Losing myself in Hera’s Shangri-La in Second Life

Shangri-La, August 2021 – click any image for full size
In Second Life did Hera (Zee9)
A tropical paradise decree.
Where a hidden Gorgon statue sits
In a cavern that torches dimly lit
   And a ship awaits upon the sea.

– with apologies to the estate of Samuel Taylor Coleridge!

Hera (Zee9) is a region creator whose imagination is in many ways unparalleled in Second Life; over the years she has consistently produced immersive environments built around themes that have richly and deservedly captured the hearts and minds of all who have visited them.

Perhaps best known for her ever-evolving Drune builds, many of which I’ve covered in these pages, she had also been the creator of places such as the medieval-like Golgothica and the captivating Venesha. Now, after what she describes as a “hectic and unpleasant four months”, she has opened another build for people to enjoy – and it is another marvel.

Shangri-La, August 2021

Shangri-La, modelled in part on an earlier Drune Raider design, was originally going to be a private place Hera could retreat to and spend time; however, she has generously opted to open it to the public as a place to be enjoyed and explored.

I actually first got to hear about it as she and I shared a brief conversation – as we have on occasion recently, the result of bumping into one another a couple of times quite by chance – just ahead of the weekend, and she kindly offered to provide me with a tour. Sadly, circumstances dictated that I was unable to take the offer then, so Hera dropped the LM to me, and as soon as my schedule allowed, I jumped over to pay a visit.

Quite how you might describe Shangri-La is a matter of personal choice. There is a marvellous fusion of Asian elements that reaches from India through to Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia. At the same time, the very name of the setting – Shangri-La offers echoes of Shangdu, Kublai Khan’s “upper capital”, as well as echoing Hilton’s mystical place within the Kunlun Mountains, whilst climbing the steps and walking around the temple-like structures in places brings with it a faint sense of Mayan history out of South America.

It was the Shangri-La / Shangdu “connection” that brought to my mind Coleridge’s Kubla Khan – hence the opening lines to this piece, based as they are on his work – a poem about a fantastical palace, formed within the imagination; a place of dance, music, pleasure. But where Coleridge’s palace was the product of an opium-addled mind, Hera’s the result of her richness of creativity and imagination – although like Coleridge’s poem, there is a hidden edge to the setting, but where he writes of demon lovers and cries for war, the “shadow” here is much more classical, folding a touch of Grecian mythology into the build, as hinted at in my re-working of the poem’s lines.

Shangri-La, August 2021

From the moment of arrival, it is clear this is place welcoming to those wishing to escape: blankets and cushions are spread cardinal-like around the landing point, with more to be found on the various terraces, along with curtain-draped pergolas, whilst the tree tops and the surrounding beach offer yet more places to sit and relax.

For the explorers, there are halls large and small awaiting discovery – including the lower cavern / hall and its waiting statue, whilst the upper reaches of the main structure bring forth thoughts of  Angkor Wat, thanks to the great carved faces mounted on the stone walls. These also highlight another unique aspect of Hera’s region builds: rather than relying purely on commercial kits and building obtain through the Marketplace or in-world, Hera is truly the architect of her settings, designing and creating many of the meshes she uses.

Shangri-La, August 2021

To the south, the temple stretches out over the sea to grasp a rocky outcrop. The back of this stone arm sits a simply gorgeous bar, its roof open to the sky, its narrow length split into three cosy areas whilst a canopied balcony at its far end offers a further retreat.

Whilst in places completely modern in design (the bar and the central lighting), it nevertheless sits perfectly within the “ancient” walls, a place crying out to become a gathering point for like minds and imaginations, masterfully completed by the Vallejo-like paintings Hera has created for the walls, paintings that for me again added a twist of South America to the setting, given their apparent inspiration.

Shangri-La, August 2021

A ship – one of Lia Woodget’s marvellous Blackpsot builds – anchored off the northern coast adds a different sense of era to the setting, its presence suggesting the island has just been the subject of discovery by 18th century explorers from the west. Thus, between bar and ship, Shangri-La encompasses  a sense of existing outside the normal passage of time, much like its namesake.

When visiting, I do strongly recommend using the shared EEP settings for the region (admittedly, I’ve post-processed the images here to give a slightly different look to the setting, as I wanted to offer a sense of age to them that might be in keeping with that of the region, and without falling back on purely monochrome / sepia finishes).

Also, do make sure to have Advanced Lighting Model (Preferences Graphics make sure the ALM setting is enabled) as well as local sounds enabled. And as a final side notes, please be aware that while the building set upon its own in the south-west corner of the region might appear to a continuance of the main structures, it is actually a private residence and not part of the public spaces.

Captivating, photogenic and laden with tales awaiting telling, Shangri-La is exactly what its name and About Land description state: a tropical paradise and retreat.

Shangri-La, August 2021

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