In July, Vally Lavender opened the latest iteration of her region of [Valium] with a new design by Dandy Warhlol (Terry Fotherington). Entitled Suaka, the Indonesian term for “sanctuary” it was initially offered as a special retreat for [Valium] group members, but has since been opened to the general SL populace. It stands as an engaging, restful setting, rich in opportunities for escape and for photography (see: A sanctuary with a touch of Indonesia in Second Life).
She has now added to the estate with the arrival of a second Full region, and has again engaged Terry to handle the landscaping with the intent to extend the idea of refuge and respite – in which he has admirably succeeded -, and she kindly offered me an invitation to visit as the region opened to [Valium] group members (L$395 joining fee) – although the region will be open to the general public from Monday, September 6th, 2021, for a period of time.
Entitled Seiiki, the Japanese term for “sanctuary”, the new region sits to the south of Suaka, the two separated by a narrow band of water passing between their respective sandy shorelines, a path of stones breaching the water to provide a dry passage between the two. Crossing this path not only allows visitors to pass between the two regions with ease, it also moves them between two settings with very different root influences, for while Suaka draws on Indonesia and other parts of south-east Asia, Siieki draws its inspiration from Japan with touches of China sitting within it.
From is northern beach, Seiiki also presents a very different terrain to Sauka, although the two do flow together quite naturally. Where the latter is predominantly low-lying, Seiiki rises swiftly from its beach to present a rocky vista of cliffs, plateaux, hard shoulders of rock and flat-topped peaks that sit as foothills to the green mountains that rise beyond it. It is also a richly wooded location, the lower slopes home to dense coverings of what appear to be bamboo palms of the Rhapis genus, thus giving the first tilt of the region towards China, where this particular bamboo palm is common.
These woods flank a small valley leading inland and reached via steps that run up from the beach to a simple Torii gate. This little valley is home to a small café and is clearly the preserve of another Chinese influence: panda bears. These have clearly decided the stubby valley is theirs by rights, and a mix of small family groups and lone adults have marked out their little spaces within it, wandering, playing, eating and – in one case, at least – seek the bear necessities of life, be they bamboo fronds or catching some rays whilst perched in the natural curve of a Palmetto tree trunk!
It is from this little valley that explorations of the rest of the region all commence. On the east side, just beyond the café, stone steps climb up to a low promontory of rock with its flanks heavy with the bamboo palms mentioned above by way of a small gateway. On reaching the top of this finger of a hill, the path quickly offers a choice for those reaching it: tarry at the broad pond where duck play, follow a path leading back north along the shoulder to where a second, shaded pond hides, the home to koi and a simple little shack that is home to a cuddle-point, or venture further up into the hills by means of a choice of routes.
The first of these routes takes the form of narrow planks laid over the grass that wind past an abandoned hut by the side of the pond to reach a bridge, beyond which sits Seiiki’s little end-of-the-line train station, a small terminus on a single-track line. The second route follows the stone steps as they continue upwards to reach what might have once been a shrine set within its own walled rock garden but which is now a place for yoga and meditation as it sits neatly on a square plateau of rock that looks down over the head of the region’s central valley.
This valley head takes the form of what might generally be a peaceful pond, reached from the café along a grassy path in part marked by scattering of small white stones. The pond is watched over by a figure of Buddha offering his blessing, adding to its sense of peace, and who is in turn guarded by two Japanese crane. However, it is fair to say the serenity here may at times be broken by the hissing rumble of steam trains (or just the rumble of locomotives, given the track has overhead powerline for electric trains) as they pass over a trestle bridge that spans the gap between two tunnels above a small reservoir located upslope from Buddha and his pond.
Reached via a short set of steps, the wall of the reservoir both holds back the water and presents a path to a set of broad, flat stone that break the surface of the water to lead the way to where ancient stone steps switchback their way up and around the curving flank of the region’s highest cliffs. Those who take this giddying walk will find themselves at a high wooden vantage point that looks back down the valley, and a second stairway that runs back down the cliff-face. This descends way of a sake bar (the alcohol possibly welcome after the climb!) to another of the setting’s hideaways in the form of a little koi house nestled on its own rocky ledge, from where visitors can wave to those on the train as it huffs its way over the bridge, either to or from Seiiki’s little railways station.
To the west, and reached by another stone stairway, the region offer a spa sitting within a large Edo-style building (with most of the other buildings in the region in the same style), again built over water to present another place of peace and retreat.
Rich in detail, if a little heavy on some systems if you run with Shadows and other bells and whistles enabled all the time, Seiiki is a more than worthwhile companion to Suaka, the two of them offering a richness of space and setting for people to lose themselves. As noted above, Seiiki is open to [Valium] group members only until Monday, September 6th (joining fee L$395 – which goes directly towards the upkeep of both regions) – where after it will be open to the public at large, alongside Suaka, for an unspecified (at the time of writing) period of time.
- Seiiki (ValiumSL 1, rated Moderate)