I’ve never had a day feel quite as long as the day I saw my first total solar eclipse in Palembang thanks to the South Sumatra Tourism folk who invited us down..
Ok, maybe I’ve sat through long boring meetings that felt like forever, but on the day of the solar eclipse, I was up at 3am and saw the sky change 4 times in a single day. Also, that day was capped off with a 4hr-long bus ride where we reached our next hotel only after dark, so honestly I was quite relieved when that extremely long day was over.
The day began in darkness – a 4am call to be ready in the hotel lobby so we could tackle anticipated heavy traffic near our chosen viewing spot at the iconic red Ampera Bridge. I usually sleep pretty late at home, so this was a lot closer to sleeping time then waking up time for me!
We headed over to Benteng Kuso Besak which we had explored the night before, and it felt like we had never left. People and motorcycles were streaming in, the bridge was all lit up. Everyone was getting ready for GMT Palembang! Palembang would be one of the first major Indonesian cities to witness the total eclipse, so there was quite a lot of hype for this event all around.
Climbing up onto the bridge itself showed just how many people were excited for this event. Even at 5am in the morning, the bridge was starting to fill up with people all ready to grab a good spot for the event that would only happen at 720am! It was quite historic that we were strolling the Ampera Bridge – this was the first time, ever, that this bridge has been closed to cars since it was built in 1965!
Ampera Bridge was cordoned off to cars, and its center portion lined with tables and chairs to welcome special guests for a very special breakfast on the bridge. We were early enough to pick some good spots, which came in useful later on as the crowds continued to swell and spill over due to sheer volume.
While the eclipse was a marquee event Palembang had been waiting for, it seemed like Mother Nature was not going to make things easy. Reports were out on the cloudy weather obscuring a full view of the sun, and as we waited, it seemed like the clouds weren’t going to clear while we waited the next few hours. The sun rose at around 620am, but was mostly obscured by clouds so we merely saw the sky get brighter. The crowds meanwhile continued to grow, optimistic folk hoping for a minor miracle for this landmark event.
It was a bit of a party while waiting – there were musicians and emcees entertaining the crowd, and as bloggers do, we mostly entertained ourselves taking photos and videos and wefies while we waited. I even spotted a dragon in the distance, slowly inching its way through the crowd. Chinese legend attributes the disappearance of the sun to a mighty dragon having a bit of a solar snack, and that it took the noise and clamour of the common people to persuade it to leave the sun as it is.
We had special eclipse glasses – don’t ever try looking directly at the sun even in polarized sunglasses, because even in cloudy weather, those UV rays are piercing. I could see spots forming even with a short glance towards the shaded sun – after that I stuck to the eclipse glasses. These are really, really dark. You can’t see anything else through them because they are so well filtered, but you can see the round ball of the sun when you look directly at it, as well as any shadows that might cover it.
There were times of clarity, and cheers all around when the sun shone through the clouds. As the hour approached, it was pretty surreal getting glimpses of a sun partially covered by the moon – an orange sphere with oddly neat shadows across it when you peer through the eclipse glasses. It also started to get darker. 7am morning light suddenly felt like 6pm evening.
The moment of the total eclipse was pretty damn epic – the sky was dark, people were singing, and though you couldn’t see the sun for the clouds, there was still a swell of emotion in the air. I took a very short video to capture that moment. Note the darkness in the picture!
There were a ton of drones being flown that day – here’s a video that someone managed to get which better shows you the timelapse of day to night and back to day again.
Not long after, it was like the lights were switched back on again and it started to get bright, another sunrise upon us. We hung around waiting for the crowds to disperse some before we made our way off the bridge, grabbing some food from the buffet and food trucks along the way. It was just 9am when we were done – it was back to the hotel for a much-needed nap before we headed for lunch and out of Palembang!
Much thanks again to the South Sumatra Tourism board and the city of Palembang for an awesome experience. Stay tuned for more about my week in South Sumatra, it was a pretty crazy week – why not see how my trip to the second largest lake in Indonesia Lake Ranau was like?