I did it. I purchased a round-trip ticket to the mystical land of Shangri-La where no one grows old. I journeyed to the strange land and while there, time stood still. But now I am back…and growing older by the minute. As I reflect on the trip and look at the photographs, I notice time slipping ever gently away.
The journey to Shangri-La is a marvelous trip down the rabbit hole into a garden of Eden that beckoned me to enter it and leave my mundane existence behind. As the portal to another world opened to me, I stepped forward without so much as a glance back. The grand garden fully surrounding me, instantly turned me into Alice-in-Wonderland.
The 1933 novel, Lost Horizon places the mystical land of Shangri-La somewhere far and unreachable in a place like Tibet. Today, our modern culture insists that heaven or Shangri-La can be found anywhere you are, even in smog-ridden Los Angeles.
My trip took me to my own backyard island paradise of Hawaii, which already sounds idyllic I know. But even Hawaii has a concrete jungle and higher than average bills to boot. So a trip to Doris Duke‘s Shangri-La was a welcome respite to the normal work-week routine. For over an hour, I escaped from the world of doing just as Miss Duke did every winter to her 6-acres Diamond Head estate.
Born on November 12, 1912, newspapers crowned Doris Duke, “the richest little girl in the world.” The only heir to her father’s tobacco and electric power fortune, Miss Duke lived up to her title at only twelve years old when her father died and left her what some estimate was worth 100 million dollars at the time.
Often portrayed as an example of the cliché that money can’t buy you happiness, Miss Duke seemed to always be in transit searching for something beyond reach. Well if money can’t buy you happiness, it can definitely help. Miss Duke spent a good portion of her fortune creating her Honolulu home and filling it with treasured artwork mostly from Iran. It was her sanctuary and she called it Shangri-La. Most other properties in the area only have a sliver of shoreline view, while the Shangri-La estate boasts over 500 feet of sweeping ocean and mountain views that could no doubt, peel away layers and layers of age and anxiety.
Today, you can take a tour of Shangri-La, which appears preserved in its original likeness. If you are in the Honolulu area, I highly recommend it. If you love Islamic art, Miss Duke’s collection of it in Honolulu is quite impressive.
From the moment I arrived on the gated estate I was transported from the desert like environment that is Diamond Head to a lush, verdant forest. The interior of the home is perplexing at times because of its stark contrast to its surroundings. The foyer for example, is dark and partially enclosed, but has the quiet graceful beauty of stepping into a church. It pays reverence to intricate, delicate detail, to symmetry, to geometric patterns, to light and color.
The ceiling in the foyer is of carved wood, custom-built and shipped from Morocco.
The Syrian room is completely enclosed and because of the comprehensive collection of Syrian artifacts from the marble floors to the salvaged walls, entering the Syrian room magically transports you to an aristocratic home in the Middle East far, far away from the tropical setting of Hawaii.
All of the outside spaces on the other hand, are breezy, filled with natural light, and best of all set against a stunning backdrop of Pacific ocean and Diamond Head views. I absolutely love the jali or perforated screens and Iranian tile work features throughout the home. If money was no issue, I would definitely surround myself with lots of both!
Admittedly, I was more interested in the unobstructed ocean views and outdoor vistas than the art and I was not disappointed. Standing at its shore, Shangri-La lives up to its namesake as an earthly paradise isolated from the worries of the world. I could lose endless hours of time drinking it all in and rejuvenating my spirit. Happy Friday and happy viewing!