Travel Culture

Published on August 18th, 2014 | by Eliza Gower


The big debate: are you team sunrise or team sunset?

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

Image courtesy of Rachel Kramer, Flickr

As far as trivialities go, comparing sunset to sunrise is right up there. Trying to compare subjective beauty is always fraught – more so when said beauty is merely an accidental pleasure arising from the Earth’s slow march around its own axis. But hell, if we can’t take a moment to ponder the world’s loveliness, then why are we here, eh?

Sunrises and sunsets are the universe’s present to the Earth’s flawed populace. They are at once humbling and life affirming, blessed in their simplicity and impossible in their majesty. And as travellers, we’re lucky enough to witness these wonderful events in varying incarnations. Does a sunrise in Cambodia match a sunset in Peru? What about a sunrise on a New York City street compared to a sunset across a Burmese lake? The world is awash with different backdrops for these golden occasions.

Enjoy a sunrise in Cambodia on one of our trips >
Enjoy a sunset in Peru on one of our trips > 

But while we can all hold hands and frolic in fields and kumbaya and agree that sun-filled moments, and the golden hours that precede and succeed them, are universally wonderful – let’s remember for a second that if one was to pit these two times of day against each other, suddenly the hand-holding commune would break and kumbaya would morph into some kind of alternative death metal.

For if there is one thing we humans love more than unparalleled beauty and smug holiday sunset photos, it is trivial arguments.

So, I’m doing just that. I’m pitting sunrises and sunsets against each other. I’m sorry. Here’s what I think:

On sunset…


Sweden: where sunsets are good. | Photo courtesy of Nahid Vafaie, Flickr

Sunsets are glorious, they make endearing brushstrokes of threatening clouds, turn limp branches into glowing monuments, convert cities of stone and cement into landscapes of gold. They paint the sky and celebrate the pain/greatness/melancholy of another day melting away. They are peaceful, they allow one to let go, to bid farewell. They welcome darkness and wet ones lips with the first taste of night.

But, you know what else sunsets are? Predictable. There’s no challenge in a sunset. Walk out of your office and bask in its immediate glory. Cook dinner as last light drips off you through an innocuous window. Go find a hill, a rooftop, a beach, and become immersed in its fiery splendour. There’s no barrier to entry. Sunsets are almost always spectacular. Hot orange and pink and yellow, velvet and rich and lovely. The typical blonde girl-next-door of sun events. You know what? Give us gappy teeth and crooked noses and eyes too big any day, man.

Sunsets have sold out. They are Jim Morrison singing reprieves of ‘come on Buick light my fire’ (ok ok ok he vetoed this before it was aired, but can you imagine?!). They are the fodder of pseudo spiritual yoga bloggers and Instagram addicts, add a dolphin and you have yourself a classic hippy wall hanging. Sunsets are ordinary, they are passé, they are irrefutably common.

So I am team sunrise.

On sunrise…


Japan: where sunrises are good. | Photo courtesy of Izu Navi, Flickr

Say what you will, sunrises are undeniably the underdog of golden hour. If you manage to haul your arse out of bed in the dark and fumble for whatever shred of clothing you left on the floor the night before, if you manage to take your puffy eyes and scary hair out into the world to catch a glimpse of first light, then respect, dude, the sunrise is yours.

If you’ve stayed up all night, fought the terrors of 3am, danced pre-dawn and stumbled headlong into another day – then remember this moment friend, hold it in your heart.

Sunrises aren’t always spectacular, they don’t always drag autumnal warmth out of bleak darkness, they don’t always flood landscapes with hot beauty. They can be watery and meek. Insignificant. But boy are they optimistic. Filled with the hope of a day yet unknown. They (quite literally) fill the world with light. Sunrises are freedom, opportunity, anticipation, solitude. They are caught in the hours when the world is quiet, heavy with sleep. Sunrises are the quiet introverts of sun events. The unassuming beauties, raw and full of heart.

I reckon those who know first light, know the real loveliness of the world.

So now you know my position, what do you think? Are you Team Sunrise, or Team Sunset?

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About the Author

Writing about travel is an excellent form of torture. Excellent because, writing about travel. Torture because, writing about travel. But I can’t complain too much. I got to spend a good many years gallivanting around, eating the food, seeing the things and sleeping in odd positions. Now every time the FOMO gets too intense, I just channel my wanderlust into bad travel adjectives. SAY NO TO AZURE.

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