out its position, everything seemed surreal. I treasured noticing how traffic with every marching hour was rising on the water, and couldn’t hold picking binoculars, seeing helicopters making their first flights for Macau on the other side. Since I was in no rush, who only had to catch the midnight flight back to Delhi, I lounged there for little over three hours, thinking along how amazing it would be to share my breakfast experience with all, where more than the food, the table I was at excited me much more.

But there were also scenes, when I had to make no effort to rouse for the dawn. Thanks to my arrival times at various places which effortlessly introduced the dawn’s charm. Take my landing in Abu Dhabi, around 6, after a 14 hour flight from Brisbane, for instance. The beauty unfolding on the dessert, with the sky lit in a rare light, melted all my tiredness. A local sitting along pointed me to a highway – not busy at the hour. “It takes you to Dubai, which becomes very busy during the day.” Our captain reminded us of the glorious morning shots, and I wondered that mornings are so welcoming – giving more chances to us to fall in love with the places we go to.

Once I arrived at 5:30pm at Washington DC’s Union Station, on a greyhound bus from Chicago, beginning my journey late in the evening. Stepping out of the grand art deco building, I caught the capital preparing for the day as I zoomed off in my cousin’s car to her home in Virginia. We drove past many bakery trucks en route their morning deliveries, large media cameras being set up outside government buildings, cleaners preparing themselves for their daily tasks, and as we reached a café, where breakfast was being planned in the car, it was turning its ‘open’ sign on the door as our feet were about to get in. We were of course, their first customers to greet them with ‘Good Morning,’ and I joyfully told the beautiful waitress, ‘This is my first Coffee and meal in DC.’

A tourist-free DC morning

In Sydney, on one of the weekend nights, after an amazing night out on the streets, punctuated with visits to two lively clubs –all alone, as dawn was about to crack –I decided to head towards the harbour, wondering how it would be without crowds, attracted daily by the iconic bridge and the Opera House.

Feeling sleepy, I reached with no one sight, except an elderly man preparing for the arrival of a cruise ship. Seeing me taking pictures, he guessed it right. “Coming from a party?” And he continued, learning I was a tourist from India. “Don’t leave before seeing the arrival of a cruise ship. It’s one of the most dazzling morning scenes of Sydney. As passengers disembark, you will feel being part of a big party, much bigger than you may have been to, just hours ago.”

Read: If You Build It, They Will Come

Sensing the excitement, I waited, and he was right as the grand ship flagged its arrival. Most passengers were glued on the top most deck, taking pictures and some in their private room balconies on various floors. Here, on the harbour, my camera was capturing them, and I climbed various platforms along the water, for the best angles. I was so thrilled, as passengers were around me, some with suitcases, that I began interviewing them, especially, on their feeling of morning arrival, chiefly when they first saw the bridge and the Opera? Their answers bathed me in joy and I told many of them, “I was all alone minutes ago and your ship was my morning’s gorgeous surprise…”

Maybe their cameras too captured me, coming towards the harbour and I standing alone surely did.

When I was in Switzerland, for my higher studies, nearly a decade back, I couldn’t resist the invitation of my Chiaso-based friend, a small town that shares border with Como, Italy. Taking advantage of my special annual travel card that allowed free travel from 7 pm to 7 am, across Switzerland, I boarded the night train but when I reached Chiaso, it was too early–not even 4 am. Why disturb him so early, I decided and instead went for a walk outside.

With road border crossing just outside the station, I crossed to the other side, showing my ID. I couldn’t believe I was walking in Italy, with silence my only company. On return at the same border, I excitedly shared that I was here to visit a friend but the official I was talking to changed my mind. “Why don’t you go to Milan, just an hour away? There’s a train coming in shortly.”

The ticket cost just 11 Euros; I was in Milan by 9, dropping my friend the message of postponing my visit. There on the roof of Duomo church, I met a tourist guide, who motivated me for Venice. “It’s not far. Go there as well.” Believe me, by night train, I reached Venice, swarming with tourists from everywhere.

Venice's San Marco Square at sunrise

However, I couldn’t manage my accommodation for this night: either all full or too exorbitant. After long walks, here and there, which included crossing many bridges, I returned to the station side, where I retired in an open on the Grand Canal, making my small backpack my pillow.

Despite being a late riser, I was up before 5 that morning. Within minutes, I was again walking on the same streets, where I walked the night before. They seemed so different to me but I soon got my answer: because it was just me and Venice. Suddenly, I saw newspapers being distributed on boats, morning deliveries to stores on their way on boats and later even children on boats, heading to schools. It again seemed different to me, as if I was on Venice’s backstage –getting introduced to its wake-up life, catching it undressed for the day. These moments seemed less foreign to me, and hence they stand closer to my heart.

And in the hotels around, breakfast buffets were still getting ready but I found a nice café, not far from the Rialto Bridge, for my first cup of Cappuccino. Within no minute, the same boat with newspapers showed up, and the waiter headed straight to pick the copies. Even if it was an Italian daily, I didn’t mind scanning it with my coffee.

Two days later, I finally met my Chiaso friend, telling me how early morning arrival led me from one miracle to the other. Because miracles happen in the morning!

This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our series #OTReadersWrite. Have a great travel story to tell? Write to us at [email protected]

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